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Upscale Living—Giving an LS-Swapped Chevy S10 pickup a better driving experience through modern upgrades

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Written By Steve Baur
Photography by the Author

It’s easy to become preoccupied with horsepower and speed. After all, that is what really gets our juices flowing, and it’s a huge part of the performance aftermarket. But the older you get, the more you appreciate the amenities and increased comfort in modern vehicles. While an LS swap certainly made our subject Chevy S10 pickup fun to drive, its basic equipment left a lot to be desired. But with help from ididit, Scat Enterprises, and Thermo Tec, we’re about to make the one-wheel-peeler a nice daily driver—we’ll fix the rear axle issue a little later.

The 1987 S10 we are working with came off the General Motors assembly line with not much more than the 2.5-liter Iron Duke four-cylinder engine and stick-shift transmission. A vinyl bench seat spread the width of the standard cab truck, and there was little-to-no sound deadener or even interior panels to speak of.

This S10 was meagerly equipped and this photo actually makes it look a bit better than it actually was. The bench seat was plush and positioned you perfectly in the cab, but didn’t do much for support of any kind, not to mention the stock vinyl upholstery was shot.

With a 5.3-liter/4L65E swap now providing loads of driving entertainment, and a fresh paint job making the exterior of the truck look better than stock, it was time to upgrade the interior to make it a little more enjoyable from the driver’s seat.

The first order of business was to replace the stock steering column with a tilt version, which proved to be a difficult task from a used standpoint. Anything you might find in the scrapyard is at minimum, 27 years old and likely worn out, so we called our friends at ididit to see if they could help. As it turned out, they didn’t have a bolt-in model in stock, but told us to ship them our stock column and they would build a new tilt column for us.

Since the factory column was a non-tilt unit and in less-than-great condition, we called up ididit and the staff there was able to produce a perfect-fitting, tilt steering column that looks great and inspires confidence when wheeling the truck. We opted for the black painted finish.

While ididit was busy building the steering column, we got in touch with Thermo Tec to talk about the best way to insulate the tiny cabin from noise and heat. Sure, a thumping cam and the sound of a great burnout are great, but everything else didn’t need to permeate the cabin.

With the truck being based in Florida, we also wanted to limit the heat transfer from the tropical climate. Thermo Tec recommended its Suppressor Heat and Acoustical mat as well as its Thermo Guard FR insulation. The Suppressor would dampen the sound and its reflective backing would also reflect some heat transfer, while the Thermo Guard would mostly mitigate the heat intrusion. The Thermo Guard could also be utilized in places where the Suppressor couldn’t, such as the headliner and vertical surfaces of the vehicle.

While there are aftermarket options for securing a steering column to the firewall, we opted to re-use the factory firewall plate from the original column. Doing so required cutting the factory weld that held it to the stock column, and then we had to reform the center hole, which got a bit deformed during the extrication process. Be forewarned that this is some tough steel to work with.

With the sound and heat insulation working beneath a new carpet, we couldn’t wait to ditch the factory bench seat for something more supportive, as well as something far better looking. For that, we turned to Scat Enterprises and its Procar line of bucket seats.

Procar by Scat was one of the first companies to offer quality replacement sport seats, and when we took a look at its new line of Touring Sport Recliners, we knew they were the right seats for this project. Looking more like a factory seat than a flashy aftermarket unit, the Touring Sport seat offers classy styling and great bolstering combined in a relatively svelte package, the latter of which is essential in a tiny, standard cab Chevy S10.

With the firewall plate ready for installation, we slipped it onto the steering column and bolted it into place using the factory mounts. We also connected the column to the steering box in the engine bay at this time, which helped centrally locate the column in the firewall plate.

Many of the seating options from Procar come with slider tracks, and the company also offers vehicle specific floor-mount adaptor brackets as well to make installing them a bolt-in proposition.

Check out the accompany photos and captions to see how the products are installed, and to see the pretty dramatic transformation that just a few upgrades can make to the interior or your vehicle.

With the plate secured and the ididit column in its final position, we used two-part epoxy to fill up the remaining gap between the plate and the column and let it cure before moving forward.
The ididit column bolts to the factory mounts for an easy installation. Next on the to-do list is connecting it to the original wiring.
The ididit column came with a couple of plugs that connect directly to the original plugs. Per the included instructions, we did have to move a few factory wires around, but it wasn’t too difficult, and we’re not exactly wiring-minded individuals.
Part of the wiring process includes re-routing some of the factory wires to these included relays, which take the load off of the ignition switch and provide greater longevity.
The ididit tilt steering column looks great and feels great in the hands. After installing the turn signal stalk, we mounted up an aftermarket steering wheel that was a tad smaller in diameter than the factory piece and certainly looked better. Keep in mind that the ididit column does not have a provision for the stock, column-mounted windshield wiper switch, so you’ll have to use an aftermarket switch—or load up on the Rain-X windshield treatment!
Moving on to the seating situation, the Procar by Scat Touring seats retail for around $270 each and are available in black or gray, and with vinyl or velour upholstery. We loved the styling and the numerous bolsters that keep you planted in the seat. Some aftermarket seats can be a bit wild in their appearance and we were looking for something more stock looking, and perhaps upscale as well—these fit the bill perfectly.
We ordered the bucket seat adapters from Procar to make the installation easier. As the truck was originally equipped with a bench seat, there were only 4 mounts welded to the cab floor. We had prepared for this, however, and procured some factory mounts from a junkyard truck so we could have four mounts per seat.
After cleaning up the second-hand seat mounts, we positioned them in the cab and then set the seat mounts on top, checking for level and that they were square to each other and the cab of the truck. Then we welded the mounts in and gave them a quick coat of spray paint.
After bolting the slider tracks and seat adaptors to the Touring seats and setting them in the car, we had the vehicle owner jump in to see how the driver position was. The first thought was that the steering wheel was too close. The ididit column was built to the stock length, but the aftermarket wheel adaptor added an extra 2.5 inches, thus pushing the wheel towards the driver. This was remedied with a much more shallow ¾-inch spacer that we ordered from Amazon. The second thought was that the driver sat too high in the cab. After swapping the bench seat back in for reference, we realized that while the bench seat is physically taller, the occupant sank into the seat and the seat back so much that the seating position was lower and further back than while sitting in the newer bucket seats. Our solution was to install the seats without the slider tracks.
In this comparison photo, you can see the difference in height between using and not using the slider tracks. Mounting the seats in this way is somewhat straightforward, but doing so required a few changes to the Procar seat adaptors, and we took this opportunity to optimize the seat fitment further for the occupants. To that end, we had to weld additional metal to the brackets and relocate some mounting holes to be able to position the seats where we wanted them. Be sure to square the seats up in the cab and make sure they are where you want them while making the mods if this is the route you choose to follow.
Aside from the front-to-back and height positions, you’ll want to double check that you have clearance for things like these seat belt housings, as well as clearance to the door panel arm rests. If you have a center console, be sure to factor that in as well. This truck will be getting a custom made console, but we did move the seats in toward the center to clear the aforementioned seat belts and armrests.
With the seat brackets sorted out and final fitment of the Procar Touring seats completed, we grabbed our Thermo Tec Cool-It insulation products. Thermo Tec’s Suppressor heat and acoustical mat was first up. We fired up the shop vac to clear out any debris in the cab and then wiped down the surfaces with alcohol to ensure the Suppressor would have its best chance at adhering to the interior panels.
You don’t have to cover every square inch of your vehicle with the Suppressor to get the majority of its effect, but the S10 standard cab was so small and manageable that we just rolled out a sheet and started fitting it to the floor. We removed the white backing paper from the center of it, stuck it to the floor, and then slowly pulled the rest of the backing as we worked our way towards the door jambs. Be sure to pick up a vinyl hand roller or two for this job, as they will help you form the Suppressor mat to the contours of the floor.
Some doors are easier to cover than others. These S10 doors were chock full of contours, so we needed to cut the pieces down into much smaller parts. Even still, the doors sound like a brand new luxury car when you close them now.
With the floor and the doors covered with the Thermo Tec Suppressor heat and acoustical mat, it was time to increase the thermal protection by adding a layer of Thermo Guard FR insulation. Just cut the material to fit, and it will lie beneath the carpeting. You can also use this behind the dashboard against the firewall if you have access to it. The foil side should face outwards of the interior space.
With this truck being Florida-based, insulating the interior space will provided a lot more comfort during the hot half of the year. The Thermo Guard on the floor and firewall will prevent the radiant heat from the engine and transmission—as well as the heat from the ground—from penetrating the cabin, and we opted to put a layer between the roof and headliner to make sure the sun isn’t baking the passengers from the top of the truck. We used Thermo Tec’s Heavy-duty spray adhesive to stick it to the headliner board, so it will stay in place when installing or removing the headliner.
With the insulation products installed, we tossed in the new carpet and bolted the new Procar by Scat Touring seats in for the final time. They look and feel great, and are a huge improvement over the stock bench seat in both areas. With a quiet, comfortable interior space, the new seats, and the tilt ididit steering column, we’ve definitely classed up the joint.
While having the seats now in a fixed position might not work for everyone, it worked great for this application. In addition to providing more headroom, lowering the seat also effectively moved the driver further back from the steering wheel, which was an added bonus as we were only able to gain so much room with the aftermarket steering wheel adaptor. As a speedometer and some idiot lights comprised the entirety of gauges in this base-model S10, our next project will be installing a more modern instrument panel to provide the driver with far more information.

Sources

ididit
(517) 424-0577
www.ididitinc.com

ProCar by Scat
(310) 370-5501
www.procarbyscat.com

ThermoTec
(800) 274-8437
www.thermotec.com


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