Junkyard Find: 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Durango 4x4

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

As a junkyard historian, I find the era of Detroit's transition from selling rebadged Japanese small pickups to selling their own homegrown versions especially interesting. The problem is that the Chevrolet S-10 was the first of those all-American 1980s minitrucks, and discarded early-production examples are damnably hard to find today.

In fact, the oldest example of a first-generation S-10 (or its GMC counterpart, the S-15) pickup I'd been able to find in a car graveyard prior to now was a 1988 model. The SUV-ified versions have been a bit easier to unearth, though even in that case the earliest one I've documented was a 1986 model.

So, while I was performing my regular ritual of checking the online inventory listings for every boneyard along the Front Range corridor between the New Mexico and Wyoming state lines, the discovery of a 1983 S-10 at a yard about 20 miles south of Denver made me resolve to head down there immediately and photograph that truck… regardless of condition.

It turned out to be a rollover victim with the drivetrain already yanked out, but it was a recognizable early S-10 and that was good enough.

Ford Rangers from the first few years of production are still reasonably plentiful in the Ewe Pullets of the land, as are Dodge Rampages/ Plymouth Scamps and late Ram 50s), but it appears that the usefulness of all small pickups was outweighed by the lack of widespread affection for the S-10. You need to get pretty deep into the 1990s models before S-10 pickups are commonplace in junkyards nowadays.

The Chevrolet Division imported Isuzu Fasters with LUV (Light Utility Vehicle) badging beginning in 1972, with sales continuing through 1982. The brand-new S-10 debuted that year, which meant that Chevy truck shoppers could consider new LUVs and S-10s in the same showrooms for a time.

The cheapest possible 1982 LUV listed at $6,256, while the most affordable S-10 had an MSRP of $6,270 (those prices come to $20,801 and $20,848 in 2024 dollars). The El Camino cartruck was still available then (and would remain so through 1987), and started at $7,995 ($26,583 now) as a 1982 model.

Just to make things interesting for those looking for new small pickups in the year I got my first driver's license, Isuzu had begun selling the Faster with its own badging ( as the P'up) beginning in 1981. The least expensive 1982 P'up started at $6,129 ($20,379 after inflation), so why did anyone pay more for the same truck with Chevrolet emblems?

Three optional trim levels were available for the 1982-1983 S-10: Durango, Tahoe and Sport. The Durango was the cheapest of the three, adding $334 ($1,111 today) to the cost of a 1983 regular-cab S-10. That's what we've got here.

The Durango package included such luxuries as a cigarette lighter, dome lamp and floor mats. Apparently Ford didn't sic its lawyers on GM for using the Durango name (used on pickup-ized Fairmonts for 1979 through 1982), nor did GM prevent Chrysler from selling Durango SUVs starting in the 1997 model year.

The real issue, though, is whether those vehicles took their names from the Mexican state or the Colorado city.

This truck is a regular-cab shortbed with four-wheel-drive, so its MSRP would have been $8,165 with the base 1.9-liter Isuzu straight-four. That's about $26,177 in today's money.

However, other engines were available: a 2.0-liter Cavalier four-cylinder, an Isuzu 2.2-liter diesel and a 2.8-liter 60° V6. Since GM printed its door tags so poorly during the Malaise Era and all the VIN numbers have been erased from this truck, there's no telling which engine once lived here (probably not the diesel, since the fuel gauge reads UNLEADED FUEL ONLY).

The transmission was a manual, either the base four-speed or the optional five-speed.

Is that 36,871 miles or 436,871 miles?

There are newspapers and junk mail from 2004 inside, so I'm guessing that's when it was crashed and parked.

There's never been a truck like it before!*

*Except for the LUV, P'up, Ram 50, 720, Hilux, etc.

The S-10 is bombing the Ford Ranger out of existence!

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 in Colorado junkyard.

[Images: Author]

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • TMA1 TMA1 on Jun 03, 2024

    Interesting. I saw one of these in my neighborhood today. "Durango 4x4" on the bed, thought maybe it was an aftermarket thing. Pretty beat up, but perfect size to drag a lawn mower around. Automatic on the column.

  • Jackie morgan Jackie morgan on Jun 03, 2024

    I have a 1983 S-10 Durango. Bought new 1 owner. Still in original condition. Garage kept no rust dealer undercoat. V6 automatic, longbed. Loaded with extras. Transmission needs work. Body in great condition.

  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.
  • FreedMike It's just a damn shame that Alfa never conquered its' quality demons in time for the Giulia and Stelvio to hit the market - these are loaded with personality, and we need more product like that.