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.

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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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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  • 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.

  • Dukeisduke Huh, that photo looks like a coupe.I wonder how many of the of the original Tesla Roadsters are still on the road? I haven't seen one in years.
  • Dukeisduke L. S. Swap. Do it.
  • MaintenanceCosts Accelerating from 0-60 in 0.99 seconds would subject occupants to an average acceleration force of nearly 3 g. As usual it doesn't seem that Elon thinks anything through before he says it.
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  • Lou_BC Didn't know it existed. Most probably in the same boat as me.