1986 GMC S-15

#1
I suppose first an introduction is appropriate.
My name is Andrew, Ontario boy, currently living in Kelowna BC.
I recently came to a different direction in life and decided to downsize from our previous set-up.

The previous truck was a 2013 sierra, which I bought stock and did some minor stuff too. Typical colour match, level and bigger tires.



after



picked up a contractor canopy and built a rack for it,



and that was our set-up for the first 3 years in BC



I then decided to go back to school and downsize my expenses a fair bit, so the truck was sold. I bought it for 30k in 2013 with 3,100km's on it and sold it for 29k in 2015 with 75,000km's on it.




After selling my truck I quickly picked up a commuter car and we used it for camping for all of 2016.
The booger



We racked up about 8,000km's on it in one summer exploring a lot of the interior.




In the meantime I was tirelessly looking for a small pick up. The dream vehicle was a 4wd, ext cab, manual first gen Chev S10.
I looked at well over a thousand craigslist/kijiji/facebook for sale ads. Everything was either super over priced, sh*t, or just to far away. After physically going to look at well over 30 different trucks and not finding what I wanted I began looking at toyotas, nissans, fullsize trucks even, all with no luck at all.


Then one day I found my unicorn. After over 6 months of searching I brought up my bookmarked tab of recent for sale ads and this popped up.




and the ad pictures,














Previous to this I had gone to calgary twice and looked at vehicles there, almost went to vancouver a couple times and contemplated visiting washington for a few trucks. Then this one turned up not even a 2 min drive from my place.

I called the guy up right away and within minutes I was over at his place looking at it, trying to hide my excitement. I gave it a thorough once over and he was very honest about it.
There was a noticeable oil leak, the rear bumper was rusted through, the tail pipe was about to fall off, rear pinion seal, front diff, power steering pump were all leaking and the last full service it had was back in 2012. Took it for a quick test drive with the owner and made sure the 4wd system was working. I offered him $1600 during the drive and it was a done deal.

It wasn't exactly what I was looking for being an auto and standard cab but I was still stoked to find an original paint, accident free truck with only 35,000 miles on it.

The next day I went and picked it up. Before I went home I took it on a little shakedown run to see what else it needed, and just to see what I had actually purchased.





It came with one of those old 200+ lb rubber mats in the back. By the look of the bed it was always in there.





The interior was mint,



After about an hour or so of dinking around I headed home.



The truck came with the brochure, some receipts, and even the original bill of sale.


So the story behind the truck is this; A gentlemen in his 60's bought it new and kept it at his cabin at loon lake just north of Cache Creek. All he used it for, for 20ish years was moving his boat from his cabin, to the lake, and back. Hence the low mileage. Then he passed away a few years ago in his late 80's and a buddy of his bought it from his family. Now this guy is the one I purchased it from. He said all he used it for was a doing a run to the dump once or twice a year for the last 5 or so years. This truck has never even left the southern interior and was garaged for almost all of it's life.




Now began the work.
 

frojoe

Adventurer
#2
Subscribed! Always loved these little GM's... this is a mighty clean example and I'm excited to see what you have in store for it!
 

BPD53

Not Always Friendly
#3
I love seeing "average joe" vehicle builds. I am sick and tired of 50k+ vehicles with another 20K bolted on them. Great purchase. Thanks for living in reality.
 

Meili

Adventurer
#4
Sweet, you may want to check out my build.

If you keep suspension, tire , etc mods conservatve they can be fairly capable little rigs.

First order is to find out what gears are in it. Next get rid of the Gov-Loks before they explode (only a mild exaggeration).

If you got any questions, fire away and welcome aboard.
 
#6
Thanks for the good words.
I was and still am (over a year later) stoked on the S15.
The whole thing with this truck is keep it simple, practical and most importantly cheap, well at least for now.

The biggest hurdle I encountered so far with working on this project is I'm doing all of my work on the road in front of the place I rent. So every time I start a job I need to complete it the same day. Which is not always how it goes...


So first and foremost, basic tune-up.



air filter was not terrible



Theromstat was looking pretty gross


Spark plugs were definitely crustified. Curious why 2 were changed out previously.




over flow tank had a nice red hue,


So I cleaned it out and flushed the coolant system



after what felt like ten individual flushes the water started coming out nice and clear so I drained the system and topped it up with some coolant.



I am a massive fan of pick'n'pull junkyards. This truck falls right into the sweet spot. By that I mean there are very few of them left on the road so not many people are looking for parts and enough of them left that junkyard always seems to have 6-12 at a time.

The truck needed a hitch so this was the first of many trips to the yard.



Also needed a hood release cable as the current one was down to the last two strands and about to break. Myself pictured by the wife.




It's so nice to get parts at a tiny fraction of the cost of buying new.



Plug wires were up next.



Wire wheeled and cleaned up the hitch and brackets






The biggest struggle with this truck has just been finding the time to work on it. I purchased it May 1st 2016, and we did a ton of camping and fishing that summer.

The booger made an excellent vehicle for what we were doing. It definitely lacked in clearance but made up for it in fuel efficiency. Straight hwy I was getting 700km's out of a $35 tank of fuel.



This is my wife Nicole, which you will see pictured countless times in the front of our canoe during this build.
 
#8
The reason for needing the hitch was not for a trailer, the little 2.8 would have a pretty hard time pulling anything.
It was because a couple nights after purchasing the truck I also picked up a warn 9.5 w/hitch mount.


Which conveniently came with some gear as well. The winch was previously on a guys 3/4 ton work truck. He was driving a really great looking toyota with rock sliders and custom bumpers and was genuinely honest about it which was nice. He said it shows a lot of wear from being stored in his bed and having gear thrown on it but he actually only used it a handful of times to recover a couple friends.


Next on the list was to tackle some of the leaks. Dropped the skid plate to find this nice mix of oil and diff fluid.



Nice thing about aluminium is it cleans up with no effort at all.




previous owners front diff, fix* lol.



have to say it was working pretty well, after I pulled the gob of silicone off the leak definitely got much worse.




Pulled the passenger side axle tube off the front diff and found some pleasant and unpleasant surprises

This gear usually gets chowdered to sh*t but it looked like it had only been engaged a handful of times.


The thrust washers had seen some better days though,





New ones from GM the next day, slightly different design.


Have to yank the front end apart and remove the cv to remove the axle tube. Bolt on Cv's are a bit of a pain in comparison to slide in's.



This was one of those jobs that now that I know how it works it would probably only take me an hour or two to do again but holy crap it sure took a lot longer than that this time. All sealed back up.


Some more parts showed up, bilsteins and some ceramic pads.



The old shocks were toast


not even a glimmer of rebound,




yanked the rears as well as the tail pipe, or what was left it. Also pulled the rear diff cover to inspect.



happy to see this,



Next up was the rear pinion seal.



The e-brake was not enough to hold back the torque it took to remove the pinion nut so this was my creative solution. Worked nicely in a pinch. Friggin thing was seized on there real good. Broke my breaker bar trying to get it off.





cleaned up and resealed with some new hardware.



The S15 has the Gm posi rear end that's known for blowing up. I highly doubt this little 2.8 is going to achieve that though (knocks on wood).
 
#9
That's basically my first truck. My 2.8 was bulletproof. Good luck!!
Thanks I'll take any luck I can get. I have to admit I have a bit of an affliction with these trucks. This is my 5th s-series truck.

My other truck is an '84 that my dad bought new and I grew up driving around in. It's got a built 3.2 with a roots blower and a bunch of other autocross goodness.








Anyhow back on topic, Next up was the front brakes.



The pads still had tons of material left,


After 30 years they were starting to crumble though,





Some more stuff showed up,




old rotors didn't look too bad, but figured I may as well.



I spent quite a few days laying on the ground in my "workshop" definitely plenty of space to work in...



Also installed new slides and caliper pin bolts and o-rings.



At this point I still didn't trust the truck for out of town trips so we were still using the booger quite a bit.








I took me a while to realize but the canopy was covered in black mould spots. So I gave it a good cleaning in the wash bay at work.



Then I gave the truck a clay bar and good cleaning to try and bring some life back into the old laquer paint.




I picked up clamps and a tailpipe to repair to the exhaust but I was into it for like $70 just in parts and it wouldn't have been done the way I wanted. So I took it to a shop and they welded on the pipe nicely and the whole deal only cost about $85.




I wasn't done with the tune-up/maintenance at this point but wanted to get working towards the end goal.
Which was a mild lift, slightly bigger tires and a rack for the canoe.

Another trip to the yard and I pulled some leafs off this sonoma to build my bastard pack for the rear.




The take. Ended up returning the driveshaft as the spline count didn't match up with the transfer case in my truck.




Glad I kept the u-bolts off the sonoma because mine weren't budging.



 
#10
If you've ever tried to remove leafs on an s-series truck you know this can be a serious pain in the butt. All but one bolt came out and it was right seized. Glad I kept the hangers off the sonoma because I ended up needing them as well.



This one bolt caused me an extra 3ish hours of grief during this job.





Now to remove the bushing as well because it was toast



Replacement






I pulled apart the sonomas leafs as well as the S15's.






I ended up pulling the second longest leaf from the S15 pack and adding it to the Sonomas as they were in nicer shape.



All back together with an extra leaf.



I debated between doing a bastard pack and just a longer hanger and am very happy I went this way. The rear of the truck is a lot more firm and takes a fairly decent load without sagging at all now. I gained roughly 2" in the rear with the new leafs.



Kind of neat thing about the canopy is it's original to the truck and it's never been removed in 30ish years. It was made in summerland bc as well which is kind of cool as that's only about a 30 min drive away.



When I installed the rear shocks they were super tight on the lower studs, to a point where they were like a press fit which I wasn't a fond of.

So I came up with this and honed out the shock sleeve.



They fit perfect after a couple of mins,





We did a couple more trips during this time.








 
#11
Next up I addressed the oil leaking coming from the distributor,



Easy to see how oil made it right passed the flattened o-ring on the left



Also cleaned up the cap and rotor while I had it off


Then I added 1" wheel spacers to the rear end so it would track better in deep snow. This aligned the front and rear perfectly.



I also turned up the front torsion bars slightly to add another 1.5" of lift to the front of the truck.





Then took it for an alignment,



I got a nasty surprise though once it was up on their rack. The mechanic quickly pointed out to me that both lower ball joints, inner tie rods and the pitman arm were all in very bad shape. Tons of play in them all making an alignment a waste of time. So they dropped it back down and didn't charge me anything which was nice. I then went and bought all new moog stuff, upper and lower ball joints, inner and outer tie rods, and a pitman arm. I couldn't believe the bill, it was like $600 even with my 45% discount at lordco. The parts were junk too, the balljoints were so tight you could barely move them with a snipe. and the tie rods were just some junky threads.



So I returned them and ordered some proforged parts. They've got a million mile warranty on their stuff. I run their full linkage on my '84 and have dealt with their warranty system before and it's totally painless. You email a picture of the failure, in my case a boot, and they send out an entirely new part at no cost to you.

I ended up getting a better product, upgraded billet aluminum tie rod sleeves, a throttle body rebuild kit and a smaller pulley for the roots blower on the '84. All for $75 less than the moog crap I originally purchased.



My hats off to proforged. It's definitely not the same quality as say Howe, but for the price it's good stuff.




old crusty ball joints out,



new in, also wire wheeled and painted what I could underneath as well while I was at it.




old steering linkage out.



Only issue I had with the entire kit was the zirc fittings for the lower balljoints. The threads were just all messed up from the factory so I just went out and grabbed some new ones.



After everything was done I borrowed the electric grease gun I use for equipment at work and gave everything a good hit of the red stuff.


another trip in the middle of it all in the booger



 
#12
The next thing I needed to address was the fuel tank. For two reasons; 1 being that it was 30 years old and the truck had sat a lot of it's life; 2 being that the current tank was a mere 13 gallons.

So I purchased a new 20 gallon tank for it.



There's two ways to do this. You try and undo the fuel lines from atop the tank which is crammed under the bed and then drop the tank, or you just pull the bed and make life a lot easier.

So off came the canopy for the first time ever.




Love how the truck looks sans grandpa topper





Called a buddy over to give me a hand,





To give you an idea of how tiny the tank really was. This combined with a very large gas gauge on the dash equated to actually being to see the marker dropping on the fuel gauge as you were driving.



Much to my own dismay I reused the old in tank fuel pump. It still seem to be working great and nothing looked baked or crusty on it. I hope I don't regret that choice in the near future. A new pump was $180.



Only hiccup I had with the install was the crap tank strap threads that just peeled right off... Another returned part and delay.



then my landlord called me out and told me since I had the bed off I had to wire wheel and paint the frame. I wasn't going to but since the tank strap stripped and the store was closed I obliged.





in progress



It's mostly just superficial. I'm curious to see how long it holds up.



I ended up going right under the cab all the way to the front end. I have to say it does clean up the look of the truck as the frames are quite low slung and visible as is.



Next up I fitted up my new to me hitch with new gr 8 hardware as well



Made up some aluminum spacers to get the fitment just right,



The new fuel tank came with a couple issues. I need a different skid plate for it and some slightly different brackets as well.
Picked them up at the yard in really nice shape too.


Finally got around to getting the v-belts swapped out.





Somewhere in the middle of all this we did out a trip back out to Ontario,







 
#13
Not that this will ever be a show truck but I do like some shiny things, picked up this air cleaner lid from the yard




Also picked up this old timing light for like $5 and made sure the timing was dialed into 10*





At this point I had been driving the truck around town to do the odd errand here and there and was starting to gain a little faith in it. Hunting season was starting up so we started using it for that.



Nice little bonus the truck came with an old school gun rack behind the seat.



first trip out we came home with supper


Found some burial cable at work from a demo job that I would save to later wire up the winch plug.




another trip, this one was around the kootenays



blaeberry falls outside of golden








A goal I had in the back of my mind for the truck all along was to get collector plates for it. There are pretty strict requirements involved in the application process but the truck almost fully filled them. Aside from the rear bumper having a big rust hole in it.

I came up on this one from a part out for $30





Much better



At this point my list was dwindling down to the more expensive not so necessary things, so we just used it quite a bit during hunting season





Then I started school in the fall. I worked full time and went to school full time. Which meant the truck sat idle for just over months.