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  • 2003 Chevy S10 - Project Upgrade: '84-'03 Chevrolet S-10 And GMC S-15 - Mobile Entertainment

2003 Chevy S10 - Project Upgrade: '84-'03 Chevrolet S-10 And GMC S-15 - Mobile Entertainment

As It Drives Off Into The Sunset, The S-10 And S-15 Will Remain A Staple For Sport Truck Builders For Years To Come

Richard TruesdellMay 1, 2004
Photo 2/2
The role of the mini pickup has changed over the years. Where it was once a sizeable portion of the new truck market, lately it seems that compact trucks, both domestic and imported, have been relegated to the entry-level loss leaders for first-time buyers or fleet trucks. In addition, many have grown into midsize trucks, and no where is this more evident than with the Chevrolet S-10 and its GMC counterpart, the S-15 Sonoma.
For '04 the S-10/S-15 twins have grown up a bit, into the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. While not a true midsize offering a V-8, like the Dodge Dakota, the Colorado and Canyon will be strong sellers in the marketplace. If you want a new S-10, you better hurry as production, which was continued in the Colorado/Canyon ramp up, will be discontinued shortly. Needless to say, with aggressive GM incentives, you can buy a brand-new S-10/S-15 with a full warranty for not much more than a late-model version. With all the aftermarket parts available for this long-lived platform, you can build up a unique sport truck from scratch for not much money. In addition, many are sold as fleet vehicles, which makes second-hand S-10s and S-15s both plentiful and cheap.
Over its long production run, the S-10's dashboard has undergone a number of detail and styling changes. From its introduction in 1986 up until 1993, the typically angular dashboard was designed to accommodate GM's then-standard 1.5-DIN receiver, which means that you'll need an installation kit to mount a conventional single-DIN receiver. Because mounting depth was restricted in this application, you'll probably require an install kit that extends through the dash bezel. From 1994 to 1997, the dash received a facelift, still using the ubiquitous GM 1.5-DIN radio, but with more depth available. Finally, from 1998 to the present, the dash received another facelift, yet stayed with the same 1.5-DIN configuration.
If you're just looking for a replacement unit for that tired factory-installed AM/FM/cassette deck, and you're on a budget, take a look at Dual's XDM6800 (MSRP $150). It's a high-powered, detachable-face receiver that not only plays conventional CDs, but is also equipped to handle home-grown CD-Rs and CD-RWs, and even MP3 files with ID3 tags, so it's easy to find the song you're looking for. Rare for such an inexpensive unit, it includes a rear panel auxiliary input; great if you have any sort of external audio input, such as the audio from a DVD player.
If you're looking for a high-performance unit,with some additional features, take a look at the Sony CDX-M3DI AM/FM/CD/MP3 receiver (MSRP $700). Its front panel features a high-resolution TFT screen that allows you to view a variety of preloaded images: 13 full-motion, 25 wallpaper, and 7 spectrum analyzer displays in addition to 23 still images. The CDX-M3DI has three standout high-end features. Three sets of 4-volt pre-amp outputs, including one with an adjustable subwoofer control, can drive your amplifiers to their highest dynamic range with the lowest possible distortion. The Dynamic Soundstage Organizer raises your soundstage up to dash level, which is great if your speakers are mounted down low in the doors. It also features Sony's EQ7, with seven preset EQ curves that can be fine-tuned with seven bands of equalization. Naturally, the CDX-M3DI plays CDs, CD-Rs, and CD-RWs, including discs burned from your computer loaded with MP3 files. With its auxiliary input, you can even hook up an external source, such as Sony's PlayStation 2. This is a unit that will look great in any S-10 or S-15 dash.
If you're building a comprehensive A/V system for the S-10 or S-15, one of the most complete units is Panasonic's VAD-9300U AM/FM/CD/DVD/LCD 5.1-channel receiver/monitor (MSRP $2,000). The VAD-9300U features a motorized, 7-inch widescreen-style LCD color monitor, which tilts to five different angles to optimize viewing quality and can also swivel to the left or right (remember: Viewing a screen with full-motion video, while driving, is illegal); built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel capabilities; and extensive Digital Signal Processing with eight preset soundfields. An added feature, not found on competitive units, is a built-in TV tuner and antenna so you can listen to your favorite programs while you drive. As with most Panasonic head units, the VAD-9300U is a Sirius-capable unit when equipped with the optional tuner. If you have a late-model four-door Crew Cab S-10 or S-15, you can even configure the VAD-9300U as a dual zone unit, allowing rear-seat passengers to watch a video while front seat passengers listen to the tuner.
While we mentioned it in last month's issue, if you're looking for navigation, you must check out Pioneer's AVIC-N1 (MSRP TBA). The AVIC-N1 is a single-DIN AM/FM/CD/DVD receiver/monitor with a retractable 6.5-inch screen and a fully integrated GPS navigation system using onboard flash memory. After navigation data is loaded from the navigation DVD to the onboard flash memory, the disc can be removed and the unit can then be used to play entertainment CDs or DVDs, including DVD-Audio discs, eliminating the need for a second, costly DVD transport or CD changer. The AVIC-N1 has the ability to monitor several vehicle performance parameters (speed, acceleration, lateral g-force, angular velocity, slope, angle), which is probably a feature of greater importance to sport compact car enthusiasts, but is an interesting application of the sensors already installed for the navigation functions.
If you want to add a CD changer to your factory system, and your current factory-installed head unit has a front panel AUX button, you're no longer obligated to go back to the dealer to use its integrated controls. The USA SPEC SCD-G190 6-disc changer (MSRP $330), available from Crutchfield and selected mobile electronics specialists, can be connected to many '97-'04 GM-built radios with CD controls. This is a plug-in unit; you don't have to cut any wires as a harness adapter is supplied with the unit. The SCD-G190 changer is even compatible with vehicles equipped with the GM OnStar system, so upgrading your system doesn't have to mean losing this popular feature.
The mass storage/jukebox category is poised to make strong inroads in 2004, after getting off to a slower than expected start in 2003. One of the long-awaited units in this category is Alpine's HDA-5460 player (MSRP $1,000) with a 16GB removable hard disk drive that stores as many as 3,000 of your favorite MP3/WMA/WAV music files - that's almost 300 conventional CDs. Transferring music files from your PC to the removable hard disk drive is fast. Simply plug a cable from the computer directly to the removable disk drive's USB port. Its "auto-synch" function enables people to quickly update their drive with the latest music and playlists on their desktop. The unit can be used as a stand-alone unit with almost any existing factory or aftermarket system with its RCA outputs, or it can be fully integrated into Alpine Ai-Net head units.
Because space is limited in most S-10/S-15 applications, signal processor installations are usually limited to half-DIN models, which can be installed in-dash along with a single-DIN receiver using the appropriate installation kit. Even though it's been around for a while, Kenwood's KGC-6042A (MSRP $250) is a great way to expand your system's capabilities while filling up the gap in the dash. This dual-illumination unit combines nine bands of graphic equalization combined with two variable parametic bands. It also features a built-in active crossover with high-pass outputs for front and rear amplifiers in addition to a subwoofer output with as much as 10 dB of gain with crossover points that can be adjusted from 30 to 150 Hz.
When selecting an amplifier, the space issue will often come into play. There are two approaches that you must consider: choosing multiple small amplifiers, using space available under the seats, or going with a larger multichannel system amplifier mounted behind the front seat (in standard and extended cab models). If you're just looking to add a subwoofer to an existing high-powered aftermarket head unit, you can often take advantage of subwoofer controls built into many units; in fact, most head units priced more than $250 typically offer this capability. A great by-product of going this route is that the amplifiers built into these head units, when not trying to drive low frequencies, will sound cleaner and play louder through your full-range speakers. As most head units feature 15 watts or more of clean output, in a small cab, this is often enough to generate very satisfying listening levels. Obviously, if you want to have your system heard two blocks away, more power will be required.
If you want to go the route of a small, single one- or two-channel amplifier, either to drive a set of full-range speakers or in a bridged mode to drive a subwoofer, one of the most popular choices is Kicker's KX150.2 amplifier (MSRP $180). With its onboard variable crossover, you can adjust the KX150.2 for different applications, from driving full-range or component speakers, or a dedicated subwoofer. Bass boost is adjustable as high as 18 dB at a preset frequency of 40 Hz, which will give your system that low-frequency impact that will make it stand out from lower-powered systems. The KX150.2 includes both speaker- and pre-amp-level inputs. This insures that the amp can be hooked up to both factory-installed and aftermarket head units. Its small footprint (10.2x12.75 inches) and low height (2.5 inches) ensure that it will fit in tight spaces, such as under the seat of your S-10 or S-15.
If you'd prefer a dedicated mono amplifier to drive your subwoofer (bridging a two-channel amplifier typically adds small amounts of distortion and can't typically drive into 1-ohm loads), then consider the MTX Thunder 311D (MSRP $230), a dedicated mono amplifier, designed specifically to drive low-impedance, low-efficiency subwoofers. Into a 4-ohm load this little powerhouse delivers 155 watts RMS. Cut the impedance to 2 ohms and output rises to 310 watts, enough to drive any subwoofer likely to fit inside your cab. The built-in low-pass filter, set at 85 Hz with an 18 dB-per-octave slope, can even eliminate the need for a separate crossover or signal processor. MTX's Thunder EQ bass boost adds 6 or 12 dB of boost at 40 Hz. SmartEngage, which turns on the amp when it receives a signal input, makes it a great choice for factory upgrades. Its small size, 8.2x2.25x9.75 inches, makes it a snap to install.
If you want an all-in-one-system amplifier solution, there are many choices, but the Blaupunkt PA5350 five-channel amplifier (MSRP $500) still stands out as an excellent choice for compact GM trucks. With its plastic housing, it's a stylish amplifier, with four 50-watt channels to drive full-range speakers (it can be bridged into two channels if your truck currently lacks rear speakers) and a dedicated 150-watt amplifier to drive a dedicated subwoofer. Its small size is due in part to its innovative TriPath output design output, which is highly efficient, generating little heat, thus requiring far less heat sinking, making the amp smaller than comparably powered conventional amplifiers.
Throughout its long production run, one thing has remained constant, and that's the front speaker application, 4x6-inch speakers mounted in the top of the dash. While speakers can be mounted in the door, it's not something that most do-it-yourselfers are eager to tackle. As the popularity of the 4x6-inch application has waned, fewer and fewer manufacturers now offer this size. With this being the case, it makes sense to go for the best, and in this case, that's the Polk/MOMO MMC460 4x6-inch plate speaker (MSRP $150). Instead of a tweeter coaxially mounted over a 4x6-inch oval midrange, the MMC460 uses a high-performance round 4-inch 'woofer with a 1-inch dome integrated into the speaker's mounting plate. The result is a small speaker with a big sound and an excellent choice when used in conjunction with a subwoofer in the rear.
Because it's such a hassle installing speakers in the doors, we have a suggestion that gives you an opportunity to install bigger full-range speakers up front without any cutting. Select a set of custom-molded replacement kick panels from Q-Logic (MSRP $200). Long a staple of high-end installations, these replace costly custom-molded kick panels, enabling owners to install 6.5-inch component 'woofers along with separate tweeters in the front of the vehicle. The result is great sound with superior imaging and staging as the distance of each speaker to the listener's ears is close to equal as possible in a small cab.
If you're looking for a great set of 6.5-inch components for use with the Q-Logic kick panels, take a look at JBL's Power Series component systems, specifically the P650c model (MSRP $350). All the Power Series models use a state-of-the-art Plus One Honeycomb-Laminate (HCL) 'woofer cone that combines woven glass fiber with a Nomex honeycomb core for lightweight and impressive rigidity, essential for crisp, clean sound. The pure titanium dome tweeters have impressive power handling capabilities and offer extended high-frequency response well beyond the limits of human hearing. The last part of the package is a high-quality passive crossover that, like the individual drivers, offers outstanding power handling capabilities.
Due to the popularity of the GM compact pickup twins as a basis for sport truck buildups, we often see elaborate custom installations in the vehicles featured in the pages of Sport Truck. This often requires the selection of raw subwoofers, which need to be optimized for small enclosures. The Rockford Fosgate Punch HE2 RFP4208 (MSRP $130) is designed for just such applications, able to deliver deep, tight bass when mounted in an enclosure as small as 0.1 to 0.5 cubic feet. The dual voice coil system design enables you to wire the two 4-ohm coils in parallel, for a 2-ohm load, for maximum power. With 125 watts per voice coil power handling capacity, the Punch Series is robust enough to be used with very powerful amplifiers.
It's no secret that when it comes to getting great bass in your truck, we've long been a proponent of JL Audio's Stealthboxes, which combine a custom-molded enclosure with a JL Audio subwoofer optimized for very specific applications. Not only does JL Audio offer an S-10/S-15 subwoofer enclosure, the company offer two models, the SB-GM-S10STD/8W1 (MSRP $425) for standard cab applications and the SB-GM-S10EXT/10W3 (MSRP $725; illustrated) for extended cab applications from '95 to '04. While on the surface the SB-GM-S10EXT/10W3 may seem to be expensive, it includes a premium 10-inch 10W3 subwoofer in an elaborate enclosure that still retains rear-seat functionality.
While there are many overhead monitors suitable for use in four-door compact GM trucks, one of the latest to be introduced offers one of the largest screens available, the OHV800 from Directed Video (MSRP $800). Right-sized between 7- and 10-inch screens, it offers a much smaller mounting housing, giving installers more installation options where roof space is limited. The OHV800 features 2 A/V inputs and 1 A/V output, plus built-in dome lights and an IR transmitter for wireless headphones.
Fahrenheit's T-7005HBR (MSRP $400) is a simple and cost-effective way to add a rear-seat monitor in your truck's A/V system. The T-7005HBR combines a 7-inch widescreen LCD monitor with a unique headrest bracket that requires no modification to install. Installation is as simple as removing the headrest, slipping the bracket onto the posts, then reinstalling the headrest. With the design of the bracket, it's easy to adjust the angle for one or both rear-seat passengers, and to discourage theft, the monitor can be easily removed for concealed storage. To simply installation, just a single cable is employed. The 7-inch widescreen monitor includes an IR remote control.
At a GlanceYears: '86-'04Make: Chevrolet and GMCModel: S-10/S-15 SonomaIn-dash: GM-style 1.5-DIN opening, requires installation kitFront dash: 4x6-inch-oval speakersRear: 4x10-inch-oval speakersAmplifiers: Under the front seats, under rear seats (extended cab and four-door models), on back wall of cab (standard cab applications)

Sources

Pioneer Electronics
Long Beach, CA 90810
310-952-2000
www.pioneerelectronics.com
Rockford Fosgate
Tempe, AZ 85281
480-967-3565
www.rockfordfosgate.com
Kicker
Stillwater, OK 74076
405-624-8510
www.kicker.com
JL Audio
Miramar, FL
http://www.jlaudio.com
Alpine
Torrance, CA 90501
310-326-8000
http://www.alpine-usa.com
Sony
877-865-7669
http://www.sonystyle.com
Q-Logic
Stillwater, OK 74074
405-621-6722
www.qlogicenclosures.com
Blaupunkt
Broadview, IL 60153
(800) 262-2528
www.blaupunktusa.com
Panasonic
Seacaucus, NJ 07094
Directed Video
Vista, CA 92083
Dual (Namsung America Inc.)
Heathrow, FL 32746
Fahrenheit
Montebello, CA 90640
JBL Mobile Products
Woodbury, NY 11797
Polk Audio/MOMO
Baltimore, MD 21215
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