Acquisition of the 1998 Chevrolet Geo Tracker 2 door 4×4 Rag Top Conversion.
January 5, 2020 we drove #VanyMcVanFace from Daytona Beach to just yards from the Georgia border, and came back the same day with a 1998 Geo Tracker 2 door 4×4 with just over 140,000 miles on it. This super fun, muscular looking rig had minor issues.
These Trackers, the import form of the Suzuki Sidekick, started on the scene as a Chevy Tracker from 1989 until 1991, after which they were branded as the Geo Tracker, and then they returned to the Chevy brand at the end of the 1st generation body style in 1998 (which this one is). It’s the same li’l truck as the Geo Tracker and the Sidekick we love so dearly, but this model year was the last of the “cool” breed. The 2nd generation that came within months of this one were bigger and had more rounded corners looking somewhat more like a Toyota Rav4.
This Chevy Tracker handled well on the highway at 70 to 75 miles per hour for the ride back to Daytona from the Georgia border, and the only thing that was missing was air conditioning. There was a problem with the brakes pulling hard to the left if the pedal was more than just tapped. What a fun ride though, just like an off-road truck should feel due to its new stiffer suspension and 3″ body lift, oh, and the 31″ muddies baby! Still, that ride kept the gas mileage at approximately 24mpg.
Inspection and Service
Upon arrival we gave it the typical once over before deciding if it was worth proceeding to the test drive stage. The following were inspected and passed:
As mentioned there were problems with its brakes, and the carpet delete made me wonder about the floor pan. Sure enough there were a couple of blemishes on the Floor Pan in 2 or 3 places.
After our own inspection, the first thing we did with it was an jack it up and fix the brakes. Here’s the surprise we found. The front brake lines were very shabby and one was not even connected. With new brake lines and shoes, new rear brake cylinders (seems to be a Tracker fault) it was able to stop better and without pulling. It leaned some to the drivers side and while up on the hoist we found that its body lift pucks were on incorrectly and one spring was installed upside down. Yeah, artful I must say! The pucks for the 3 inch body lift had a short pair and a tall pair. Trackers are slightly higher in the rear, so the short pucks are supposed to be there and the tall pucks are supposed to be in the front to level it out. Well, they had the short pucks on the left side and the tall pucks on the right side. WTF? Now that’s all fixed and leveled by the SideTrack Pros. We even added an alignment for good measure. After that, it does seem that the interstate speed was more than the mud tires were made to handle. That broke the belts in the front right tire so there’s a shimmy and shake that will be fixed with new tires.
As usual, we’re running 100% synthetic oil in this machine. Our SideTracks are treated to the best. For preventative maintenance, the timing belt had been replaced already because that’s a known issue with all SideTracks and it’s best to address it early rather than wait for it to fail.
It wines a bit going down the road because the carpet isn’t there to muffle the tranny noise. You could change the tranny filter and while you’re in there you could replace the Cam and Crank Seals and all that should make it quieter.
There have not been any dash warning lights on this Chevy Tracker.
Its weak air conditioning problem is surely a simple matter of a coolant boost.
There is a bit of surface rust on the tailgate in two places, that was fixed and painted.
There is a tiny bubble on the top of the passenger side windshield frame.
There is a golf ball size rust hole under the driver’s running board.
This mostly stock 4×4 has wider black 15″ rims (15 x 8) fitted with mud tires. I don’t know the back spacing or the offset, but they have the typical 5 on 5.5 bolt pattern and 108mm bore center hole. Mounted on the rims are the much larger than stock 31×10.50x15LT MaxTrek Mud Trac which are 109 load index, Q speed rated mud tires.
The automatically locking hubs work seamlessly and the four wheel drive is strong. One could replace the auto locking hubs with the top of the line Warn 34581 manual locking hubs and that’s a simple bolt on conversion but unnecessary.
Soft Top to Hard Top Conversion
This one does not have a well made hard top conversion like the Pro Top I had installed on my two that I bought new back in 1989 and 1991. This one is cheaper and has sunroof damage with a hillbilly repair job done to plug it, and its been painted black. Maybe a tree fell on it sometime in the past. The rear hydraulic hinges won’t hold the back window open either. Unfortunately the previous owner didn’t keep the soft top hardware, otherwise we’d restore it to the original purposed rag top.
Hard top conversions are cool and functional if done well. This one ain’t on tight and the rear will leak at the “cross bar” unless plugged. There’s also a couple of inches of weather strip missing on the back folding window, but it’s unlikely rail will go in there.
For a 1998 Tracker, this was treated well in its past, and I kept it stored inside. A magnet was placed on all the common rust areas of high mileage Sidekicks and Trackers to ensure everything was original metal and not bondo. The body was close to perfect, except for the rust bubbles that formed in two places on the tailgate. That’s been fixed and painted. Its front fenders had been trimmed a bit to make room for the oversized mud tires.
The paint overall is not faded or messed up. It seems that the clear coat is fine; there’s no cracking and peeling that you often see, even on the hood. This Green 1998 Chev Tracker’s paint is in remarkable condition.
Added $550 rock sliders.
The bumpers on this 22 year old beauty are only slightly faded, but at least they aren’t dented. Lookin’ good here! However the 3″ body lift did add unsightly spaces between the bumpers and the upper body of the truck at the front and back. Bumper delete time? Yes.
We modified a Jeep Smittybilt swing out tire carrier back bumper to fit on the Tracker because the oversized tires are way too heavy to hang on the sheet metal of these thin tailgates. We kept the original rear bumper in case someone wants to restore it for some reason.
We custom welded a front bumper out of 1/4″ hot rolled steel, with a recessed winch holder. This is a very heavy bumper.
New $900 Warn EVO 8500lb winch with steel cable has never been hooked up. You’d need more cold cranking amps battery for this.
A 4×4 Tracker has to have a spare tire hangin’ outside of the tailgate for possible blow outs or un-beaded rubber in the rocks. This one has its spare tire at stock size and has no cover. Good thing about that is that it’s not a heavy full size matching spare that would be very heavy on the sheet metal of the tailgate where it hangs. Bad thing is that it’s like a doughnut spare on normal cars only worse because it would be bad to run it in 4 wheel drive with one unmatched tire.
We solved this small spare problem with a bumper delete with a swing out tire holder, toting a new full size 31″ mud tire.
Seats are very nice with no holes and not frayed but there is a slight side rip on the driver’s seat in the normal spot by the recline lever.
Steering wheel is very slightly blemished but not ripped or marred.
Brake pedal cover is warn in one corner and could be replaced, or not. Nothing major here.
The carpet had been removed years ago and it has a rhino lining throughout the interior. Underneath it is rust free except for a couple of minor issues that we patched and undercoated.
Sound System Update: Jan. 26, 2020
The cheap, hillbilly installed Boss junk Aftermarket radio that was hanging out of its porthole in the dashboard has just been upgraded to the same Kenwood DPX503BT double din Bluetooth unit as installed in the 97 Tracker. We also added a pair of rear Alpine 5″ speakers where none existed. Now there’s primo sound in this green machine.
SideTracksPro is lucky to have this rugged Green 1998 Chev Tracker 2 door 4×4 and proud to own it and offer it to y’all for sale. It has its own space in the garage, but will look better in YOURS!
Email 4×firstname.lastname@example.org to make that happen for $7586.
Series of Photos Shot 08-22-2022