By on March 11, 2012

Way back in the Clinton Era, two compact pickups battled each other to an inch of their amortized sheetmetal. The Ford Ranger, which had been the ruler of the small truck roost since 1983, and the Chevy S-10 which fought equally valiantly with rebates, market incentives, a branded clone in the form of the GMC Sonoma, and even a rare-for-America four door configuration.

Not to say the Ranger didn’t resort to many of the exact same tactics. Ford was just as busy trying to crank out the supersized and super-profitable trucks and SUV’s as the General did at the time. These compact pickups were considered a bridge to what both automakers sought for their respective brands; to attract the long-term loyalist who would forever buy the ever higher profit vehicles… preferably on a lease or finance deal.

Price competition became fierce in this segment and profits were minimal. Was it even possible to have big profits for small pickups? Not in most cases as far as the manufacturer was concerned. You could price the top of the line models right near the cost of a base Explorer or Blazer by the late 90’s. But only a salesman with the talent of a Jack Baruth could routinely push them out the door.

By the time America started to head towards the ‘ bigger is better’ buffet line, both vehicles offered very similar… well… everything.

Wheelbases were within a couple of inches from each other in regular or extended cab form. The four and six cylinder engines were also neck to neck competitors with both brands utilizing their manufacturer’s well-amortized powertrains. The S-10’s offered a good enough for the Cavalier 2.2 Liter four cylinder and the forget-about-fuel-economy Vortec 4.3 Liter V6.

Rangers offered a substantially better 4.0 Liter V6 by 2001 when it became a 207 horsepower SOHC instead of the boat anchor slow Cologne 4.0 Liter. The 3.0 Liter V6, 2.5 Liter and 2.3 Liter 4-cylinders were nothing to sneeze at either. But neither did they give much grunt on the open road. All of the engines used for the Rangers were pretty much in the midst of million plus runs that would typify Ford’s penny pinching penchant for manufacturing engines that long outlasted their market competitiveness.

Oh, and you wanted parts bin components to keep the costs down even further? No problem there. Ford and GM even saw fit to include their automotive partners into the mix with Mazda marketing their B-Series and Isuzu offering the paradoxically named Hombre and serialized i-Series.

Truth be told, both trucks represented the very last small vehicles that combined decade plus long model runs with cost containment redesigns. Millions were made. Millions since have been crushed. There is just one gnawing question that doesn’t seem to find an easy answer.

Why are there so many Ranger enthusiasts out there… and so few S-10 aficionados?

I have my theories. But I want to hear from the Best and Brightest first. Were there durability issues? Are the S-10 and their ilk merely liked while the Ranger is loved? Or was it the quality of their redesigns?

Remember that there are usually no right answers in the comments section. Just SWAG’s, anecdotal evidence, and the unyielding march of logic towards a biased opinion.


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110 Comments on “Why is the Ranger loved while the S-10 is merely liked?...”

  • avatar

    Build quality has to be part of it, S-10s look equivalent on paper but you’d think they were British built after owning for a while. Can’t think of another truck where I have ever seen a side mirror fall off when someone slammed the door.

    • 0 avatar

      Colorado/Canyon wasn’t much (any?) better.

    • 0 avatar

      My experience couldn’t be any more different. The thing (88) was like a vampire, it was unstoppable. I had it for 5 years, and the only things it had was a tiny piece of trim fell off inside the second day we had it, a minor oil leak, and a battery after 2 years. I sold it to a friend who had it until it basically had rusted to the point you got soaked driving it in the rain. It had well over 400k on it, and all he did was put a few batteries, a couple of water pumps and a tranny in it. It was one of the best vehicles I ever had.

    • 0 avatar

      FORD supported the Working Man’s Image : “Ford Tough” , they give the working man and his truck a sense of Pride !

      • 0 avatar

        I had many years with Rangers, but I never loved them. I traded in my last Ranger without a second doubt, when I just couldn’t justify a two seater with so many kids in the family. I rarely miss it.

        Yet, when I see one on the street, my heart lifts. I can’t figure it out why. I haven’t been able to answer this question directly, even though I have had many years with Rangers.

        The Chevy is cuter, I’ll admit. But the Ranger seems more like a truck than the Chevy. I did a couple of quick researches regarding the adorability of the Chevy, but the ratio of male/female buyers is too similar to the Ranger to be significant. Somehow the Chevy seems less muscular and less truckish than the Ranger.

        The Chevy is also just plain, flat out cheaper built. Their interior is more like a car, than like a truck to me. Their shape is nearly identical, but the Ranger appears more purposeful, more focused on doing a job.

        I never considered even buying the little Chevy. Even as it improved, it just wasn’t appealing to me. I’ll even admit that the Chevy was in many ways, a better truck by the time it was retired. Yet, the Ranger kept on doing it’s job without trying too hard. I liked that.

        Perhaps it was the longevity of the design that presented itself as proof of being a better vehicle, or it was the ability of the vehicle to have a personality that made work fun, but dog gone it, the Ranger had it all over the Chevy for no real measurable reason that I can find.

    • 0 avatar

      The S-10 and S-10 Blazers had contemptible build quality. Which is too bad, because the 4.3 Vortec was/is an excellent engine. But you don’t really care how good somthing runs, when the interior starts to spontaneously disintegrate.

  • avatar

    Steve, not sure you’re going to get much objective convo on this one.

    The S-10 always felt cheap to me. The Ranger (esp. after the ~1996 redo on the shared Explorer platform) always felt solid. Ford also kept giving it better engines (the final 4-cylinder is a gem) while the S-10 defined how GM beancounters let a platform languish.

    Also, I think you got a halo effect given that the front half of a Ranger *is* basically an Explorer, and people have fairly fond memories of cheap gas….uh….I mean Truck-based SUVs.

    • 0 avatar

      “Ford also kept giving it better engines (the final 4-cylinder is a gem)”

      Amen to that. I own and daily drive a 2006 Ranger with said engine, a 2.3-liter “Duratec” four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Absolutely a great engine.

      It doesn’t make a lot of torque or horsepower low in the rev range, and combined with the sleepy gears of the base two-wheel drive truck, that can necessitate a downshift or two in hilly terrain where other trucks would simply need a prodding of the go pedal. But the engine makes good power past 3,000 RPM– almost as much as the old 3.0-liter V6, which is why they killed it off in the Ranger’s final years.

      The bonus of the sleepy drivetrain configuration is good gas mileage if you keep the revs low. I average 29 mpg in my Ranger in 70/30 highway/city driving.

  • avatar

    Based on the experiences of friends and family who have owned examples of each, the Ranger is a pretty tough little truck, while the S10 was a piece of utter disposable garbage.

    • 0 avatar

      I just helped a buddy of mine replace the water pump on his ’93 S-10 4.3. Easy, but time consuming. I asked him why he held on to this little truck for so long and he told me that it is cheaper to keep’r. As long as you keep replacing the worn-out parts in it, it just keeps on going.

      He also owned a ’94 Ranger which was totaled last century. When the insurance finally came through he bought an F150 Supercab with the 4.6, which he still drives today, for the same reason.

      The ’93 S-10 was always his wife’s truck and has many miles on it. It has the nice Tahoe interior and ExtCab. It is still in daily use today, although they do own a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.7 as well.

      He told me that he really didn’t care for either the Ranger or the S10 but that his money situation was such that at the time he could not afford to buy a full-size truck for either him or his wife. Their employment requires them to use a truck to haul stuff to and from the different stores where they each work.

      From a personal perspective, I have never owned anything smaller than a full-size pickup truck. I do not see any merit in buying a Ranger, or an S10 or a Tacoma or a Frontier.

      Obviously they worked for a lot of people but if I were forced to buy a truck in that size/class, my choice would be the Tacoma 4Dr V6 with an automatic. That is a trucklet that is really loved! Not merely liked.

    • 0 avatar

      I have personally owned both and that statement is 100% accurate in my experience. The S-10purchased new, had multiple electrical problems and ate two transmissions before we made GM buy it back. The Ranger that my parents gave me needed a clutch at 50k (mom) and then went another 100k on that clutch with no problems. Other than a couple of plastic bits in cabin breaking it was perfectly fine when I sold it last week.

  • avatar

    In the interest of fairness I drive a Ranger (’98) so I’m not neutral –

    The ranger always seemed like a real truck, albeit scaled down from full sized, whereas the s-10 always seemed like a cavalier that had been made into a truck.

    I don’t know the true engineering story of the s-10, I’m not saying it was a cavalier made into a truck, but it came across as such.

    The Ranger also had stake pockets, which I’m sure were used by perhaps 2.1% of buyers. The S-10 didn’t have them, thus how could one install a ladder rack? My completely unscientific observation is that far more Rangers were used as work trucks than s-10s. Being more truck-like also meant that the Ranger was more suitable for urban cowboy duty – It looked the part.

  • avatar

    The S-10 stopped being sold in the US in 2004, while the Ranger continued until 2011. Seven more years of sales is going to make the Ranger more popular. I’m kind of indifferent between the pickups, but really liked the two-door S-10 Blazer SUV.

    It’s kind of like how there seems to be a lot more Panther love than B-body love. Even though I am a much bigger fan of the B-body.

  • avatar

    As the others said, it’s simply because the S10s were terrible. Especially the 80s ones. The interiors were absolutely horrible, I could scratch the dash and door plastics with my finger on my buddy’s 89 S10. Tons of rattles, horribly unrefined, and they didn’t seem to be built all that tough really. Even my 87 Ranger with half the floorboards rotted out felt more solid than that S10.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird, both my 88 S10 pickup and Blazer felt like they were made out of a solid black of steel. No rattles, they held up very well, except for the headlight switch in the Blazer died a couple of times. I always though the Ranger was, well, pitiful.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird, both my 88 S10 pickup and Blazer felt like they were made out of a solid block of steel. No rattles, they held up very well, except for the headlight switch in the Blazer died a couple of times. I always though the Ranger was, well, pitiful.

    • 0 avatar


      Get off your knees and wipe that ummm…dribble??…. from your mouth.

  • avatar

    My first two vehicles were Rangers. The first had 360k and the second 280k when I took the keys. I fully believe they are out there still running today.

  • avatar

    As simple as this may seem, the Ranger has always been better looking.

  • avatar

    My brother has an early 90’s Ranger. I love the seats, the interior build quality, and the ride. So does he. The thing looks great, has held up well, and has been dead solid reliable.

    S-10s of that vintage look like a sad toy at the bottom of a thrift store bin, with an interior to match the quality of the bin.

    I knew a guy that had one; it fell apart long ago. To me, it says that GM’s quality at that time for that vehicle was far behind Ford’s. Particularly the interiors.

  • avatar

    Not to hijack the thread, but it’s hard to understand why Ford dropped the Ranger. It’s still a class leading offering in the small truck segment, even though it hasn’t had a styling re-fresh since the Clinton administration. There is still a small truck market, albeit a shrunken one.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford realized that it was going to be too much work to refine the ranger any further. Traction control, airbag curtains, unreal fuel economy standards, and all the rest made building a small truck less attractive. I agree it’s an underserved market, a market the Japanese pretty much abandoned as well. Nissan and Toyota hardly make small pickups any longer.

      • 0 avatar

        The small trucks don’t make as much sense because a half ton doesn’t use much more gas, doesn’t cost much more (to buy or build), and is way more capable. I regret not getting an F-150 over my Ranger.

        I will say the Ranger has been the most reliable thing I’ve ever owned, puts up with huge amounts of abuse and has been very neglected in it’s life.

      • 0 avatar

        In addition to mbella’s input, Ford also realized it was more profitable to keep fseries (and other) plants running at higher capacity (and increasing purchased part prices discount effects), to save retooling and investment dollars, by not introducing the T6 Ranger redesign into the nafta market.

      • 0 avatar

        “and all the rest made building a small truck less attractive.”

        Less attractive for Ford to sell… Not less attractive for people to buy!

        My Ranger, for all of its faults, survived my 20s. That’s pretty impressive in terms of durability, and there are some good memories there.

        I sold my Ranger last year because it was no longer serving my needs (I needed a family station wagon). But I’ve got a Ranger or Colorado build planned in my head already, and I’m going to do it just as soon as I have an excuse.

        Short version:
        1. Buy a V6 4×4 Ranger (or Colorado) with a crummy looking bed.
        2. Replace the bed with a flatbed conversion (Ute Bed or similar).
        3. Take care of any paint or interior/cosmetic issues.
        4. Upgrade the electronics to something geeky and 21st century-like.

    • 0 avatar

      Well basically every Ranger sale is an aborted F-150 sale. Ranger buyers who can’t be persuaded to upgrade to an F-150 are probably thin enough on the ground that it isn’t worthwhile to maintain an R&D program to keep the Ranger up to date.

      • 0 avatar

        I can’t be persuaded to buy an F-150 for my own purposes.

        I co-own one, and it’s a wonderful truck. It’s just too damn big for my purposes.

        Owned a Ranger for years and years, though, and it was a great little truck that did *everything* I asked of it (though not without the occasional complaint). It’s the right kind of truck for me. Hopefully they’ll still be available used when I need a truck again.

    • 0 avatar

      The new Ranger is simply too big. It’s the biggest in class amongst current Japanese compacts, which include the Triton, the Hilux and Frontier… which makes it not that much smaller than an F150, but with more economical engines.

      So… which will America sell… a bigger, fuel efficient Ranger, or an F150? Two guesses as to which…

  • avatar

    The interior of the s-10 is much smaller feeling, at least in the standard cab. The seating position is lower, dash is more intrusive and as others have mentioned, the materials are pretty low rent. That said, a good buddy of mine treats his 2001 s-10 like the work truck it is and has 200k plus on it with no reliability issues. I drive an 07 Mazda b2300 so I’m a bit biased, but the interior is much nicer in my opinion.

  • avatar

    I wanted a Ranger in 2003 but by the time the stuff I wanted (extended cabs, most creature comforts) was added in, it got more then I wanted to spend. So I have a Subaru Baja. I still have it. Been remarkably troublefree but yeah, still want a Ranger.

  • avatar

    My 95 GMC Sonoma was a good looking POS. It went back to the dealer 14 times, dealer service was poor. At 57,000 miles the 2.2’s head gasket was leaking. I traded it on a 99 Ford XLT V-6 that has been great, I still have it. That truck and a POS Buick have led me swear off on GM forever!!!

  • avatar

    I had a ’95 S-10 extended cab regular bed with the bucket seats, center console, the 190 HP version of the 4.3L V6 and a 5-speed manual.

    The 4.3L V6 was thirsty, noisy, and bowed at the altar of torque. I lived in Houston at the time, gas was cheap, everyone drove a truck, it was a great commuter vehicle and practical given we had moved into a new house.

    I only put 37K miles on it before we traded it in. Moving to the snow belt and didn’t want a RWD pickup no one would want up there. I had an issue with the front brakes, GM totally pissed me off over it.

    I did look at the Ranger during the same time – I seem to remember there was more cash on the hood and/or better terms on the financing (or something like that) that had me go with the S-10.

    I can’t say I have any regrets – the dash and door panels seemed cheap – the seats were comfortable enough. Got a great trade-in on it and the salesman ended up buying it from the dealer.

    Why is the Ranger more popular? Ford kept ’em selling for longer, they were better in the late 90’s than the S-10, and definitely better in the 80’s (I think there was a fair amount of parity as the 4.0 was rather weak until the upgrade, when it became a torquey decent truck engine). The Canyon/Colorado was a sales disaster. Toward the end of the life of the S-10 the price point was such that you were better off going entry level fullsize.

    I know at the end of the line I really liked the looks of the “crew cab” version and though the four-door made sense.

    The Ranger is just a sad shadow of itself today, when it went out it went out a victim of Ford bean counters with a woefully unupdated platform.

    It’s all about the Toyota Tacoma baby!

  • avatar

    How’s this for objective – I bought a 95 S-10 LS in 1996, my brother bought a 96 Ranger XLT new. Both 2 wheel drive, regular cabs. Both had their pluses (mine had WAY more cab room and range) and minuses (Ranger, with Vulcan 6, got embarrassingly bad fuel economy for the size and power output) but overall Ranger wins. By a landslide.

    On a somewhat related side-note, know what looks even worse than those “you wish you had it” switch blanks all over? The holes behind them when the damn things break and fall out. Like a (seriously eroded) rock baby!

    In their defense, both now have over 200k miles, and both are still in use with their original engines and transmissions (and clutch in the S-10). But if I were going back to ’96 to trade in my time machine, I’d set course for my nearest Ford dealer.

  • avatar

    As someone who’s been forced to drive quite a few examples of both, both because they were what was at work and because family owned them and I needed to borrow a vehicle, I can say I feel not an ounce of even slight like for either. But I can say the steering in the Ranger was/is horrid; far better than the GM products. Same for the brakes; just sucky but still better than what the General managed to produce. There’s the noise. The Ford’s hooted like a school bus, yet the the GM trucks managed to take it to the level of a cement mixer. Not a single control in the Ranger has a bit of feel of precision or good design, yet so much better then what GM did. The seats in the Ranger were always nothing special with no real support, yet the S-10’s were flatter and more shapeless yet. The Ranger always left me feeling as if the designers only half tried, yet still twice as much as GM’s did.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned both. A 1996 S-10 stretch cab, 2wd, 3.8 V-6, automatic, SLT trim level. Had excellent service with it (it was my first Chevrolet in 20 years and brought me back into the fold), and traded it in on . . . . my 2003 Ranger. Stretch cab, 2wd, 4.0 V-6, automatic, XLT trim level. Have had good service with it. Yeah, I’m in a comfortable rut.

    First off, I don’t get the tinny complaints about the S-10. If anything, I liked the S-10’s interior better than the Ranger (not nearly as cheap), yeah there’s hard plastic, this is a truck fer chrissakes! We loved the seats in the S-10, especially in the annual trip from Richmond to Daytona for bike week (if the wife attended, we trailered; alone, I rode). Fuel mileage was better on the S-10. I was getting 22mpg in my daily commute (half two-lane highway, half stop and go), could do 25-26 on highway trips. I’ve taken a 4mpg hit with the Ranger. No, I’m not complaining. I always felt the S-10’s mileage was exemplary (which is why I kept it as long as I did, I rarely keep a vehicle past 100k), and expected to take a mileage hit in whatever I replaced it with. The Ranger mileage is acceptable to me.

    I liked the S-10’s driving position better, and definitely liked the fact that it was a couple of inches closer to the ground. Little matter of my invalid wife entering and exiting. Why is it necessary to make 2wd pickups look like they’re 4wd? I’m crediting that to vintage rather than make.

    So bottom line: I’m satisfied with my Ranger, I really liked my S-10. There’s just something about the Ranger that feels cheaper. Not in a bad way, but it’s just . . . . . cheaper.

    At which point, you’re wondering why did I switch?


    I looked at one. I test drove it. I promptly started looking for an ’03 or ’04 S-10. Gawd, what a comedown!

    The Ranger’s good. The S-10 was very good.

    And no, I don’t buy Japanese pickups. Period. Japanese pickups are like Japanese rock and roll. The specs are there, on paper their equal . . . . but something is missing. In this category, the Japanese can copy, they cannot create. They don’t necessarily understand the concept, any more than we understand anime cosplay.

    • 0 avatar

      Ya, I’m reading complaints on the S-10 seats versus the Ranger and I don’t get it. The buckets in my S-10 were very comfortable, I drove both examples plenty of times. I have zero complaints on the upgraded cloth buckets – admittedly I can’t comment on the bench seats for either which may have been totally craptastic.

  • avatar

    i think you need to be more specific when you say “more popular”. more popular among enthusiasts? among people just wanting a cheap daily driver?
    if the former, i don’t really think one is overall more popular than the other. there are definitely more V8 swap S10s at the dragstrip than there are V8 rangers, and the S10 seems to be more popular with the airbag crowd as well. but when you look into the off-road world, there are FAR more rangers than S10s. a lot of this can be attributed to the ‘twin traction beam/twin I-beam’ front suspension under the ranger vs the S10’s conventional SLA – if you live in a sand state and want to do some high speed off-roading then there is no cheaper way to get into it than the TTB/TIB equipped ford ranger. it doesn’t take much cash at all to get, say, 18″ of front wheel travel out of one of these. the S10 on the other hand has non-existant aftermarket support as far as off-roading parts are concerned(the dodge dakota as well).
    all in all, i would call it a wash among enthusiasts, both are faovred over the other in different segments.
    if the latter(someone wanting a cheap daily), the ranger is simply an all around better vehicle. higher quality, more reliable.

  • avatar

    The Ford Ranger is not dead. Here’s a review of the 2012 version.

  • avatar

    The S-10 might have lost the truck battle, but the S-10-based Astro definitely won the battle vs. the Ranger-based Aerostar. The Astro is loved, while I don’t think the Aerostar is even liked.

    I think the Ranger’s “victory” was about better marketing and interior packaging. The S-10 interior was pretty chintzy compared to the Ranger’s, especially before the ’96 update. Ford was successfully able to market their vehicle as a truck version of the Explorer (which it was, of course), which had huge brand cachet. The Blazer was considered by the public a poor alternative to the Explorer. The pre-1995 Blazer was pretty horrific, expecially the four-door. Awful handling, jittery suspension, gym-locker interior. The Explorer was better in all these areas, and the public knew it. I think this carried over to Ranger truck sales. The ’95 update made the Blazer more competitive, but it was too late.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right about that. The Aerostar was homely and almost never seen today, while there are still a few Astro vans running around the DC suburbs in Maryland as airport shuttles.

      Only ever driven the Aerostar, as a work van. Can’t really say anything bad about it.

  • avatar

    A 2003 GMC Sonoma turned me off permanently to GM vehicles. All I heard (for years) was “Oh, it’s OK, domestics are so improved now, blah blah blah.” I had flashbacks to my parents’ Buick Century station wagon. They ditched the Buick, and later the Jeep Cherokee, for Hondas, exclusively. My first car was a Honda, and I had higher expectations than that POS could deliver… the thing was like a cheap hostel for gremlins. Two friends had similar vehicles (an S-10 and a Blazer) and had similar issues.

    I was amazed that a brand new car had door trim that would pop out of place, seat foam poking out from the bottom edge of the seat, interior panels that would fall off going over bumps. The cooling system ate thermostats, the E-brake would routinely jam in place. I ditched it at 17,000 miles, three years later (it was a to-from work vehicle, and my ex-wife’s CR-V was the ‘family car’) and managed to trade it for 75% of it’s original price, thanks to $4700 in rebates.

    My cousin had three rangers, and they all seemed more durable and better constructed. He eventually traded in his last one for a Ridgeline, as the Ranger was basically the same as what he’d had, he didn’t want a full-sizer, and we have a cousin who sells Hondas anyway.

  • avatar
    its me Dave

    The Ranger gets the love because I think the prevailing truck brand rules have remained intact for 40 years or so: (1) Ford trucks for work, (2) Chevy trucks for play, (3) Dodge trucks for the Park Service.

  • avatar

    Anybody thats been around TTAC knows that as a retired GM guy I’m the poster boy for the “GMfanboy” award.

    The first vehicle I ever saved up for, and payed cash,was an 89 GMC S15 4×4 long box.

    Take note import lovers.

    That S15 was the biggest POS ever created by mankind. I drove it for nine long years. It was POS when I bought it. I traded it in during a blinding snow storm in the fall of 97,and it was still a POS.

    After owning that vexation to my spirit,I can fully understand why “some”people have such a hate on for GM.

    If it were not for the “GM” logo on my pay check,the S15 would have been my last GM ever.

    I’ve bought GM ever since and have never had any problems.

  • avatar

    I sold a ton of Blazers over the years. Losing a sale to a Ranger was always based on price. In my waning days as a salesperson, a mid-priced Colorado was going to be $35k (including outrageous Canadian taxes, etc), but the Ranger with leather could be had for about 10 grand less. [shrugs] It is what it is. I sold one 4 cylinder Blazer in my career. Nobody in their right mind would stock them. The 2.2 was reliable as hell and had surprising balls, but it was noisy in the Cavalier. In the S-10….unbareable.
    I had a ’98 Blazer after GM’s final re-do to that vehicle, and I had no problems with the vehicle mechanically. It was a good looking vehicle. The seats were sporty and firm. I rarely used the 4WD mode. It got better gas mileage than my previous Caprice, but worse when I towed my 3,400 lb boat.
    I always found solace in the fact that Mercruiser saw fit to use the same engine for their stalwart 6 cylinder engine. As has been mentioned, the 4.3 has torque in spades.
    My sister had an ’87 S-10 that she only sold about 3 years ago. The paint was shot (not that she EVER washed it, mind) and it was a dowdy looking beast, but it still ran great and was a heck of a beater. She hated to part with it but had too many vehicles in her driveway (it was either the S-10, or her ’74 Firebird – yeah, not much of a contest, really).
    My ex-brother-in-law had an early ’90s Ranger. He liked it. I never heard him griping about problems. You wouldn’t want to put anyone you actually liked in those jump seats!
    In closing, I would like to add one statement: G80. Locking differential. If the Chevy engine is good enough for Mercury Marine, and the G80 (with good winter tires) will cover off 80% of the people over 4WD, that sort of puts the trump card in GM’s hands.

    • 0 avatar

      a couple points here. the 2.2l had ‘surprising balls’? wholeheartedly disagree in every way, shape, and form. that engine was a DOG in the truck applications, just the same as ford’s 2.3l.
      and the G80? anyone who actually does any off-roading rips those turds out of the rear axle and replaces them with something that doesn’t explode. and anyone who is just daily driving won’t be able to tell the difference between the G80 and a quality limited slip, especially when the G80 is just a half assed locker.
      as far as mercury marine using GM powerplants is concerned, noble, koenigsegg, and others have/are using ford engines, and the viper V10 is good enough for bristol motors and devin motorworks.

  • avatar

    I’m clearly in the minority here but I love my 93 Sonoma. It’s been pretty reliable for the 11 years I’ve owned it. I never really cared for the Rangers roofline, the upper cabin always seemed out of proportion with the rest of the truck compared to the S10. After I bought my 93 a friend of mine bought a new Ranger, he later regretted selling his 91 S10. OTOH my nephew bought a 2001 S10 that’s been garbage (though it’s been reliable enough to get him back and forth to school without too many problems, despite falling apart cosmetically).

  • avatar

    I had a 2003 S-10 LS. I traded in a 2001 GMC Sierra SLE extended cab 2WD for it because I got it into my head that I needed a 4WD pickup. It was a crewcab and it served as our family car for about 3 years until we added an Odyssey to our fleet.

    Pluses: It was easy to drive, especially for my wife, who was always intimidated by the size of the Sierra. Having four “real” doors instead of rear opening half doors in the back was good. The 4WD always worked when I needed it to, which turned out to be a lot less than I thought it would.

    Minuses: Build quality was horrible, especially compared to the Sierra that I traded in on it. The interior just felt cheap. The paint quality was terrible, especially on the tailgate. There was a piece of trim around one of the rear windows that never fit right The 4.3L V-6 was just as thirsty as the 5300 V-8 in the GMC with a lot less power. It was thrashy and rough compared to the V-8 and with a 17 gallon tank it felt like I was stopping to get gas all the time. The 4 door configuration was nice, as I said before, but it came at the expense of the bed length. I found myself constantly annoyed when I had to haul stuff that was too long. I’ll never own a truck without a 6.5 foot long bed again.

    I sold it about eight months after I paid it off, used the money to pay off what was owed on the Odyssey and bought a ’95 beater of a GMC Sierra 2WD that I traded up to a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 2WD last month that’s optioned almost exactly like the Sierra I traded for the S-10.

    If I had it to do over again, I’d have kept and paid off the original GMC Sierra that I started with. However, if I had a time machine and found myself unable to convince the young and foolish me of late 2002 that I really don’t need 4WD, I’d at least have convinced myself to buy a Toyota Tacoma or a Nissan Frontier instead. The 4- door Frontier was at least available with a full length bed.

    I have noticed one thing when I go to car shows: Customized S-10s seem to outnumber Rangers by at least 3 to 1. Personally, I think the S-10 is more attractive than the Ranger and it appears that customizers agree with me.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned both. My S-10 Blazer just didn’t feel “trucky”. It was a basically a station wagon with good clearance. My Ranger unfortunately met it’s doom last month when I had to go off-road at 60 MPH to avoid a few wild hogs. All things being equal I’d get another Ranger if I needed a new truck.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Neither can hold a candle to the Tacoma, or the T100.

    • 0 avatar

      As bad as my 89 S15 was, the frame didn’t rot. It wasn’t till the turn of the century that the Japanese figured out how to build a rust proof frame.

      • 0 avatar

        mikey, those rusting frames were made in America, along with the badly welded half-shafts, rusting spare tire carriers and faulty gas pedals.

      • 0 avatar


        Built to the Japanese specifications and approved by their supply chain as acceptable parts.

        If the parts are crap, you don’t sign off on it. If the supplier is supplying crap, your specifications to the supplier are wrong. If the supplier is cutting corners and screwing you, then shame on you for letting it happen.

        Hypnotoad – former procurement engineer – quit one job when they wanted me to sign off on what I knew was complete crap

      • 0 avatar

        These same suppliers also supplied the rusting frames on Ford, GM and Dodge trucks, as you may recall. There was a big to-do about that during the ’80s and ’90s.

        And not ALL Toyota trucks suffered from the rot malady in the rust belt. Or did you forget about that. It was a small percentage where the rustproofing step had been omitted.

        Toyoda said that the Toyota product took a nose dive in quality. He admitted that before Congress and apologized to the world.

        It underscores my contention that the imports went to hell in a hand bag when they started building them in America. These same problems were experienced by Mercedes and BMW when they started building them here. Mitsubishi also had major QC problems when they started building them here, as did VW last century.

        Only Hyundai/Kia has been able to better the quality of their products by doubling down on their QA inspections in America. And it has paid off for them.

        BTW, the Nippon Denso gas pedal in our 2008 Japan-built Highlander was never recalled, but all the CTS pedals made in America were.

        You can’t blame Toyota or any manufacturer for the errors of the suppliers, but you can hold the manufacturers responsible. Which is exactly what happens with litigation.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, know it’ not a Toyota problem but to blame it on America? It’s contract to the lowest bidder that got probably got Toyota in trouble as CTS made pedals for Honda and Nissan and their specification was higher than Toyota’s.

      • 0 avatar

        Desertcat, I hate to disappoint you, but Ford, Gm and Dodge trucks have never had a problem with frames rusting. There are still old trucks of all three makes from the 70’s -80’s all over the place here in salt country. The bodies rust but the people that own them replace the beds, cabs and fenders as they rust out. You see lots of them with half a dozen different color body panels. There are also companies that make replacement body panels for them and you also see alot of those on the trucks still with the black paint.

      • 0 avatar


        Yes, and the CTS pedals were built to a different, mandated supply specification from Toyota then the Denso pedal. Don’t rewrite history to convenience a failed argument. CTS makes plenty of gas pedals for other companies and had no issues. What, a grand conspiracy to sink Toyota?

        Oh, and who did Toyota issue awards to for being such a great supplier? CTS had received numerous awards from Toyota for “performance.” Oh, and who did Toyota squeeze to reduce costs by 30%? CTS.

        Again. If the specification is crap to begin with, you can’t blame the supplier for building to the provided specification. Specify crap, you get crap.

        If the vendor is purposely cutting corners and you accept it anyway, then that this is a failure of your procurement organization.

        If what shows up is not to your specifications, you don’t ignore the reports, you evaluate, you test, you confirm and shut down the line. Anything else is negligence on the part of the company accepting the cut corner parts.

        If the supplier supplies you what you didn’t ask for, and you still accept it anyway, the supplier again is not at fault. You fire them, and move on. You certainly don’t give them more business and awards and praise for being a great supplier, like Toyota did with CTS. Toyota could have easily put Denso pedals in all of those cars…right.

        As far as truck FRAMES rusting on North American models in the 80’s and 90’s – what are you talking about? No such issue.

        All of this is moot anyway in a discussion that YOU dragged Toyota into in a Ford versus Chevy discussion.

      • 0 avatar

        For all the guys who are convinced that domestic truck frames never rusted…. you obviously were not stationed with the US Air Force at Sault Ste Marie where we had a severe frame rusting problem with all our domestic trucks. So much so, that we undercoated them every summer in prep for each winter.

        I didn’t drag Toyota into this discussion. mikey wrote “It wasn’t till the turn of the century that the Japanese figured out how to build a rust proof frame.”

        I do not think that is accurate since there are lots of those old dinky Toyota and Datsun trucks from the seventies and late sixties still running around in America, many of them in wet and woolly places like MS, TX, AL, GA and FL. The guy who does my Reverse Osmosis water unit owns one. It’s nasty but it still gets around.

        Let me further enlighten you that I drove domestic all my life until 2008 at which time I bought our first-ever Japanese-built Highlander Limited, at my wife’s insistence, for her use.

        But buying and driving domestic does not mean that they didn’t rust or were otherwise problem-free. Even in New Mexico they use salt and/or urea on the roads in winter and it takes it toll.

        My 1988 Silverado and my 2006 F150 both showed rust on the frame and the body panels because of winter operation in the Sacramento Mountains at 9300ft altitude, with urea/sand on the roads. It’s true they didn’t rot through, but they did rust.

        And having owned these jewels of the past, it should come as no surprise to anyone then, that when it came time to replace my 2006 F150 the great experience we enjoyed with my wife’s Highlander, predisposed me to look at the Tundra 5.7.

        I’m glad I did. It is the best truck, bar none, that I have ever owned and does everything I need it to do just as well as my domestic trucks did, and with more finesse, better ride and handling, in a much quieter cabin.

        And as to who is to blame for the faulty parts made in America? Litigation will sort that out. Toyota didn’t MAKE the parts, but Toyota will be responsible for them.

        Mr Toyoda assumed responsibility for the tanking of the quality of Toyota products. He might have been better advised to outsource the parts to China, Thailand or India. It was teachable moment for him, I’m sure.

        Even though my Tundra is made in San Antonio, TX, I’m actually on the side of the UAW with this issue in that I think that ALL the transplants should pull out of America and start making them in Mexico. They can always import them under NAFTA.

        The domestic manufacturers saw the wisdom in that and opened plants in Mexico that are paying them decent dividends. Better quality being just one of the dividends. Mazda soon to follow. VW too, maybe. Toyota and Honda considering it.

        If you guys want to carry the water for the domestic trucks and tell us that their frames don’t rust, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time.

        But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. They rusted. I undercoated and epoxied enough domestic truck frames to know better.

      • 0 avatar

        Well duh, the frames on the american trucks will rust on the surface, but they are pretty thick and it takes decades for them to rust through and break. The toyota frames were literally breaking after only a few years of being exposed to salt. So you see lots of old japanese trucks in places like Texas, Fla and Ga, places that don’t have rough winters. No kidding? They were all gone after a few years here in Ohio.
        As far as the Tundra goes it is a joke. They recalled them not long after they came out because the tailgates were collapsing under the weight of riding mowers, ATV’s, motorcycles and such.
        That’s pretty sad, because even the S10 and ranger tailgates could stand up to that. The Tundras were even recalled because of collapsing driver’s seats. They also have flexible frames, I won’t bother getting into the other stuff.

      • 0 avatar

        moparman, my observation was that those rusting frames were made by suppliers in America and that the frames and bodies of the old rinkydink Japanese trucks from way back were made elsewhere.

        I have owned domestic trucks and now I own a 2011 Tundra. I’m not selling Tundra or any other truck but I did keep an open mind when shopping to replace my 2006 F150.

        I checked them all out and the Tundra beat them all, bar none. That is subjective, I know. But when I put my money where my mouth is, being subjective is the way to go. It’s gotta feel good to my seat-of-the-pants. Tundra did. The Silverado and F150 were just more of the same as the ones I had owned. The Tundra blew me away, inside and out.

        The Tundra may be a joke to you but to the people who own one it is no joke. My Tundra does everything that my Silverado could do and everything that my F150 could do. I still pull the same trailers with it and recently towed a 24ft ski-boat from New Mexico to Oceanside, CA for my brother.

        I’ve owned the rest. Now I own the best. To each his own.

      • 0 avatar

        There quite a few videos on youtube after searching Tundra vs the rest.

        The best one was an aftermarket company adding a sheet of steel to the bed to keep the backend from bouncing around. This just one example how Toyota’s 3rd attempt at the competition has failed. All the older Toyotas have rust here in northern Ohio.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ford chassis engineering team used to laugh about how the T 100 would go over the ford durability course and drop things like mufflers and bumpers, this is something that no ford truck was allowed during development if it was ever going to be released for general sale.

  • avatar

    All I can say is that I had a 92 Ranger that I bought in 2006 from family friends, it had a new clutch, front wheel bushings, new front brakes, the 5spd manny tranny flushed and refilled with new oil and all it needed was a full tune up and it was good to go (hesitated some from a dead stop).

    I had not intended to keep it as long as I did but I ended up keeping it nearly 6 years before I was forced to trade it in on newer, better wheels.

    Bought it with 189K miles, traded it in with just under 237K miles on the old pushrod version of the 4.0L V6. I didn’t find the old pushrod motor all that lacking in power, just leave it one gear lower than you’d normally would and it came alive.

    Sadly, massive oil leaks, timing cover leaking, radiator beginning to leak, the thermostat leaked, had a loose wheel bearing and a loose U-Joint along with a bad idle air controller valve so was dying.

    Can’t complain one bit, only stranded me twice, the clutch slave and master cylinders on two separate occasions, outside of that, new exhaust, tires and tuneups were the norm. I DID have to replace the shifter bushings in 2009 and right at the end when picking up from Midas to have the throttle adjusted so I could safely get it to the dealer where I was trading in, and the bushings went out again that day.

    One of the best vehicles I’ve had in recent years and grew to like it quite a bit.

    Body was still largely in great shape, paint too for that matter, the interior was still good, though the driver’s seat showed wear, flat and with a stripped out recliner mechanism but hey, with the miles, that’s the worst I could find, the interior felt plain to a degree, but seemed to have been put together nicely and held up really well too.

    I agree, the Cologne V6 was quite thirsty.

  • avatar

    No Toyota of that generaton can last in the snow belt area. I guess Volt 230 is not up on the rust recalls on Japanese cars and trucks?

    Got two guys at work that are just under 300,000 on their 4-cylinder S-10’s. Drivetrain is is fine aside from rust. One of them is going to last than it’s owner as he is retiring this month.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m 90%+ sure that Volt230 is aka DrFill aka BlackDynamite aka BlackDyanmiteOnline aka Borat.

      A troll with multiple accounts on multiple sites.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Wrong! I live in the sunbelt and old Tacomas still reign supreme and fetch a high resale value due to their indestructible drive-trains. Rust not an issue here, that’s what you get for living in Siberia.

  • avatar

    I think every Toyota model has been recalled half dozen times or so?

  • avatar

    I am not sure how much of a difference this may have made, but I lived in the town where the Ranger was built for years (Edison, NJ) and the plant where the S-10 was made was only a few towns over (Linden, NJ). Honestly though, if you lived there you knew these towns couldn’t be more different. Edison was always a more upscale area compared to Linden which was next to Elizabeth and Newark. More of a place to be car jacked than build a car. I never remembered anyone I knew saying great things about the GM plant. It was just one of those places people tried to get into for the benefits. Not cause they cared about the work. Everyone I knew that worked at the Edison plant were lifers who’s kids ended up working there too. I know they were crushed when it was closed. It was allot bigger deal than the Linden plant closing. Shame they are both strip malls now, but that’s the way that area has gone. But the overall feeling I got was that people in the area took allot more pride in the Ford plant. Hell, even just driving past both of them the Ford plant looked like a better quality operation. My opinion is that probably translated to the quality of the vehicles as well. But I am just one man sitting on his ass at a keyboard, so take it at that.

  • avatar

    I bought a 1983 Ranger as a third vehicle when my son neared driving age in 1995 and then bought a 1996 Ranger for me when I gave our beloved 1990 Acclaim to our daughter to use. I liked them and always regarded the Fords as the better trucks. I liked the original S-10s as well, for they looked like “real” trucks. The 1994 S-10 re-design lost me, because the first time I saw one I thought it was a Toyota! They looked too “Japanese” and no longer looked like an American truck. Trouble is, when the Ranger was redesigned to be more aero, I also thought it looked “Japanese”. If I’m buying a truck, it had better “look” like a domestic truck and not like a Tacoma. Nationalism hasn’t a thing to do with it, either – just a question of design preference and what my idea of a truck is and should look like – angular, squarish and built to actually haul stuff.

  • avatar

    I’ve had quite a number of both in the company fleet over the years. I gave up on the S-10/Sonoma over 10 years ago and went with Rangers exclusively. They spent a lot less time in the shop and I got a lot fewer complaints about seats.
    It was always little things with the S-10, but it was still downtime and cost. Operating costs were actually a little higher than the 1500 Silverados with 4.8/4L60E combo, so why bother?
    The Ranger was a far better value for the the money, and if you took reasonable care of them they lasted a long time. An honest little truck that will be hard to find a replacement for.

  • avatar

    O.bviously, it all depends. I like ford and do not like government motors. However, I own a 91 S10. I bought it for what it would do and it has not let me down. It has a 7 foot bed. It is well sprung. It will haul a round bale of hay and there seems to be (as previously attested) no end to the torque. The 700r4 makes it work well on the freeway. The electronic speedometer smoked (in front of the fire station) but other than that and some probs at smog inspection time it has done well.

    I can say the jury is still out, however: I bought it as a work truck and it sure is. I do not like it as well as the Nissan hardbody (with the frozen motor). That truck, like a ranger, looked very stylish and was like driving a little hot rod. I don’t think it was ever capable of the work the S10 can do.

    I doubt I will ever own a full size truck again. In fact, if this truck dies I may consider buying a v6 car or station wagon and just using trailers. I think we get way too tied up with appearances and not real life.

    What does all this mean. I dunno. After reading all the comments I suspect there are several competing varieties of the truth.

  • avatar

    Wow, maybe I better go out to the garage and check what kind of truck I own. Last I checked it was a 4 door S10 2WD Blazer with a five speed that I bought new in 1991. It has 238,000 on the clock with the original clutch. I stopped driving it daily a few years ago after acquiring my father’s old car.

    Anyhow, I’ve always been very happy with the thing. It had too many dash rattles, the gauge layout is ugly as sin and the Uniroyal OEM tires sucked…that is about it for my bitch list. I know I have replaced normal wear items in 21 years…alternator, water pump, fuel pump, brakes. Living where we salt in the winter I have had to replace odd things like a gas tank and a frame cross member that rusted out.

    I think the only warranty repair it had was the “Chevrolet” emblem on the tailgate came unstuck, and was replaced with a bolt-on version. All these comments about poor build quality, parts falling off – guess I was lucky to get the only good S10 truck ever built, or so it would seem.

    I found it reliable, comfortable to drive, I even liked it handling (for a truck) after I bought Michelin tires for the thing.

    Was not thrilled with the late nineties restyle…until the Colorado came out, I really *tried* to like the Colorado but it never grew on me. (I’m with Zackman above.)

    Now if I could find the gauge set-up from an early-ninties Syclone or Typhoon for my truck I’d be happy.

    • 0 avatar

      You can find that same gauge set up in a Pontiac Sunbird of all things and it would be much easier and cheaper than robbing one out of a Sy/Ty plus you wouldn’t have the dead boost gauge :).

  • avatar

    I thought everyone preferred the Ranger because of its truck fishing capabilities! I’d put in a link but can’t find the old ad on YouTube.

  • avatar

    After 3 years of keeping my wife’s 95 S-10 Blazer on the road I can say without equivocation its because the S-10 was a poorly engineered PoS. They ran wiring under the drivers side carpet which is most likely to be wet and so it rots and causes most of the options like the power seats to quit. The doors are so heavy they cause the hinges to wear out to the point there’s a visible gap between the door and the frame when the door is closed. You have to raise the engine with a hoist to change the starter, and don’t get me going on the merits of the 4L60E transmission.

  • avatar

    One of the first trucks I ever owned was an 89 S-10 Baja. I’m a fan of the “box” S trucks. They didn’t translate to the Aero body well at all. When Chevy stopped mimicking their full size trucks with the S series it all went downhill.

  • avatar

    I remember hearing of many auto transmission issues with the Ranger (and the Aerostar, and the Explorer). I had gasket issues with my S-10 Blazer. But some seemed to drive both the S-10 and Ranger forever with no problems.

    We can probably conclude that the S-10 and Ranger were comparable in quality, and even had matching minivans, SUVs, engines, horsepower and economy figures, and facelift schedules. Both had odd niggles, but also had long-lasting components if you knew how to take care of them.

    I am surprised that GM continued with the Colorado/Canyon while Ford left the segment alone. Good for GM for doing that, but it looks like they might as well have just continued with another updated S-10, for all the appreciation the Colorado gets.

  • avatar

    I’ve had both, and I would have to say that they were both crappy. However, the Ranger was crappy in an understandable way, while the S10 was crappy in that special GM way- a kind of crappiness that is inexplicable and infuriating.
    For example- my ’90 Ranger has beat and floppy seats. Expected crapitude. My 93 S10 also had beat and floppy seats, but it has a wayward seat spring which if you didn’t sit down on the seat just right, would give one nasty jab to your left thigh. Inexplicable crapitude. The Ranger is a base model with no AC. Cheap crappy car. The S10 was actually decently appointed with working AC, but it always had a weird chemicalized smell whenever I used it. Inexplicable crapitude. The ranger had scratches and scrapes all over. well used crappy truck. The S10 was only moderately beat on, and has no evidence of any particular trauma. Yet the top of the door frame would pull open slightly to reveal a sliver daylight when you drive it on the freeway. The caused incessant noise on the freeway, in an otherwise fairly well insulated car. Inexplicable crapitude.

    Needless to say I still have the crappy Ranger. It’s still a crappy car, but it’s crappiness I could live with.

  • avatar

    Desertcat, I don’t doubt that the bad frames on the toyotas were made here in the US, I already figured that they most likely were. But that is beside the point, they were junk regardless of where they were made. I’m glad you like your Tundra.

  • avatar

    Ford supports the Working Man Image : “Ford Tough” which celebrates and praises the Reliable , Trustworthy and hard working American Male !

  • avatar

  • avatar

    They didn’t make enough Syclones, that’s why.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember the Sonoma GT (similar body kit)? You could get a 305 swapped in at the dealership that was Federal emissions legal. The Syclone and Typhoon were actually the fastest (large scalse) production truck and SUV until the ’99 SVT Lightning (I think, either that or the Ram SRT-10) and the Porsche Cayenne, respectively. I always wanted a Syclone, but was too young when you could still get your hands on one that wasn’t too ragged out.

  • avatar

    I don’t accept Mr. Lang’s premise. Here in Southern Ontario S-10s are much more popular than Rangers. S-10s are the much more popular at auto shows, at the local drag strips and at cruise nights. Resale values are higher and there are far more customized S-10s than Rangers. V8 conversion kits, lowering kits, and hydraulic systems for “bagging” S-10s are much more common and easier to get for S-10s than Rangers.

    As to longevity, we have four S-10s in the family and all have high mileage and run trouble free. Sure, there are some trouble spots (e.g.: 4cyl head gaskets, cab corners, box rust) to watch for, but any vehicle has its shortcomings to beware of when shopping.

    When it came to handling, an S-10 with the ZQ8 sport suspension handled pretty darn good for a truck.

    I do think those who want a “new” S-10 turned to the Ranger over the Colorado, cheaper, better built, and to my eye better looking.
    Sad to see Ford eliminate that option.

  • avatar

    Both my father & I owned ’89 Rangers. I have fond memories of both; they were both excellent little trucks.

    My father sold his and bought a c ’00 Ranger. I still frequently use it. It’s a POS that’s so bad I didn’t even bother looking at Ford for over a decade.

    I no longer have any interest or sympathy for the Ranger. They only tear I shed for it is the fact that more too-big trucks that will never be used for their intended purpose will occupy the roads, blocking my sight-lines and intimidating every vehicle smaller than them.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    As the former owner of a Ranger (class of ’88 – XLT 4×2 Extended Cab 4 cyl. 5 speed tranny, Navy Blue metallic with silver trim and red pinstripes…medium blue cloth interior) I have to say the Ranger was dead reliable. Drove one for 4 years and NEVER had to be returned to the dealer. Not once. Mine was built at Twin Cities, and at the time, that was Ford’s highest quality plant (and one of the best in the industry, IIRC…). The truck was just so damned useful…and versatile. Runs to the lumber yard for a weekend project? No problem. Haul a half a ton of cat litter? (Don’t ask…) No problem. Clean it up and take the wife to dinner in town? Very comfortable. Load up 3 friends and head to the golf course? No problem. 4 golf bags and a cooler in the bed, and 3 friends for a short ride in the cab. Jump seats in the cab were tolerable, even for 6’0″, 215 lb. me. Gas mileage was not spectacular, about 24 mpg consistently, but not disappointing at the time, either. I think it was because the Ford was designed BY people who USE trucks, FOR people who use trucks. Only then did they try to gussy it up and make it stylish. Even had useful touches like map pockets SEWN IN (not glued on) to the upholstery of the front buckets. I suspect that, with the S-10, GM tried to design a pretty truck FIRST, and then some of the engineers came to their senses and remembered, “Oh, by the way…in terms of function, it needs to do this, this..and this.” Ford used the tried and true axiom of “form follows function.” GM did it the other way around.

    At the end of a long day of using my truck, I’d look at it and say to myself, “Ya know, that’s not a bad looking little truck. Think I’ll get out the bucket and wash it.” I thinking there were a number of S-10 owners who would say, “Ya know, I wish that damned truck performed as good as it looks.”

    Kind of like women. The pretty ones are all about themselves, and require lots of maintenance and pampering. Then their gone. But find yourself a more plain one who does lots of things for ya and with ya, and is faithful and reliable and stays with ya, and be a happy man forever…. The S-10 was like a good-time tart, might look good on your arm, but noisy and whiny and prone to make a fool out of herself, and you, in public. The Ranger was more like the kind of woman you’d take home to meet momma. Not flashy, but quiet and substantial and serious.

    That’s kinda how I felt about my Ranger. Why did I get rid of it? The best reason of all.

    When my son came along, it didn’t have room for a baby seat….but I saw it around town for about 12 years after. Still brought a smile to my face each time I saw it.

    I’d buy one again in a minute if I needed a truck, but living in a condo these days, I just don’t have much call for one.

  • avatar

    I worked at a GMC dealership for several months after I graduated college. I swear to you this is true: We actually had a new truck delivered to the dealership that had GMC trim on one side, S-10 trim on the other side, a GMC grill, and a Chevrolet tailgate.

    All the salesmen were asking each other, “How in the HELL did this truck get by whatever “quality control” personnel worked at the factory.

    BTW, I have bought two brand new Rangers. The first one in 1990 and the second one in 2011.

  • avatar

    It seemed the only thing that could kill Rangers was rust here in the Midwest. My neighbor drove his old ranger to the junk yard because it was rusting so badly. When they picked it up with the fork lift in bent in half like a limp noodle.

  • avatar

    Count me in as one who has owned a couple examples of both. I still have a fond place in my heart for the ’96 Ranger I owned. It was basic as hell, regular cab 5-speed 4-cyl. No AC. It was so gutless, it couldn’t maintain 70mph on the freeway in a moderate headwind. But it was simple and honest, durable as an anvil, and looked tough. Ford gave their 2wd trucks the same aggressive tires and ground clearance closer to their 4×4 trucks. 2wd S10’s sat alot lower, rode on crappy econo tires, and looked castrated by comparison. The 4×4 S10 was good looking, but I always wished they would butch up their 2wd offering. I also hated every minute behind the 4.3 V6. It sounded like it was tearing itself apart and you weren’t even moving that fast. My brother had a 4.3 Blazer that could get an amazing 25 mpg on the highway. My 4.3’s never got over 18.

    My purchasing of small trucks came to an end when I discovered how much better both Ford and GM full sized trucks were. You can really tell where those companies put their R&D dollars. The full sized trucks were like Lexus’s compared to their small trucks, and got about the same mileage.

  • avatar

    We used the small trucks as delivery trucks when I worked at a parts store.

    We started with a 1991 S-10, that thing was a rock. It was the most basic truck you could get; 5-speed, rubber/vinyl interior, no radio, etc. I believe the only way a vehicle can be tortured more than a rental is by a delivery driver.

    I have no idea how many hundreds of thousands of miles this truck had on it when I left the company in 2003 but it was still going. It had been crashed a few times and after the rear leaf springs broke (overloaded) we put some heavier springs in it and kept on going. We used it a lot to take scrap in and at one time had over 2000lb loaded in the bed.

    We put a few clutches in it and replaced the transmission once as well as a couple of head gaskets on the 2.5 Iron Duke but for the most part this was a good truck to us.

    Eventually we expanded and got another store so we needed another delivery truck. It was 1994 and the S-10 had a new body style so we bought one. We had learned that many of our drivers, high school kids, didn’t know how to drive a stick so this time we got an automatic. Everything the 1991 truck was this truck was not. It was clearly no longer a work truck with its soft suspension just never seemed to be as trucklike as the ’91. This truck had the 2.2l engine which starting ticking and rattling within 10k miles, it was noisy but never failed.

    We had a Ranger at one point with the 2.3l but it kept burning pistons. We never figured out why this was happening but it holed a piston in two different engines.

    I have fond memories of the boxy S-10s, not so much the later models and I’ve never liked the Rangers.

  • avatar

    I grew up in a blue collar home and in 1997 my dad bought a brand new 1997 Fire engine red Chevy S10 with the 2.2L and 5spd manual. It had crank windows and no AC. He used it for his construction job to haul material around etc. I have many fond memories riding with him in the passenger seat with the windows rolled down in the warm summer.

    He put 160k miles on the truck until it was t-boned in an intersection in 2010 and sent to the junkyard. The truck was hit on the passenger side at about 50mph. It was wrecked but thankfully he walked away. The impact from the collision had the bed half separated from the cab.

    During that time the truck left him stranded once with the wheel nearly falling off the car due to some failed component (ball joint) at around 140k miles. He also had to put a cat in it early in its life but otherwise the truck had zero problems. Shortly before its destruction from the accident him and I had to tighten the valve cover as it was rattling on top of the motor and leaking oil. It did start to consume a bit of oil toward the end.

    I miss that truck….and he does too. No doubt he’d still be driving around in it if it wasn’t totaled.

  • avatar

    I don’t agree that the Ranger is the better of the truck at all. The 4.3 is a great engine, especially if you get one made after 1995. That’s when the Vortec heads and fuel injection got a lot better. I bought an S-10 in 1995 and it is still my daily driver today with 320,000 miles. I also have a backup S10 in 4.3 stickshift and 4wd for when this original truck dies. I’ve been waiting for something bad to happen for years. all it needs is oil changes and cap/rotor occasionally. I really wonder why some people have better “luck” than others.

  • avatar

    My seat of the pants experience with one S-10 work truck, one Ranger work truck, and two Ranger personal trucks is that the Rangers were just plain nicer to drive. 80s GM ergonomics were crap and the 4 speed manual transmission was nowhere near as slick shifting as the Ranger’s 4 and 5 speed units. Build quality was also an issue, while my sample S10 had been used hard, our 85 Ranger held up better. It didn’t help that early 6 cylinder S-10 were saddled with the crappy 2.8 V-6 in comparison with the Ford Cologne and Vulcan engines in the Ranger.
    Finally, neither the Ranger nor the S-10 was as all around good as the Mazda B-2200 pickups I drove for another job.

  • avatar

    S-10: sloth who eats junk food, couch potato
    Ranger: gym rat who is active and lively

  • avatar

    The ZR-2 looks much better than any Ranger ever made.

  • avatar

    I’ve been a professional auto mechanic for 25 years. I will never buy a Ford because of their long history of exploding / burning vehicles. Say what you want about Government Motors and GM quality (I know it’s not perfect), but my experience in the workplace leads me to believe that Ford is WORSE. For all the America-haters out there: I’ve seen my fair share of appalling import failures, too.
    I always thought the Ranger was an ugly truck, and I find that many people who drive them are annoying. I’ve never seen a V6 Ranger that didn’t have a cracked cylinder head. The power steering pumps are noisy. The 4-cylinder models get horrible gas mileage compared to the S10. I’ve seen far more emissions, electrical, and “check engine” light problems on Rangers than the S10.
    I currently own an S10 pickup that I bought new in 1996. It’s a 4-cylinder, 5-speed, regular cab, short bed. It now has 275,000 miles on it, with the original engine, transmission, and rear axle. There are no rust issues. The local auto parts suppliers I deal with use S-10 pickups for parts delivery and have over 300,000 miles on them. My only complaint is that at the current high mileage, mine has the same piston-slap noise when cold as the old Toyota 22R engines did. I still get 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, and it burns about a half quart of oil between changes. I’ve replaced the brakes, battery, belt, water pump, replaced tires, done tune-ups, and all the other types of maintenance I’d expect to do on a truck of this age with this kind of mileage. I replaced the clutch once.
    This truck has seen its share of punishment. I’ve hauled 500 lb. steel girders in it, and regularly tow two jet skis on a trailer with it. It has survived Death Valley in the summer on numerous occasions, and has been across the country. Even though it’s a 2-wheel drive model I still take it off-road. The only time I ever got stuck was when I was keeping up with a Jeep 4 X 4 club and slipped in a foot of snow with my street tires.
    I do agree that the Ranger is more popular with off-roaders because the front suspension on the four-wheel-drive models is stronger.
    The S10 is not a speed demon. Most 4-cylinder models were geared low, and you have to rev them up quite a bit for power. If you want to go fast, buy a muscle car. If you want a tough economical pickup truck, buy an S10.

    • 0 avatar
      Angus McClure

      I would have a tough time finding someone discussing the S10 where I agree more. Mine is a 91/4.3/700r4 combo that loves abuse. It spent life as a security truck and now I need to fix the drivers side door. The mechanic says it needs bushings so I will so that. A tach has replaced the speedometer thanks to a power surge. Otherwise, its tough to imagine how it could fill the bill as a tough dependable truck. Been slogging for two years plus with me and expect it will outlive me if I don’t do something stupid.

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