Junkyard Find: 1986 GMC S-15 Jimmy 4X4

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

GM sold Isuzu Faster pickups with Chevrolet LUV badging in North America from 1972 through 1982, replacing that Japanese truck with the all-Detroit S-10 starting in that final LUV year. An SUV-ized version of the S-10 ( the S-10 Blazer) followed for the 1983 model year, and a GMC-badged twin known as the S-15 Jimmy went along with it. Here's one of those first-generation mini-Jimmies, found in a self-service yard near Sacramento, California.

junkyard find 1986 gmc s 15 jimmy 4x4

Just to confuse everyone, Chevrolet and GMC were already selling much larger, unrelated trucks called the Blazer and Jimmy at the time, but Ford had gotten away with selling two unrelated cars with LTD badges in the late 1970s, so why not take advantage of existing name recognition?

Technically speaking, the four-wheel-drive version of this truck was known as the T-15 Jimmy (but all GMC marketing materials appear to use the S-15 name for the whole family of trucks).

Meanwhile, the big Jimmy and little Jimmy got fender badges that differed somewhat from each other. I'm just sad that GMC dropped the classy Gentleman Jim and Beau James packages years before (though you could retrofit an S-15 Jimmy with reproduction Gentleman Jim decals if necessary).

Just 136,173 miles on this truck. The early S-10 gauge cluster is a masterpiece of cheap-yet-functional design.

Unfortunately, GM made a lot of cheap-but-easily-broken hood-release rigs in their 1980s vehicles, so I couldn't get photos of the 2.8-liter V6 under the hood. That engine was rated at 125 horsepower.

The base engine for 1986 was the 2.5-liter Iron Duke four-cylinder.

A rear-wheel-drive version was available, as was a five-speed manual transmission, but this truck has the most common 4WD/automatic configuration.

All-wheel-drive mania had not yet consumed America, so this 4WD system was the real thing.

This AM/FM/cassette radio cost $344 extra (about $935 in 2022 dollars), but was necessary for full appreciation of the fine music of the era.

The price for a 1986 S-15 Jimmy 4x4 with V6 engine and automatic transmission started at $11,928, or about $32,435 after inflation.

If you wanted air conditioning, that cost another 705 bucks (1,915 bucks today).

Production of the first-generation S-10 Blazer/S-15 Jimmy continued through 1994, despite being primitive and harsh-riding compared to the new crop of suburban-commute SUVs beginning to dominate American-market vehicle sales.

A four-door version with a stretched wheelbase didn't become available until the 1991 model year.

Colorado demands shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive and electronic fuel injection.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Jimmy owners could haul the boat out of the lake before heading to the fish boil.

[Images by the author]

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  • Ribbedroof Ribbedroof on Nov 24, 2022

    Had an '87 Blazer 2.8 4x4 in '92.....it was great when it snowed, you just floored it and went. Didn't make enough power to spin a tire. Merging onto the Interstate was another matter entirely, and that was before the chaos that is today's traffic

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Nov 26, 2022

    I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.

  • Jwee More range and faster charging cannot be good news for the heavily indebted and distracted Musk.Tesla China is discounting their cars. Apart from the Model 3, no one is much buying Tesla's here in Europe. Other groups have already passed Tesla in Europe, where it was once dominant.Among manufacturers, 2021 EV sales:VW Group 25%, Stellantis at 14.5%,Tesla at 13.9%Hyundai-Kia at 11.2% Renault Group at 10.3%. Just 2 years ago, Tesla had a commanding 31.1% share of the European EV marketOuch. https://carsalesbase.com/european-sales-2021-ev/@lou_BC, carsalebase.com changed their data, so this is slightly different than last time I posted this, but same idea.
  • Varezhka Given how long the Mitsubishi USA has been in red, that's a hard one. I mean, this company has been losing money in all regions *except* SE Asia and Oceania ever since they lost the commercial division to Daimler.I think the only reason we still have the brand is A) Mitsubishi conglomerate's pride won't allow it B) US still a source of large volume for the company, even if they lose money on each one and C) it cost too much money to pull out and no one wants to take responsibility. If I was the head of Mitsubishi's North American operation and retreat was not an option, I think my best bet would be to reduce overhead by replacing all the cars with rebadged Nissans built in Tennessee and Mexico.As much as I'd like to see the return of Triton, Pajero Sport (Montero Sport to you and me), and Delica I'm sure that's more nostalgia and grass is greener thing than anything else.
  • Varezhka If there's one (small) downside to the dealer not being allowed to sell above MSRP, it's that now we get a lot of people signing up for the car with zero intention of keeping the car they bought. We end up with a lot of "lightly used" examples on sale for a huge mark-up, including those self-purchased by the dealerships themselves. I'm sure this is what we'll end up seeing with GR Corolla in Japan as well.This is also why the Land Cruiser has a 4 year waitlist in Japan (36K USD starting MSRP -> buy and immediately flip for 10, 20K more -> profit) I'm not sure if there's a good solution for this apart from setting the MSRP higher to match what the market allows, though this lottery system is probably as close as we can get.
  • Jeff S @Lou_BC--Unrelated to this article but of interest I found this on You Tube which explains why certain vehicles are not available in the US because of how the CAFE measures fuel standards. I remember you commenting on this a few years ago on another article on TTAC. The 2023 Chevrolet Montana is an adorable small truck that's never coming to the USA. It's not because of the 1.2L engine, or that Americans aren't interested in small trucks, it's that fuel economy legislation effectively prevents small trucks from happening. What about the Maverick? It's not as small as you think. CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy is the real reason trucks in America are all at least a specific dimension. Here's how it works and why it means no tiny trucks for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eoMrwrGA8A&ab_channel=AlexonAutos
  • Gabe A new retro-styled Montero as their halo vehicle to compete against the Bronco, Wrangler and 4Runner. Boxy, round headlights like the 1st generation, two door and four door models, body on frame.A compact, urban truck, Mighty Max, to compete against the Maverick. Retro-styled like the early 90s Mighty Max.A new Outlander Sport as more of a wagon/crossover to compete against the Crosstrek and Kona. Needs to have more power (190+ HP) and a legit transmission, no CVT.A new Eclipse hybrid to compete against the upcoming redesigned Prius. Just match the Prius's specs and make it look great.Drop the Eclipse Cross, I am not sure why they wanted to resurrect the Pontiac Aztec. Keep the Mirage and keep it cheap, make the styling better and up the wheel size. The Outlander seems fine.I like the idea of some sort of commercial vehicle, something similar in size to the Promaster City but with AWD.