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The New American Hot Rod: An LS-Swapped Chevy S10 Pickup

Small pickup trucks have always had a solid following. From off-road beasts to tricked out, slammed show builds, mini trucks have long been favorites among American enthusiasts. But now more than ever, trucks like the Chevrolet S10 are coming into their own as some of the best street machine platforms out there.

LS V8 Swapped Chevy S10 Pickup: The New American Hot Rod

As traditional muscle and performance cars continue to either grow in weight, climb in value or dwindle in supply, older pickups like the S10 have become increasingly great choices for builders on a budget. And in some ways, an S10 can be seen as modern version of the ’32 Fords that helped get the American hot rod scene off the ground so many decades ago.

rear driver side of LS V8 swapped Chevy S10 Pickup

Modern Hot Rod

Like those old ’32s the S10 is affordable, easy to find, and easy to work on. They also don’t weigh much, and they have near limitless potential once you start digging into them. And while some enthusiasts have discovered this only recently, others have been enjoying the potential of the S10 for a long time. One of these enthusiasts is Jaron Underwood, who first bought his truck way back in 2003.

front end of blue Chevy S10 truck

Like a lot of S10s, Jaron’s truck originally served as a daily driver, getting him to high school and back for a couple years before the transmission eventually gave out and was temporarily taken off the road. Rather than just rebuilding or replacing the transmission, with a little encouragement from his dad, Jaron decided to swap not just the transmission but the engine as well. So out went the old and in went the new, a classic small block Chevy backed up to the stout GM TH400 automatic.

Interior of 200 Chevy S10 Pickup restomod

The Road to an LS V8

Back on the road, sounding better and going a lot faster than it used to, Jaron had some great times driving the SBC-powered pickup. A few years later, a spun bearing put the truck back in the garage again. This time it would be off the road for a lot longer — around eight years to be precise. A time during which a bunch of life happened, including three different house moves and the addition of a few kids to the family. But the S10 was always on his mind.

Driver side front of a lowered Chevy S10 with Nitto Nt555 G2 Tires

Fast forward to the year 2020 and he finally had time to get back into the old truck. Out came the old small block and in went an LS setup, sitting on custom-fabbed motor mounts by Eric Shircliff at No Limit Race Cars. The 5.3L L33 is hopped up with upgrades, like an LS6 intake manifold, BTR cam, and Stainless Works long tube headers. With tuning from AMP’d Motorsports, it makes around 425hp.

LS V8 engine in a 2000 Chevy S10 Truck

Supporting Mods

Elsewhere, a Quick Performance Fab nine-inch rear end has been fitted out back, and the stance and handling have been improved with QA1 and Belltech parts, while Wilwood brakes help bring it all to a stop.

Traction bars and rear end suspension of LS V8 swapped Chevy S10

The right wheels and tires were the next major upgrades he made to the S10. A set of 17” Boyd Coddington wheels complete the ideal minitruck look. And the Boyds are paired with a set of Nitto NT555 G2 tires that provide plenty of traction and lateral grip during back road runs.

Nitto NT555 G2 Tires on an LS Swapped Chevy S10 truck

Back to the Garage

Jaron’s S10 has spent a lot of time under the knife in the 20+ years he’s owned it, and as you read this it’s back in the garage again. This time the old TH400 automatic is getting swapped out for a T56 manual setup. Once the drivetrain is overhauled, Jaron plans to put as many miles on it as he can, cruising with the family and getting to as many shows and events as he can — including autocross competitions.

Bed side profile of Chevy s10 on Nitto NT555 G2 Tires

A couple decades in and there’s still a lot of memories to be made and fun to be had with this 21st century take on the American hot rod.

Jaron Underwood next to his LS swapped Chevy S10 Pickup

Hard Facts


Jaron Underwood


2000 Chevy S10


GM L33 5.3L V8 swap, BTR cam, LS6 intake manifold, Holley oil pan, Holley Terminator harness, Stainless Works longtube headers & 3” exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers


GM TH400 automatic transmission, manual valve body, 3,600 RPM stall converter, B&M shifter, Quick Performance Fab 9” rear end, Eaton 4.10 LSD

Suspension & Brakes:

UMI tubular control arms, QA1 front coilovers, Belltech rear leaf springs, Wilwood six-piston front, four-piston rear brakes

Wheels & Tires:

17x8-inch Boyd Coddington Nemesis wheels, 255/45R17 Nitto NT555 G2 tires


GM Indiglo Blue paint, billet front grille, rear ducktail spoiler


Holley 6.86 Pro Dash, GPS speedometer

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