The Punch List: Dialing in Our 2001 Solid-Axle-Swap Chevy S-10

We've been working on our '01 Chevy S-10 Crew Cab for about a year now with our friends at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Over that time, we've swapped in a set of 1-ton axles and a 4 Speed Atlas transfer case, and we repurposed suspension bits originally intended for a Jeep Wrangler. All of this was done to create a sort of do-all wheeler that showcases just how versatile the S-10 platform can be with a bit of creativity.

As is the case with many projects, as the main tasks are marked off of the to-do list, a somewhat smaller (but equally important) final punch list begins to build. Of course, for us this included some unexpected challenges and modifications along the way. And that is exactly what we'll be diving into in this story. From which master cylinder we needed to the massive 1-ton brake set to where we mounted our ARB air compressor, we're diving into the final details of our build.

This won't be the last time you see the S-10 gracing the pages of Four Wheeler. In fact, the next time you see this pickup in the magazine, it will be down and dirty on the trail. Keep your eyes peeled for a future update coming very soon.

We knew that custom drivelines would have to be part of the build equation, and so we invested in a set that could handle our on- and off-road needs. Built by JE Reel Driveline, our rear 'shaft is fit with a 1350 double-Cardan joint at the transfer case and a massive 1410 U-joint at the axle. At a little over 57 inches, the rear driveline has quite a bit of length, making it slightly more exposed on the trail. Given that JE Reel routinely builds drivelines for many of the top Ultra4 drivers, the company was able to craft us a driveline that was significantly stronger than an OE driveshaft, but not so heavy that we'd run into vibration or balancing issues on the highway. It may not seem like there's much to building a driveshaft, but when you need strength and performance, it's definitely an art form.

Up front, JE Reel built us a driveline with a 1350 double-Cardan joint at the transfer case and 1350 U-joint that attaches to our high-pinion Dana 60 pinion yoke. There's a slight compound angle to this given the offset of the axle and the fact that our Atlas is clocked as flat as possible. Thankfully, with our selectable Warn hubs, we don't have to worry about putting any extended wear on the front driveline on the highway. The massive slip you see is also capable of working with our 14 inches of vertical front suspension travel.

We feel for our local exhaust shop (The Muffler Place), as it is usually tasked with figuring out how to work around all the new bits we've secured under the truck. Despite the fact that our front upper control arm makes for an extremely tight squeeze, we were able to get a full exhaust system cleanly routed to the rear of the truck.

Custom braided-steel brake lines were critical to handle the travel and routing locations. While it takes a little extra effort, it's well worth securing the lines in a way that reduces the likelihood of them getting caught up in a suspension member, or worse, your tire.

While the rear disc brakes were plumbed to our 14-bolt using a DOT-compliant NiCopp brake line, we wanted to go a step further and ensure that we'd have a parking brake as well. We accomplished this by picking up a set of parking brake cables (ACDelco #18P2759, #18P2499) that we adapted to the stock cable. This ensures we have a safe and reliable way to get this little 1-ton-converted truck stopped no matter what.

The S-10 master cylinder wasn't enough to give the 1-ton calipers the fluid volume they require. This is why we swapped it with one from a late-'80s Suburban (Duralast #NM1873). This setup not only carries more fluid, but it also has a larger 1.574-inch cylinder bore, which is nearly double that of stock. While the master cylinder does bolt right up, the ports are on the opposite side of the stock unit. This required us to ditch the ABS module (which was no longer relevant with our axles) and get a custom line set made.

We initially did what we'd call a "rough" adjustment when we installed our Atlas 4 Speed. Now that the truck was drivable, we spent a little more time dialing in our cable shifters. This allows us to easily engage the underdrive box and main case with minimal effort. It's also worth noting that the 5.44:1 low range makes the S-10 have plenty of gear reduction for rolling the 40-inch-tall Nitto Mud Grapplers.

The handcrafted center console (the brainchild of Low Range 4x4 owner, Kelly Carter) did a couple very important things for the S-10. From a drivability standpoint, it makes it incredibly easy to access the levers, so moving around different ratios on the trail is quick and easy. It also makes for a higher armrest, which was actually pulled from the stock unit along with the original storage bin. A few coats of gray paint later, and the sheetmetal and square-tube structure blends in nicely.

It's also worth mentioning that the custom console created a home for our ARB Air Locker switches and Warn wireless winch remote. To engage the air compressor, we trigger the dash switch that's mounted just left of the radio head unit.

Speaking of the compressor, we wanted to put our ARB compressor in a safe spot that was easily accessible. We initially considered the engine bay, but there's simply not a lot of room to work with. We decided the next best place would be the location of the original jack inside of the cab. Given the limited room available behind the stock rear bench, this became the perfect locale to keep the compressor out of the elements.

Once we had our 19-gallon fuel cell filled up and wrapped up the rest of the truck's armor, we could make the call if we wanted to adjust the spring rate in the back. We ended up swapping out our 2.625 Rock Krawler Suspension coilovers' primary coil for a lighter 150 rate. While we still have to get the truck out on the trail to determine if any additional shock adjustments are needed, for now, this setup is working very well.

Spending months working on a vehicle can make it easy to forget if you left something loose. This is why we spent a few hours under the S-10 bolt-checking every single piece of hardware from front to back. After each piece was tightened, we paint-marked each so there would be no question that it was tight.

As you can see in our lead photo, we took full advantage of Low Range's state-of-the-art alignment machine to ensure the truck would track square. Given that all of our suspension and steering links can be adjusted on the vehicle, we were able to have this leg of the projected knocked out quickly. Despite not having a sway bar on the truck, it drives very well down the road. The combination of spring rate and shock valving has been great out of the gate. As we continue to test the truck, we'll decide if a sway bar or bars will get added to the suspension equation.

We knew we needed some sort of recovery point out back, but we didn't want anything hanging off of the rear bumper. Our solution came by way of a stock Jeep Wrangler JK stock rear towhook. After drilling a few holes and reinforcing the backside of the framerail, we had a quick, cheap, and easy recovery point that would stay largely hidden under the truck.

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