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PostPosted: May 27, 2019, 5:01 am 
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I decided to buy my wife a nice, clean, low mileage 90s 2dr soft top 2wd sidekick/tracker for her b’day that I would not have to spend any time getting road worthy. HA!

I bid on a couple through online auctions and won both times but the seller would not let them go for the price or counter with another. I think it was the same seller in both cases and not motivated. He must have a warehouse full of trackers.

I looked at three I found on FB. The first was about 2000. Seller said it needed nothing. All the tires were cracked with age and one nearly flat, drove it around the block and could smell the oil leaking on the exhaust when I returned (he said he just had the top end redone). The icing on the cake was the title that was not in his name. Pass.

The second was a 98 sidekick asking for about 3000. Tires were awful, no ps, supposedly rebuilt engine and seemed to be, steering wheel jumping back and forth while driving straight, busted grill, and busted plastic fender trim that can’t be found new. The icing on the cake was the title which was salvage and no budge on the price. Pass.

Third on FB was perfect. Low miles, had a hard top, clean, new tires, and asking 2950. I let the seller know we’d come up from ATL to see it. Right after that, I see he raises the price to around $3200. Pass.

The one I bought is a 96 with no engine for 1000. AC, PS, 5 speed, 5.13 diff, 2wd. No dents, some light surface rust on the body, none underneath.

After pricing a used engine at $800 (best price I could find), I decided to go a different route.
I bought an 87 s10 at auction that is salvage titled but “runs and drives” after the accident, equipped with PS, AC, 700r4, 2.8l v6 tbi, 3.42 diff. I won it for $25 online but in the case, the actual auction was not online. They call and ask me to raise to $100 if we are to have any chance of the seller accepting, so I agree. I win the actual auction for $100 and get another call. The seller wants 300. I say no, no counter, take it or leave it. Seller accepts and I get it home a couple days ago. Actual cost is about $600.

I chose the 2.8 instead of the 4.3 because; 1) I don’t want to make it fast, just adequate with the automatic and be able to cruise at normal highway speeds, 2) I don’t want to break the axle though I could fit a jeep cj axle if needed), 3) I also don’t want to butcher the firewall for the much wider bell of the 4.3/sbc, 4) I’m keeping the ac and need the room for the condenser and ac fan up front.

I wanted TBI over any of the other efi systems and one of the last years for the non-electronic 700r4 so it should have the best parts.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: May 27, 2019, 5:48 am 
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I've been at this for about a month of weekends and have not taken many pics, just trying to get it done and shifting priorities while waiting on parts.

There is just enough room to get it all in except the firewall had to be massaged in the first few inches, below the top of the tunnel and the 3 inch thick aluminum radiator fitment required reworking the front cross member and steering box stop. I had to switch to a camaro water pump and pulley to have room for a puller electric fan. The evap can had to be moved to clear the alt brkt and the zuki throttle pedal was reworked to accept the s10 cable and a new stop for the reduced pedal travel. One ac line has to be extended and compressor with compatible pulley was adapted to s10 ac brkt. S10 engine mount bolt on to modified zuki brkts. Ps line is spliced. S10 manifolds and exhaust head pipe are used. Speedo cable drive ratio was reduced by half with inline box to bring speed to within adjustment range of chevy gears with zuki 5.13 and grand vitara 235-65-16s. Saving the wiring for last.

There have been many swaps into these. Some are 4.3l-v6, sbc, sbf, rotary, ls, vw diesel, kubota diesel, later model vitara 2.5l-v6, etc. They all have their own trade offs. Here are a few pics of some of these swaps and some of the cutting that is done in some cases.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: May 27, 2019, 6:11 am 
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Firewall mods.Actually too much relief on the driver side (pressed back in for throttle pedal clearance) and too little on the passenger side (needs a 1/2 inch more for the exhaust pipe clearance below the grommet). Zuki added hoses between frame and body mounted lines from the master cyl to the prop valve. I've not yet decided if I will move, shield, convert to hard lines or all these things since the exhaust pipe is so close.

You can also see the zuki mount plates that were modified to accept the s10 mounts. Broke my vise in the process and have been waiting a couple weeks for one ordered. HBF just had a sale and was out of vises I'd be willing to buy. Tough to fab without a vise! Resorted to c clamps and channel for light-duty fab.

Repaired the heater tubes with various 1/4 drive sockets to round them back out.

Fuel lines are on the wrong side too. I think I will run new from the pump to eliminate a hose connection at the exhaust and fit larger lines, then run the line across the cross member under the pan to the drives side. The s10 tbi lines were mangled/twisted/pinched from PO so I cut them off to use a few inches of hose before transition to trans line. Fuel pressures are around 15psi. Still need to drop the tank to swap pumps.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: May 27, 2019, 11:47 am 
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Location: BC, Canada. eh?
VERY cool project!!

I wanted one of those as a daily-commuter vehicle. Cheap on gas (which REALLY matters here in the land of $5 USD per US gallon regular gas), good if there's snow, easy to park, etc.

Turns out all the RV'ers around these parts want 'em for towing behind their motorhomes, and the prices are astronomical. Even barely-salvageable ones are expensive.

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PostPosted: May 27, 2019, 3:19 pm 
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I know what you mean. I was lucky to find this one.

Slowed down the rust by sanding and temp aerosol until I can do more. Grand vitara wheels fit great. It turns out zuki switched to plastic top hardware for 95-98 that gets brittle. Zuki doesn't make the parts anymore and nobody else does either so I am converting to the 94 and older top system. I have a new white top but can't put it on yet.

New vise came today. Looks like I'll need to move the alt for upper hose clearance. Made a brkt to mount the coil and egr sol off the engine by picking up three existing bolts on the firewall.

The shifter so far with the inner floor boot and zuki lever cut off just above the ball. Started pulling wire out today. Zuki used white chewing gum that is a pain to remove but acetone in a spray bottle helps a lot but it is one wire at a time to clean.

Radiator is for an early 60s ford econoline with a v8 swap. Added a crossmember between the forward lcaps before cutting out existing crossmember. The ac comp is a sanden 7176 style like the zuki original so hoses fit (if long enough) but with a 6 rib pulley. Adapted to the gm r4 comp brkt with strips of 1x1/8 steel and shimmed to align. Don't have the camaro wtr pmp pulley yet to order a belt. Replacing idler and tensioner bearings.

Driveshaft should be ready to pickup later this week. I used a pti companion flange to adapt large zuki pattern to 1310 joint, dana weld yoke to adapt 1310 to 2.75x.083 tube, turned down s10 front weld yoke to work with 2.75x.083 tube (from .065 wall), s10 3r joint and slip yoke. Asked for 29.5 inches bearing cap center to bearing cap center. The companion flange adapter is made for a transfer case so it has threads and no flat for a bolt head so I don't know if I will use studs or modify it. Toyota driveshafts are often adapted but take a slightly larger pilot in the pinion flange. The rear axle is a 3 link with coil springs. The third link is an A arm with a bolt on adapter to fit a taper balljoint stud.

Waiting on reusable hose splices for the ps line. Waiting on a lot of parts but there is always something to work on.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 1, 2019, 7:23 pm 
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Made a batt hold down for the s10 75 series battery but it will also work for the 78 eventually going in. The 75 is about 3 years old. Just 5/16 rod bent into u shape, welded 14-20 bolts to the rod, 1 inch strip.

Rotated the alt to clear the upper hose by reworking the upper brkt. Cut off the end, drilled a new hole and made a short link to the other bolt for stability then added the upper tab with a rib. Camaro water pump pulley came in.

Driveshaft fit and the angles are minimal. Lowered the engine and trans, built a new cross member for the trans mount that tucks out of the way for dual exhaust. Reworking the engine mounts now.

A shot of the 3 link rear for those interested.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 1, 2019, 7:46 pm 
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And here I thought that I was the only one to weld a bolt to the end of a rod to get threads. :cheers:

You work fast.

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PostPosted: June 2, 2019, 1:54 pm 
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As rapid as practical. As soon as I get this up and running I can get back to the spit.

Finished the apx side mount today. Didn't make sense to use mount plates on top so I drilled the threads and made a box mount that fills the cavity from below. You can barely see there is a mount brkt from above. Also ran the trans cooler lines. There is a lot more room on the drivers side mount.

Looks like I won't have to pull the drivetrain out again after all.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 14, 2019, 6:16 am 
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Mounts: Finished and installed. Had to remove the oil filter adapter to plug a fitting hole that had snapped off during the engine pull from the s10. Picked up a tiny box $10 digital inclinometer to see better to verify driveshaft angles and still need to unbolt the driveshaft, jack the rear to where the axle hangs down, then re-bolt the shaft to the pinion to check clearance to the mid chassis cross member. The engine and trans are set as low as practical in the chassis, lower than the original driveline.

Shifter: Made the shift arm for the trans, the shifter bell crank, and half the linkage with 1/4-28 allen bolts and rod. I may still go with a stock automatic cable shifter and modify the gate but this will do for now.

Brakes: Made a frame brkt to tuck the brake prop valve away from the exhaust. Still need to make a body brkt to clip the upper end of the rubber hoses and probably fit shorter lines between the hoses and master. These are nonvented discs, drums on the rear for the 2 door model. Straight forward swap to 4 door vented and bigger caliper bores, same prop, same master but I am considering xl7 brakes later on (the 16x7 wheels are from a 2004 xl7 in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, nobody sells master cyl rebuild kits for any of these and new masters are expensive.

Cooling: Made a new, removable body cross member after I cut out the original for more cooling fan clearance and made mounting points to cap the cut ends. I’m using a derale 18214 2 speed, 14x3 which is slightly larger than the original ac fan but pulls a lot more amps. It will bolt on like the original pusher. Not enough room to move the condenser forward to move the rad forward to fit a puller fan greater than 2 inches thick. Many aftermarket fans are around 2 inches thick at the edge but are much thicker at the motor. The new cross member will hang the trans cooler behind bumper opening and run in series with the rad internal cooler. Adapted an zuki temp gauge to the left head to replace the original s10 gauge sensor. An SAE pipe reducer fit fine.
The radiator is a tight fit vertically between the hood, the ac hard line, and the steering at the lower neck. Hoses are 1-3/4 to 1-1/2 at the engine and 1-1/2 for both ends of the upper. I’ll fab a pipe adapter for the lower to maximize clearance to the steering linkage and pitman arm.

The belt is 895K6 or 89.5 inches x 6 ribs after removing the air pump, moving the alt outboard, and fabbing mounts for the universal compressor.

The new old stock ac line I bought is too short and for an earlier r12 application because I don’t think it has barrier hose. I need to remove the ferrules to remove the fittings and measure so I can order the right size hose and ferrules for reassembly.

Heater hoses are ½ inch at the core, pipe to ½ barb on intake, ½ to ¾ reducer on water pump, ½ elbows at the core for clearance. Beware ebay sellers advertising ½ inch elbows when they are actually 12mm in the fine print.

Exhaust: Fit s10’s “accelerator” muffler to tracker 1-3/4 tailpipe, 2 inch between s10 Y pipe with a couple mandrel bend scraps to cross sides behind the trans and will fit a slip tube/flange between.

Fuel and wiring: saving for last.

Other: I have 94 and older top bows now for my conversion to an earlier type top to get away from old plastic discontinued hardware. Putting that off until it is running.

Here are some of the lights used on these. There are differences between 2 and 4 door and japan or canadian built. sidekicks get the amber sections while trackers are red.

Found some pics of interesting tracker/sidekick/escudo/vitaras.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 14, 2019, 6:22 am 
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12 pic limit per post.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 15, 2019, 5:16 pm 
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How much power can you put into the stock suki axle??? Didn't they only come with a 1300cc motor? A V6/V8 has got to be a lot more torque. Davew


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PostPosted: June 16, 2019, 7:46 am 
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That is a great question!

What I think I know (i.e. what the internet told me):

The axles are 26 spline and the weak link for the rear axle.

The axle shaft limit (working?) is 3575 ft /lbs.

The diff has a 6.9 inch ring gear with oem ratios that range between 4.3 and 5.6:1. The strongest gear set based on tooth count should be 4.62 with the fewest number on the pinion and ring for thicker teeth (8/37) but the diff is not the weakest point.

All the sidekicks, trackers, x90, samurai, etc use the same diff and axle shaft and housing size for the rear until 99 or so, with the sami having a greater offset diff(shorter and longer axle).

The tire size limit for offroading/crawling is 32-33 inches. I assume this is with a manual trans, locking diff, numerically higher ratio (more torque multiplication), and reasonable caution climbing boulders.

The ’87 tbi 2.8 v6 torque is 150@2400 compared to 94@3300 so about 47% more torque at the trans. However, the 700r4 first gear is 3.06 (3.06x5.13x150=2355ftlbs) where the tracker was 3.65x5.13x94=1760ftlbs for 25% more torque at the pinion.

To mitigate the 25% torque peak increase:

Curb weight should be less than the 4dr 4wd hard top version of 2,434 lbs. I’m expecting about 2300 lbs.
The 235-65-16s are 28 inches, hard compound.
I won’t be offroading or fitting slicks.
I have an automatic for reduced shock loads compared to a manual.
I have an open diff so the limited traction can act as a mechanical fuse.

Other options ranked by cost:

The center section swaps easily so for about $75, I could fit an automatic tracker 4.30 diff which should be stronger and reduced peak torque to the axles (3.06x4.3x150=1974) to an increase of just 11% off the line.

99 and newer vitara have larger 28 spline axles and an 8 inch diff (a 2.7l v6 is an option), but the axle is likely wider and the suspension is a 4 link so not a direct swap but it can be done cheap.

The early jeep CJ/DJ rear axle (dana 44) has the right bolt circle and width, comes in 3.07, 3.54, and 3.73 with a limited slip.

Any other axle for more fab/cost to narrow and drill to match the bolt circle.

Not so cheap is to replace the axle shafts with a more spring-like alloy such as 300m and cryo treat and/or rework
the housing for full floating axles so now the diff is the weak link.

There are also custom housings that fit larger everything.

The plan: I’m going to see how this goes and maybe swap to a 4.30 eventually for comparison.



I love this little digital inclinometer I bought on ebay for $10. It has a zeroing function that makes checking driveshaft angles very quick plus I can read it. Mine are set to 1.7 degrees on both ends, no trans shimming required.

I have a working shifter now to select all positions but fine tuning angles/arms for more dexterity in gear selection, then reinforcing the long shift arm for rigidity since I think it is slightly spongy/springy so when the detent in the trans is overcome, it unloads and tries to overshoot to the next gear position. I should have widened the tunnel a bit before because I have less room than is normal. I don’t think a lokar shifter would have fit without mods. EDIT: I just realized I didn't install the front bolt on the shifter base. That might help :roll:

Fan brkts made and mounted. It’s such a big, heavy fan I don’t want to use the zip rods through the condenser so it bolts on like the original and the brkts bolt to the fan with 1/4x2.75 bolts.

Zeroed in on the best position for the rad and made brkt blanks that still need to be fitted. There was only one good spot and angle for the rad to clear everything.

The speedo cable was fun. It uses the original s10 inner without modification. A couple feet of the zuki housing at the speedo end is used so it will fit the speedo. The s10 housing is cut down so the overall length remains the same. The housing ends are slightly different OD. ½ inch tube is split and squeezed around the housings just enough to grip and keep them aligned but not pinch the ID, then heat shrinked. There is a rubber oring that goes inside the zuki cable end that was cut down to fit with the s10 plastic end. Because the s10 cable is much shorter than the zuki cable, it runs through a floor grommet then up the inside to the cluster. When the zuki cable is cut for the housing, the firewall grommet is separated and fit with a ¼ bolt and washer to plug the cable hole and refitted to the firewall. The cable housing was cleaned with brake clean, then the cable lubed with high quality synthetic wheel bearing grease.
It turns out this speedo has a 2k output to the ecm like the s10 so I will have a vss input.
Since the cluster had to come out for the speedo, I pulled the tach to calibrate to a v6 input. I ordered some pots to find the right resistance and 30 ga solid jumper wire. No adjustment on the zuki tach.

The vertical brkt behind the grill would not clear the new fan so the upper end was cut off and a 1/8 strip was welded and bent to hug the back side of the grill then welded to the removable cross member. Grill mounting tabs were cut off the old and rewelded to the new removable cross member. Running out of room in the front for the trans cooler but I will probably hang it off the bottom of the removable cross member.

Ground the ferrules off the NOS ac hose and found the fittings are .570” od (14mm-ish). I ordered #10 ferrules and standard barrier hose along with a 180 bead lock due to the hose bend radius. Having to recurve the large hard line for clearance and best angle.

Some pics:


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om3C1Ep ... D3E18BB447


Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 17, 2019, 4:36 pm 
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Finished the shifter, changed the output seal, counted the cable drive teeth 15/41 and found I need to underdrive by 35% as a gear swap to 45t can only calibrate me up to a 4.16:1 diff with my tires, fit the trans cooler to the removable body cross member, jacked the body to where the rear wheels were off the ground and verified 1 inch of driveshaft clearance to the cross member behind the trans. I'm done underneath except for fuel lines and exhaust.


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Last edited by Miatav8,MstrASE,A&P,F on November 14, 2019, 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: June 18, 2019, 9:37 am 
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Joined: January 14, 2016, 4:16 am
Posts: 119
Location: Brandenburg, KY
What did you do with the S10 carcass? Did I see you are from the Atlanta area?


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PostPosted: June 18, 2019, 4:55 pm 
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Joined: December 22, 2006, 2:05 pm
Posts: 6346
The s10 chassis is still sitting in my driveway.It's still got a great bed, tail gate, chrome step bumper, sliding window, good passenger side door along with the basics for building a stalker and good wheels and tires so no trouble to tow on a $50 uhaul dolly rental. PM me if interested. In the Atlanta area.


I screwed up when I ordered the 50% underdrive ratio adapter for the speedo. For 28" tires , a 5.13 diff, and trans gears of 15t/41t, I need a 35% underdrive. To make the 50% work, I've ordered a 19t drive, 35t driven, and the 34-39tooth housing for under $50 shipped. Should be spot-on.

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