Home » The Trucks of Big Sky Country: 1995 Toyota T100 vs 1998 Chevy S-10

The Trucks of Big Sky Country: 1995 Toyota T100 vs 1998 Chevy S-10

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Good morning, and welcome to the middle of the week! Today we’re heading to Bozeman, Montana to look at a couple of four-wheel-drive trucks. But first, let’s see which date-night machine you chose:

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Another Lincoln, another blowout! Man, you guys really love Ford’s big coupes. Or else you really hate what I choose to put up against them.

Montana, if you’ve never been there, is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. Spacious skies, purple mountains, fruited plains, the whole bit. But life can be tough there, especially in the wintertime. Snowfall is measured in feet rather than inches, services are spread thin, and four wheel drive is often a necessity rather than a fashion accessory. I’ve found a couple of good cheapish 4×4 trucks for sale in the college town of Bozeman, on the western end of the state. Let’s see which one is the better winter warrior.

1995 Toyota T100 – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.4 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: Bozeman, MT

Odometer reading: 276,000 miles (or thereabouts; odometer is broken)

Runs/drives? Sure does

What do you do when you make a really successful little truck, but you want to break into the big truck market? Grab both ends and pull really hard. That was Toyota’s apparent design philosophy with the T100: the same thing, only more of it. It was a good idea, but it wasn’t really enough truck to pull many buyers of full-size American trucks; really, it was closer in size and capability to Dodge’s midsized Dakota.

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But the folks for whom this was the right-sized truck fell in love with these things, and they’re still popular today, even as the “compact” Tacoma has grown to nearly T100 proportions, and Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup is truly gargantuan like all the others. People who love T100s really love them, for hundreds of thousands of miles, so seeing this truck closing in on 300,000 miles isn’t surprising. It’s kind of too bad the odometer and speedometer stopped working; I know verifiable high mileage is a bit of a badge of honor among Toyota devotees.

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Apart from the non-functional speedometer, there’s not much wrong with this truck. It has a rusted-out exhaust so it’s a bit noisy, and apparently the driver’s side door is currently stuck shut, so you have to get in the other side. But it runs and drives well, and even the air conditioning still works. As for winter suitability. the photos in the ad tell the tale well.

1998 Chevrolet S-10 – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.3 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Bozeman, MT

Odometer reading: 171,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

Scared of “foreign” trucks? Need an extended cab? Have a thing for beige? Well then, have I got the truck for you! Chevy’s second-generation S-10 is a truck we’ve looked at a couple of times, but finally I found one that doesn’t have big gaping rust holes in it, so maybe we can evaluate this truck on its own merits. I have to admit that I hated these when they first came out; I really preferred the square first-gen S-10. These trucks always looked like someone put the clay mock-up in the microwave as a joke, and they just kept it that way.

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Looks aside, these are good little trucks. Sure, the plastic interior may fall apart, but the bones are solid: Chevy’s good old 4.3 liter V6, coupled to an overdrive automatic and a shift-on-the-fly 4WD transfer case. I’ve driven 4WD S-10s and Blazers in the snow, and these things are absolute winter beasts. This one, with 171,000 miles under its belt, has a lot of winters left in it.

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It’s a little beat-up, but really, you can’t make these trucks any uglier. In fact, a little character does them some good. At least it’s not rusty. The seller lists a bunch of recently-replaced mechanical items and says it runs well. I do kind of wish it were a manual, but S-10 buyers seemed to favor automatics by a wide margin, so used stickshifts don’t come up as often.

And there they are: two Rocky Mountain winter beaters, ready and able to tackle the snow. DIfferent ways of getting there, to be sure, but they bot end up in essentially the same place. Which one is more to your liking?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)


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48 Responses

  1. Everything but the logo points to my choice. Condition, miles, maintenance records; S-10. I love Toyota, but this isn’t a fair fight.
    For the record, fair fights are tactical failures.

  2. The Chevy for the lower miles and the 4.3 engine. Also, those T100s had odd ergonomics. You feel like you’re sitting on the floor with your legs straight out.

  3. Yeah, not having a winter beater with a busted driver’s door, not a chance I’m willing to take. Sure I could fix it , if I can get it open, but that’s a summer time project, not a February thing. I can’t imagine climbing over the gearshift every damn time I need to get in or out.

    I love Toyotas, just not this one

  4. The fact that it was important to mention that the AC in the Toyota works in context of those pictures makes me laugh. It’s like mentioning working turn signals in a BMW ad.

    I guess it does help with the defrost though.

  5. This one was extremely close, but the minor edge went to the S-10 for me.

    And it was so close, at the time of my vote, I pushed the S-10 ahead by one vote, it was literally 50/50 just now.

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