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ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 3:19 p.m.

In May of 2018 (well over a year ago from the time of this initial post), while perusing the local facebook marketplace during lunch, I spied this '02 Sonoma.


I've been interested in having an S10/S15/Sonoma since before the second body style even came out (IE, when I was in high school/college). So when this one came along I simply had to check it out. It's a 2002, 2.2, 4 cylinder, 5 speed, short bed, regular cab.  It was cheap enough.

The previous owner had been letting a family member use it, evidently, and it came home with a blown head gasket. I asked if I came back in an hour with $200 and a trailer if it would buy it. The deal was struck.

So I came back with the trailer and loaded it up.


I asked the PO, “Do you think it'll start and run long enough to drive onto the trailer? His answer was “Uh...I tried to start it the other day and it sounded like the starter was spinning but the engine wasn't.” Hmmm. OK.


Anyway, I brought it home and parked it in the spot where I park projects that I have no immediate plans for. It was on the drive home that I realized this thing is WAY newer than the stuff I usually drag home. Like...not even CLOSE to being eligible for historic registration and the glorious benefits that loophole brings with it. Oh well.



I charged the battery one day and hit the starter. It did sound like just the starter was spinning but on closer inspection, I could see the serpentine belt rotating so that meant that this engine had, like, ZERO compression.

At this point, I know what everyone is thinking. You're thinking the same thing I was thinking when I dragged it home: “V8 Sonoma!!!”

Well, I hate to disappoint, but that's not where this is going.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 3:25 p.m.

I totally wanted to put a V8 of some sort in this thing. I even purchased and drove home a nifty 5.3 Donor for it. I call this photo: A $700 start to a $10,000 project:


I bought some F-body exhaust manifolds as well.

But as I thought about REALISTICALLY how long it would be before I would complete that project and how many dollars would go into it...I decided to see if I could come up with a CHEAP, 2.2, stock, 4 cylinder engine. “It'll be easier.” I said, “I can swap it over and have a running truck in a weekend.” I famously last-worded.

Also...this truck is far from straight or rust free. It's really not “worthy” of a swap (I rationalized).

I still want to do a V8 S10 but this one will be my “starter” S10. The one that (I hope) makes me REALLY want a V8 one ;)

So I put a wanted ad on Craigslist pretty much saying I was looking for the perfectly-good 2.2 engine that some V8 swapper was pulling out of his/her S10 and I wasn't willing to pay very much for it (else I'd just perform my own V8 swap). Not long after I got a response from a guy I know and trust saying he was about to part out a same-year S10 with the same engine with only 93,000 miles and I could hear the engine run before HE pulled it and the price was $150. I was hoping to pick up an engine for no more than $100...but I also wasn't planning on being able to hear it run. This was a no brainer. So I brought home the engine in November of last year, wrapped it up in a cheap, harbor freight tarp, and let it season for the winter.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 3:46 p.m.

In May, I spied an ad for a no-title, beat-up, 2WD Blazer that had been sitting, parked on the street.  The asking price was...optimistic.  After about a month of one of my favorite negotiation tactics we call “letting it brew”, I was able to DRIVE this “beauty” home for $300 (after a jump start and with zero power-steering assist):


I bought this mainly for the grille/headlight/bumper on the front. Body wise, it has only TWO other pieces that I would consider to be worth using (and they're not perfect). However, it wasn't until after I got it home that I realized it has rear disk brakes. That, I think, makes it a pretty nice score.

Oh, and it has a 4.3 and auto trans that seem to be healthy.

I had resigned myself to the plan that this truck might make a good alternate daily beater. As many of us know, when you drive cars of the GRM Challenge budget caliber (which I do, almost exclusively) you need to have insurance in the form of a couple of beaters on deck.

Finally, in June, I decided it was the Son-of-a's time to get some love so I pulled it into the shop.


Pulled out of the weeds and ready to soap-box-derby it down to the barn in the background.

And Charlotte the cat approves.


As I dug into it, it dawned on me...I've worked on one of these engines before. It was in my first-wife's '88 cavalier back in the 90s. Wow, did I learn to loathe that engine. Perfect. Now I'm thrilled about my choice to stick another one of these engines in here.


As it came apart, I found a completely failed driver side engine mount (the shell of the mount was resting on the steering column. Someone addressed this by wrapping the steering column in some sort of off-cast rubber sheet. Classy), an exhaust flex pipe that didn't survive the removal process, the stupidest factory heater hose setup I hope to ever see, and a few other things. I guess when you take a Cavalier engine and turn it the right direction to put into a RWD vehicle, concessions must be made. Not that the Cavalier was any peach as far as serviceability was concerned...but it's worse in the S-truck.

This son-of-a-   fought me coming apart, but I prevailed.

Once out, I had to extract a couple of broken bolts from the exhaust manifold, put some new inserts in the engine mounts, Swap the good clutch and flywheel onto the in-going engine (the “good engine” had a complete lack of friction material on the clutch, just loose rivets rattling around. This is the reason it's truck was parted out), put in a pilot bearing, etc.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 4:09 p.m.

Putting the engine back in was way too hard. I mean...I've changed a lot of engines in my day and have never had a same-engine swap fight me this much. I will not be going out of my way to drag home another 2.2 S-truck. If I do, it'll be hard to resist swapping it to ANYTHING else.

It fought me so hard that somewhere in here I let the damn Son-of-a-    just sit for about two months. I couldn't face it for a while. But, when the summer temperatures started to ease off a couple of weeks ago, I got back to it. I chipped away at bolting stuff together, donated some knuckle skin and blood to the engine swap deities and overcame 2.2 liters of adversity.

It fired up and ran pretty good. And the added bonus is that the A/C blows cold!

Last weekend I found a “semi-direct replacement” flexpipe to weld in. While I waited for that to arrive from Utah, I thought I'd start poking away at swapping out the old and busted front grille/bumper stuff for the older and not-as busted stuff on the DonorBlazer.


and BAM:


But all that happened so quick and I was still waiting for the flexpipe. So then the interior fell out on me:


There was a bunch of crusty-rusty-goodness waiting for me under the disgusting rubber floor mat.


I rinsed, dried, applied phosphoric acid, dried, and POR-15ed the floorboards.


I scrubbed down the rubber mat and seat with SuperClean.. The seat is rough...I hope to find a nicer one eventually. Well, the rubber floor mat is pretty rough too, but I'm just going to put my muddy feet on it all the time. Once all of it was mostly dry, I slapped it all back together.

The seat before...:  


...and after an 11/16-ass scrub-down:


The flexpipe showed up so I welded it onto the downpipe, put it all together and took it for its first drive this past week on September 3rd. The engine/trans seem to be great. It probably needs some front suspension work, but it drives as well as or better than it looks.

I have way more time into this thing than it's really worth...but not too much money. I'm not embarrassed by that because it's a hobby. It's fun making stuff a little better than it was as I poke around on it.  If I had to guess I'd say I'm still honestly under $500 into this thing.  That'll change as I put some miles on it and find out what else it needs.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 4:54 p.m.

And we're at now, now.

I have put about 8 miles on the little ugly Son-of-a-...

Mostly I've just been hopping in and driving from the house to the barn and such on the property, but I took it up the road one evening and got it up to speed.  That accounts for about 7.5 miles of the 8.

Today the truck looks like this:


The parts donor blazer came with 3 good tires on matching (swirly styled) wheels and one mismatched wheel with a pokey-wire-tire.

I think these wheels aren't bad and I figured it shouldn't be too hard to come up with another one to complete the set. I was beginning to wonder, but this past week someone responded to my want ad and I now have a 4th wheel for a scant $5 ( and 1 hour round trip drive). Sure, I had to pull off the remnants of a shredded tire, but that's why I have a tire machine!

Now I'm learning that the 235/70-15 tire that I need to complete the set is not the cheapest tire out there to buy, but I should be able to get a new one for well under $100 and complete the set.  I'm not crossing my fingers, but maybe I'll find a good used one or a pair also.  The tires on the truck currently are diminutive and their tread is but a memory.

Yesterday I diagnosed why the spare tire in the bed of the Son-of-a didn't have any air pressure, patched the hole where I removed the nail, and re-hung the spare underneath the bed of the truck. I'm not fond of this under-bed spare tire location, but at least it's not taking up space in and/or sliding around the bed.

I have quite a few pieces of the interior that are in rough shape that I may try to swap out with bits from the GrilleDonorBlazer as I can.

slowbird Reader
9/7/19 5:04 p.m.

So now it's got Blazer parts on the front, and it already had a Chevrolet tailgate, so is it still a Sonoma, or is it just an S-10? Or is it a Esstennablazer? laugh


ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 5:09 p.m.

Hard to say.  The S-truck savvy folks will see that the hood is still a Sonoma-specific piece.  It's a mutt.  A real Son-of-a.


If I actually like driving this thing I'm going to have to keep an eye out for a nice 2 door, 2WD Blazer (possibly one with a bad engine or transmission for cheap since I have the blazer donor drivetrain).  they're not easy to find (especially with nice body and interior) but here's hoping.


The other project idea that this has precipitated is this:  I'm thinking it would we WEIRDLY FUN to put a pickup cab and super-short (cut down) bed on the blazer frame.  It would be a real clown car...but maybe...just maybe, kinda cool.  I haven't managed to find internet proof it has been done before (though, surely it has).

slowbird Reader
9/7/19 5:31 p.m.

It would also be fun to build a syclone/typhoon-like but with the rounder bodystyle devil

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
9/7/19 6:21 p.m.

I knew there was such a swap done with a Blazer like yours and an older truck.  Check this out;


Cool project you've got going on.

dropstep UltraDork
9/7/19 9:45 p.m.

I'd much rather work on one in an s10 then another 2.2 cavalier or Sunfire ever. We will disagree there

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/7/19 10:11 p.m.
dropstep said:

I'd much rather work on one in an s10 then another 2.2 cavalier or Sunfire ever. We will disagree there

I think we're actually on the same page.  I have no use for a Cavalier...at all.  And only a small part of that is that I dislike the engine.  And I feel like turning it sideways (to the RIGHT way) they had to make some funky stuff happen to pull it off.  Given the choice of which 2.2 vehicle I had to maintain and work on, it would definitely not be anything front drive.

If I can keep a head gasket together in this son-of-a   ...I'll call it a win (that's the problem I had with the cavalier (about 4 times)...and the alleged problem with the engine this truck came with).

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/13/19 5:44 p.m.

I noticed some drips and drops of power steering fluid on the frame and steering box.  I traced the source of the fluid to the steering pump/reservoir area.  I was relieved that it wasn't the steering box itself.  I suppose I had hoped maybe it was just a hose. 

The steering pump that came out of the truck was dry on the outside like it should be so I pulled it off the old engine and put it in place of the leaky pump.  fingers crossed.

Here's the truck looking all comfy nestled into its idyllic setting.  


Actually, I had a plan here.

The front panel of the bed has been pushed into the back of the cab and is deformed and the two panels are perpetually touching now.  


Shadetree bodywork...here we go:


Much better!


This little quality control inspector was skeptical of my methods.  He didn't argue with the outcome, though. 


I took great care not to mash him in the process of all this.  (That took more diligence than you might think.  He really wanted to be UNDER the truck to hide from me.)

AngryCorvair MegaDork
9/13/19 9:53 p.m.

Ask the inspector if you should make it smooth.  He’ll probably say rib it.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/14/19 8:15 a.m.


ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/14/19 9:25 a.m.

The back of the cab is still all beat up.  I was mostly just trying to separate the cab and bed so it's not rubbing and rattling all the time (which I assume it would in the state it was)

I don't plan do fix this.  The ugly little Son-of-a... has many dents and dings that won't get fixed.


ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/18/19 9:26 p.m.

I ordered a new tire to match the size of the 3 good tires I had (235/70r15).  I mounted up the new tire and set to swapping wheels around.  One of the steel wheels on the pickup and all three of the aluminum wheels on the blazer did not want to come off without some serious persuasion.

I found that loosening all the lugs just a half turn from finger tight and rocking the vehicle side to side vigorously helps loosen the wheels and also scares horses.

When I get around to it I'll probably turn the white letters in on the other three tires.  I need to get some more wheel weights before I do that, though.  


Robbie UltimaDork
9/18/19 9:42 p.m.
AngryCorvair said:

Ask the inspector if you should make it smooth.  He’ll probably say rib it.

That's what ...she... said?

Daylan C
Daylan C UberDork
9/18/19 10:14 p.m.

I never actually noticed that the Sonoma had a different hood until now. Yours is turning into a nice little truck.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/19/19 2:11 p.m.

I didn't notice the difference until I bought the blazer parts donor.  I am glad the parts all interchange so well.  The (GMC) hood on the pickup is not great, but it's better than the (Chevy) blazer hood.

AngryCorvair MegaDork
9/19/19 2:55 p.m.

My Sonoma approves!

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/19/19 3:06 p.m.

Looks like you've lowered it a bit, maybe?  I was thinking a 2" drop spindle and 2" block would do mine nicely (3" block is common but I don't think mine has any rake to it now...at least not that much).  I'd love to hear about yours if there's any background to it.

AngryCorvair MegaDork
9/19/19 3:30 p.m.

i know my truck is a ZQ8.   i *think* it is at stock ZQ8 ride height.   If anything, it is possible that the rear is slightly higher than stock, because it has helper bags that require some amount of pressure greater than zero to keep them from chafing.  tires are 245/45-18 which should be close to stock OD but i haven't done the math on that.

ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/20/19 6:55 p.m.

And the DonorBlazer gets more craptastic every time I touch it.


ClemSparks UltimaDork
9/25/19 4:04 p.m.

Since this truck isn't 25 years old yet, it means it's not eligible for Historic tags (my typical MO on projects of this caliber) which means it must have a state Motor Vehicle Inspection.

I dropped it off with one of my customers for an inspection.  It passed inspection which means that I can license this son-of-a... now.  I guess that's the next step.  The drive to and from the shop really demonstrates why this 2.2 engine has a reputation for being underpowered.  Oh well...I sat there in the air conditioned cab with my foot to the floor...smiling.

TJL Reader
9/25/19 5:28 p.m.

My dad inherited a basically new 2000 or so s-10 from his mother after she died. It was a pretty nice rig other than being the 4cyl AUTOMATIC. . OH MY GOD it was so slow!!!  I drove it one day to clean it up. Wasnt trying to beat on it so drove it real easy. Had to get on the interstate so lean into it some, get nothing. Little more,  nothing. Had to go so floored it. Still NOTHING! 

Unbelievably slow. Ended up getting hit and totaled. 

So be glad its a manual. 

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