S-10 ZR2 HD
Text: Kyle Tobin Photography: Chris Tobin JEREMY CURTIS OPTIMIZED HIS CHEVY DREAM TRUCK INTO HIS ULTIMATE DIESEL MACHINE
Jeremy Curtis Optimized His Chevy Dream Truck into His Ultimate Diesel Machine
Many gear heads grow up with posters of their favorite vehicles on their wall. Once we come across that perfect machine, we never really get it out of our head. Jeremy Curtis of Rockvale, Tennessee, fell in love with the Chevrolet S-10 ZR2 as soon as it was released and by 2007 was finally able to buy his perfect truck. But that dream ride isn't always as perfect as we hope, and as Curtis began to plan a family with his wife, Lacey, he realized the regular cab S-10 he'd used as a work truck for years wasn't quite suited for family life. But instead of giving up on the truck, Curtis decided to overhaul the Chevy and optimize it to accommodate his growing family and give him more joy in the woods off-roading or towing nearly anything on the street.
Curtis, a service technician and welder by trade, was ready to take on the major customization with some help from friends and family. Once he found a crew cab off a truck that had been totaled, he began tackling the stretching and strengthening of the frame to fit his four-door lifestyle. Practicing his metal working skills, Curtis was able to separate and graft together a longer chassis almost seamlessly while also adding cross bracing for added strength. Once the frame was shaped, he had it powder coated black for a slick-looking undercarriage and to protect the metal.
By the end of his build, the modified S-10 chassis would be equipped with a ‘79 Dana 60 rearend with Detroit Locker and a ‘79 Dana 44 front end with a Lunchbox Locker. To beef up the suspension for some off-roading, towing, and to handle its future diesel power plant, Curtis installed rear springs from a 1979 Ford F-250 paired with Rancho shocks and a set of 1993 front springs from a Ford F-350 2WD truck paired again with Rancho shocks. Curtis fabricated his own custom radius arms using Ballistic joints, as well as a custom sway bar to tighten up the now lifted and heavier proportions of his S-10 ZR2. To help his off-road aspirations, Curtis equipped his sway bar with quick disconnect linkage for comfortable on-road driving, and open articulation for the trails. He also outfitted his truck with a gooseneck hitch mount, but with increasing his towing capacity
and adding substantial heft to the Chevy, Curtis knew he needed to upgrade his brakes. He converted the rear with a 1-ton disk brake conversion using 3-inch single piston calipers and up front he swapped in 2.5-inch twin piston brake calipers. Bolted onto those hubs are re-centered Hummer H1 16.5-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear 37x12.50-16.5 Wrangler MT tires.
The extensive addition of the 2003 S-10 crew cab was not the only modification Curtis tackled on the body of his optimized ultimate truck. He also added a cowl induction hood that adds aggression, as well as extra room for its new diesel motor. The former work truck’s bed and rocker panels were sprayed with bed liner for rugged durability. Again, showcasing his fabrication skills, Curtis built his own front and rear brush guard tube bumpers and rock slider side steps and powder coated them black. Sticking with the black on black theme, Dale Taylor of Taylor’s Colors out of Eagleville, Tennessee, helped paint the body Pure Black. Inside the new cab, Curtis kept it simple with stock black cloth interior. A custom made wiring harness and a custom gauge cluster to house Autometer gauges were a few of Curtis’ custom touches.
After Curtis stretched the truck he began to realize that it was going to need more power. He poured through research into swaps and he realized he didn’t want to go a more traditional route of a small block Chevy or LS crate motor. As he thought about his towing needs, the diesel engine started sounding right. He finally settled on a 3.9-liter 4BT Cummins engine for the new heart of his modified S-10. Still, with a relatively light truck, Curtis didn’t need to go crazy with building the engine, but, of course, some bolt-ons were necessary. A custom pump and filtration system with a built VE injection pump moves fuel into the 7x.14 injectors. Building boost is compound 48/61 turbochargers and a Super Duty intercooler. A stainless steel 4-inch exhaust system was installed to expel the spent gasses out the back of the truck in the factory location. With the upgrades the four cylinder Cummins delivered 286 horsepower and 618 lbs-ft of torque to the massive wheels and tires on the chassis dyno. A Dodge NV4500 transmission with a Southbend single disk HD clutch and
Starting out life as an S-10 ZR2 standard cab truck, Jeremy Curtis worked hard for a year to transform it into a diesel crew cab suited for his active life on and off road.
With skill and precision, Curtis chopped and extended the frame almost seamlessly while adding strengthening bracing.
The rear has a custom made bumper as well with the slick black paint and old-school logo from his favorite local shop, Beans Diesel Performance where Curtis was once employed.
On the rocker panels and the bed is a sprayed in liner ready to take on any load as well as the gooseneck hitch Curtis chose to add to the now diesel machine.
This rugged machine can fly through the Tennessee trails with ease after its extensive overhaul.
Curtis’ custom wheel guard shrouds the re-centered Hummer H1 wheels with 37-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT tires.
A custom gauge cluster with black diamond plate and Autometer gauges as well as the embossed Cummins C in the shifter knob are some subtle touches to the interior.
Curtis kept it simple inside for his family friendly cab, and stuck with his black on black theme.