Home » Vacuum Leaks Suck: 1985 Chevy S-10 Blazer vs 1987 Isuzu P’up Spacecab

Vacuum Leaks Suck: 1985 Chevy S-10 Blazer vs 1987 Isuzu P’up Spacecab

Sbsd 3 21 2024
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Welcome back! Today we’re taking a visit back to the bad old days of feedback carburetors, and looking at two otherwise-cool trucks that are suffering from carb problems and/or vacuum leaks. Which one is worth untangling the black spaghetti for? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Yesterday I gave you a tough choice between two cool vehicles. Both cars had lots of fans, and several of you said you’d take both if you could, but in the end, the big tall Mitsubishi took home the win. Score one for sport, and utility.

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I think I agree, for what it’s worth. I do love those old Volvos, but it occurs to me I already have a car with a pushrod 1.8 liter four, a four-speed stick, and twin SUs. Do I really need another? I mean, I don’t need an upright Japanese SUV either, but I have a feeling I’d get more use out of it. And I did really love our old Nissan Pathfinder.

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Now, those who are too young to remember the malaise era might not realize what the real villain of that era was. It wasn’t catalytic converters, or the switch to SAE net horsepower ratings, or five-mile-per-hour bumpers. No, the face of true evil in those days was the electronic feedback carburetor and all the miles of vacuum hoses connecting it to various power-sucking emissions devices like EGR valves and air-injection pumps. Take an already lean-running engine, give it a vacuum leak, and you’ll want to drive the thing off a cliff, only you can’t, because it won’t stay idling. Or has no power under acceleration. Or something.

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Both of today’s trucks are so afflicted, I’m sorry to say. But knowing that they’ll both need a weekend of replacing every hose and gasket you can think of, we can assess the rest of their respective merits and see which one you think is worth the trouble.

1985 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.8 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Chico, CA

Odometer reading: 80,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives, but hesitates unless you floor it

I have always had a soft spot for the two-door S-10 Blazer. It’s such a clean design, and it’s just the right size, practical, and tough. The only thing that could have made it better is a removable rear section of the top like the old full-size Blazers had. The sweet spot for these came a couple of years after this one was built, when the 4.3 liter V6 became available; these 2.8s were a little anemic, especially with an automatic. But I can only feature what I find for sale, so we’re stuck with the small motor.

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Fun fact about the 2.8 liter V6 in these: You access the oil filter through the driver’s side wheel well. A cup-type filter wrench, two long extensions, and a ratchet, and it slips right out above the left front tire. The rest of the truck isn’t quite so easy to service, but it isn’t terrible either. If this Blazer were one year newer, it would have throttle-body fuel injection, but sadly this one is fed by a two-barrel carb, which seems to be the cause of most of its running woes.

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It could use a little upholstery work too, but I haven’t seen a mid-Eighties GM product with a perfect interior since the mid-Eighties. Even with a rip in the seat, I remember these as being pretty comfortable inside. Sadly, that comfort is somewhat compromised by non-functional air conditioning. The seller, of course, claims that it only “needs to be recharged.” Uh-huh.

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The paint’s a little faded, but I don’t see any rust. And it’s two-tone! We need more two-tone cars. I mean, more color variety in general would be good, but two colors on one car? Now that’s living.

1987 Isuzu P’Up Spacecab – $2,800

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.3-liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, RWD

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Location: Hemet, CA

Odometer reading: 155,000 miles

Operational status: Technically runs and drives, but has brittle vacuum and fuel lines

Isuzu was always kind of an also-ran in the small truck wars. After years of selling Isuzu pickups as Chevy LUVs, Isuzu brought over its trucks under its own name to compete with Chevy’s S-10. Years later, the roles were reversed, when Isuzu sold a rebadged S-10 as the Hombre. In between, Isuzu pickups were known by the adorable contraction “P’up.”

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Every small truck maker sold an extended-cab variant, but Isuzu’s “Spacecab” was special. Not only was it extra long, it was extra tall as well, with a raised roofline for a couple extra inches of headroom. Every little bit of room counts in these small trucks, and the taller roof probably made the inward-facing jump seats in the Spacecab almost livable.

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The P’up is powered by Isuzu’s 2.3-liter overhead cam four, in this case backed by an automatic transmission. Automatics are rare in small trucks of this era, especially Japanese trucks, and I know some of you are rolling your eyes in disgust right now. But for a little runabout truck, it doesn’t really matter that much. It will be a little sluggish, but it will still haul stuff home from the garden center just fine.

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Or it will, once you replace a bunch of perished rubber vacuum and fuel lines under the hood. This truck has been off the road for a while, and as you know, cars don’t like to sit. Rubber hoses get hard and brittle, and while imminent failure of vacuum lines will ruin your day and cause drivability issues, potential fuel leaks are dangerous. At least they’re not high-pressure lines, since it’s carbureted.

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These days, we take easy starting, smooth idling, and hesitation-free acceleration for granted. Fuel injection is a wonderful thing, and it has now been thirty years since the last carbureted vehicle was sold in the US – coincidentally, an Isuzu pickup. But plenty of old carbureted cars are still running around, and that means the dark art of carburetor tuning, including tracking down vacuum leaks, is still good to know. And vacuum hose is still available by the foot at any good auto parts store. So which one of these is worth the hassle of sorting out?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Here4thecars
Here4thecars
25 days ago

Mark is right, we need more two-tone cars. Blazer for me. I think I would get more use out of it once it was running.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
25 days ago

Gimmee the awesome Spacecab P’Up! Far out, dude!

Black spaghetti? I’m guessing that’s David Tracy’s spaghetti after it’s been sitting in the shower after a while?

“The seller, of course, claims that it only “needs to be recharged.” Uh-huh.”
That was fucking hilarious…I love the sarcasm…yeah, just needs a “recharge”

ESO
ESO
25 days ago

The main concern (here in California) would be not just getting either truck simply running well, but also passing the Smog test, AT THE SAME TIME. It was daunting to do years and decades ago, can only imagine how it would go now…

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
25 days ago

I’ve driven that era,S-10, I’ll take the Isuzu and a large roll of rubber hose.

Citrus
Citrus
25 days ago

In high school two people I knew had S10 Blazers. By the end of their ownership period they both had what were effectively Blazers of Thesius because everything broke and had to be replaced – often multiple times. It was rare that both of them were in the lot on the same day given that some part was always failing.

Both eventually got sick of their Blazers and bought something else. One of them bought a Mercury Lynx, to give an indication of just how desperate they were to rid themselves of the things.

Because of these memories, Isuzu all day.

Myk El
Myk El
25 days ago

I want to like the Blazer, but the Isuzu seems more my speed.

Owen Chidester
Owen Chidester
25 days ago

The blazer needs to die, I had a friend who had one it’s so bad…

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
25 days ago

Remember, if it will fit a 4.3L, it will likely fit an LS.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
25 days ago

Pickup for me. Just the right size for on road truck stuff. I’ve had enough GM 1980’s plastic to last a lifetime. Maybe Isuzu is better.

Jon Benet
Jon Benet
25 days ago

On the Isuzu. Pull the old Hitachi Carb and get a Weber 32/36 or 38. Cheap Chinese knockoffs are under $100 and you can find a REDLINE adapter plate for $50. Gets rid of 90% of the vacuum lines and a bunch of wiring.
To bad its a automatic and its also the last year of the PUP. The Gen 3 parts are so much easier to find because they share the same front end as the Rodeo and Amigo.

I do love those Blazers, I used to have an 84. But I would wait to find a 2wd that wasn’t an automatic one.

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
25 days ago

Had an S10 with the 2.8. It leaked precious mechanical fluids, no matter how well or (very) frequently serviced. It had zero power with a 5 speed manual attached to it. It drank more gas than a 4 which would have done the same job more efficiently. I hate that engine with a white hot passion.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
25 days ago

Had an auto 2.8 4×4. Massively leaked as well, plus barely enough power to keep up with traffic. At least you had the 5 speed. The auto trans was terrible, shifted horrible even with new fluid.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
25 days ago

I wonder if you can get one of those vacuum test hand-pumps like we used to have back in the day? Anyway, as much as the Isuzu would probably be more useful and likely easier to sort, I have an affinity for that Blazer. I realize that it’s an ostensibly bad vehicle, compared to what’s been available in this segment for the past twenty years or so, but I just think that these things are kind of interesting in their own right. Frankly, there’s not a lot of them left – it would be kind of cool to restore one. At some point, they may just start to get some traction the classic market.

Thx1138
Thx1138
25 days ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

You can definitely get the vacuum test pump from Harbor Freight. Might have to try a few to get one that is on track. I use one with my 1985 MB 300D.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago

I don’t know why, but I think the Blazer smells bad inside. This is based on nothing I know about this particular one.

I need to think back. Somewhere in my past was a stinky S Blazer.

Isis
Isis
25 days ago

Exactly 50/50 after my vote. Nailbiter. . .

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
25 days ago
Reply to  Isis

I just pushed the Isuzu one vote over the finish line with mine. Is this the neck and neckiest choice to date?

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
25 days ago

Not going to lie, I didn’t even read the Isuzu section because I knew immediately it would be the S10

Mike B
Mike B
25 days ago

Those Blazers still look good. Cool to see one with a relatively clean body, and 2 tone at that!. For someone outside of CA, it would be a great shell to drop a LS into. If it were a few years newer with the 4.3, I’d happily run it stock.

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