Car Feature: Black Switchblade S10 Xtreme

Photos by the author

Taking an Xtreme to the Extreme

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Anyone who is a fan of GM’s compact truck platform is no stranger to the concept of small truck performance. Arguably, two of the heaviest hitters in the early ’90s was the GMC Syclone and Typhoon. These two were the apex predators of the first generation (1982 to 1993), and offered acceleration beyond some of Italy’s finest of the day. Enter the second generation (1994 to 2004), GM offered a sport suspension, ground effects equipped version called the Chevrolet S10 Xtreme.

What it nailed in looks, it didn’t quite get in the engine department. Sure, the 4.3L Vortec V6 was better than the 2.2L I-4 when it came to power output, however it wasn’t the turbocharged 6-cylinder the previous generation enjoyed. Fast forward a few years, LS V8’s are finding their way into almost everything. Vehicles from cars and trucks, to planes and boats, are powered by the versatile V8.

We’ve even heard whispers that Lockheed’s new Mach 6 SR-71 successor is using an LS based engine with a couple of turbos! Alright maybe not that crazy, but you get the idea, they are plentiful, will fit into a multitude of platforms, and can make very good power relatively easily. Naturally, this is the route Fred Werner took when it came time to add power to his long sought after Xtreme.

It took 13-years for Fred to talk the former owner into selling the truck. Years of grime can be camouflage for degradation and damage however thankfully this wasn’t the case for Fred. A new battery, fuel pump, and a thorough cleaning was all it took to get the 28K mile truck going. Fun with the factory V6 lasted about six months until the need to bring the 2002 Xtreme to the next level took hold. In went a salvaged 2007 5.3L L33 freshened up with an LS6 camshaft and intake.

The factory 243 heads were treated to LS6 valve springs, while displacement, rotating assembly, and 10.1:1 compression ratio were left unchanged. Fred used engine mounts, headers, and a wiring harness from Current Performance Wiring to install the V8 with ease. This combination lasted for about 10K miles before the need for more speed hit again, then “It was turbo time!”

Fred went to work fabricating his own turbo kit. A Turbonetics 7576 ceramic ball bearing turbo with a billet compressor wheel would be the centerpiece of his system. To channel hot exhaust gasses to the turbo, Fred turned to the internet to provide the components needed to fabricate the driver’s side manifold.

On the passenger’s side, the factory log style manifold was retained. These come together to bring the exhaust to the turbine side of the turbocharger. A Turbonetics 45mm Racegate keeps the turbo spinning at safe RPMs. From there, a 3-inch downpipe sends exhaust gasses to a 3-inch Dynomax Bullet muffler.

Air coming into the turbocharger is pressurized by a billet compressor wheel, then travels through 2.5-inch piping past a Mighty Mouse Solutions oil catch can, to a CX Racing air-to-air intercooler, then through 3-inch piping to an ICT Billet intake manifold with a 102mm throttle body. Metering incoming air is a GM 3-bar speed density map sensor, and keeping intake boost pressure in check is a TiAL 50mm blow off valve.

Fuel needs are met by Siemens Deka 80-lb. injectors, which are fed by dual Walbro 255 fuel pumps. These components are regulated by an Aeromotive 1:1 return-style regulator, which keeps fuel pressure at 58-psi. Tuning for the pumped up Xtreme was handled by Shelby Killer Performance in Oklahoma City, they were able to maximize Fred’s combination to produce a very healthy 650 rear wheel horsepower and 650 rear wheel torque!

With power like this the factory transmission would be overwhelmed, out went the stock unit and in went a GM 4L80E. A Neal Chance Racing Converters billet converter with a 3000 RPM stall speed, a TransGo Stage 2 shift kit, and a Rossler Transmission Brake bring the new transmission up to speed with the turbocharged engine. Keeping it at proper operating temperature is a dual pass transmission cooler with an electric fan. Added safety is achieved by an owner fabricated transmission safety loop.

Power leaving the transmission is sent to a Strange Ultra Case Ford 9-inch with 3.70 gears and 35-spline Strange axles. The center section houses an Eaton Truetrac differential. Any worries of drive line failure were alleviated with the upgraded rear axle.

Seeing the factory S10 platform is solid to begin with, chassis modifications were kept to a minimum. The rear suspension upgrades being a set of Calvert Racing’s CalTracs traction bars to control axle wrap and keep Fred’s turbocharged Xtreme running straight and true.

Fred’s choice for wheels are Weld Racing Magnum 2.0’s. These wheels are not only lighter, but are stronger than the factory offerings. Measurements for the 15-inch rims are 3-inches wide in the front, and 9 inches wide in the rear.

The front wheels are wrapped in Kumho Power Star 758’s in 165/80-15 size, and the rears are 275/60-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pros. Slowing the Xtreme are the factory front discs and 11-inch Ford drums in the rear.

As mentioned earlier, the Xtreme’s paint and body were in good shape from the years of rest. The only modification to the exterior is replacing the rear bumper with a roll pan. The factory S10 Xtreme ground effects give the truck a wide, low look. Something to note, the front and rear fender flares which are noticeable with the factory wheels, really seem to come into their own with the Weld Wheels and ET Steets filling the wheel arches.

Inside the truck, the factory interior in very good condition remains. The only thing that could give away what lurks under the hood are the Innovative Motorsports boost and AFR gauges, and the transmission brake lever hiding between the seats. Even then they are tough to spot unless you know what you’re looking at.

Fred’s first venture into the turbocharged LS realm is an ongoing success. As with any hot rodder, his daily driven Xtreme is ever changing and evolving.

“It took approximately 3 months to complete. I’m very pleased with the results. This was the first project I’ve taken on to complete an LS swap, and my first time working with a turbo system. I recently added a two step enable the truck to build some boost off the starting line in hopes of getting it into the nines… We’ll see where this takes us.” -Fred Werner

Stay tuned for the revolution of the Black Switchblade!

TECH SHEET:

  • CAR: 2002 Chevy S10
  • OWNER: Fred Werner
  • ENGINE BLOCK: 2007 L33 (5.3L)
  • CRANKSHAFT: L33
  • PISTONS: L33
  • CONNECTING RODS: L33
  • CAMSHAFT: LS6
  • CYLINDER HEADS: 243 castings; built by A&R Machine
  • COMPRESSION RATIO: 11.0:1
  • INDUCTION: ICT Billet intake manifold and 102 mm throttle body, speed density 3-bar MAF sensor
  • POWER ADDER: Turbonetics 7576 w/ BB Bullet compressor wheel and 45mm RaceGate, TiAL 50mm blow-off valve,
  • BOOST: 10-12 psi.
  • INTERCOOLER: CX Racing
  • IGNITION: Stock coil packs and spark plug wires, NGK BR7EF plugs
  • EXHAUST: Patriot headers (modified by owner), 3-inch tubing 3-inch DynoMax Bullet mufflers
  • FUEL DELIVERY: Siemens Deka 80-lb. injectors, dual Walbro 255 fuel pumps, Aeromotive regulator (58-psi.)
  • OILING: Melling pump, Hummer H3 pan
  • TUNING: Shelby Killer Performance
  • TRANSMISSION: 4L80E; built by the owner, TransGo shift-kit, fan and dual-pass cooler,
  • CONVERTER: Chance Billet 3000-stall, stock flex plate
  • SHIFTER: Stock
  • DRIVESHAFT: 4-inch steel, owner-fabricated driveshaft loop
  • REAREND: Strange 9-inch, 35-spline axles, Eaton TruTrac differential, 3.70:1 gears
  • SUSPENSION: CalTracs rear traction bars, everything else stock
  • BRAKES: Stock, front/Ford 11-inch drums, rear
  • WHEELS: Weld Racing Magnum 2.0 (15×3 front, 15×9 rear)
  • TIRES: Kumho skinnies, Mickey Thompson Radial Pros
  • HP/TQ.: 650/650
  • 1/4-Mile E.T.: 11.20 at 135 mph
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At just 5-years old, it was an ’85 IROC-Z Camaro that ignited the fuel that sparked the life-long passion of GM hardware for Michael. Being a huge fan of late-model muscle in general, the LS-powered 4th-generation Firebirds truly capture Michael’s heart.

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