Choosing High-Performance Cooling Products

Apr 1, 2010

As enthusiasts add modern muscle and convenience to their classic vehicles, radiators and fans are required to do a lot more. Suppliers are offering radiators and fans that can cool more-powerful engines and facilitate air conditioning systems to satisfy the demands of today’s customers.

“What [customers] really want [is] to make sure that their vehicle has a cooling system that works for their application and also provides all of the various components as they’re designing or modifying their cooling system for their muscle car or hot rod,” said Chuck McKaige, sales manager for Northern Factory Sales, a radiator and fan supplier based in Willmar, Minnesota.

Customers also want to ensure the lasting performance of their vehicle.

“If a guy’s got a $25,000 car [and] $25,000 worth of motor underneath the hood, he wants to protect that investment on a hot cruise night,” said Jay Miller, who works in sales and technical support for AFCO, a radiator and fan supplier based in Boonville, Indiana.

Mattson’s Sidewinder electric fan has an offset motor that allows the fan to be rotated in different positions.

“The best way to sell a radiator is to take the time to discuss what the customer’s needs are and how you can [best] fill that need,” said Jack Mattson Jr., president and owner of Mattson’s, Inc., a radiator and fan supplier based in Stanton, California. “I see a lot of stuff sold to people just because somebody has it for sale, but it really isn’t best for a lot of people. In the hot rod industry, there [are] an awful lot of unique and specialty concerns that need to be addressed.”

In the case of radiators, taking the time to learn about a customer’s needs and expectations could help a shop determine if an aluminum radiator is the best fit for them or if the customer would be better served by brass.

“Most of the aluminum radiators are used for cars that need extra cooling,” Mattson said. “They’re lightweight [and] they actually can be polished and [are] a little bit more attractive in most cases for the hot rods.”

While aluminum radiators might be the best fit for hot rods, brass would work best for hard-driving vehicles, like those that go off-roading.

“A lot of people are going back to copper brass radiators,” said Miller. “With today’s motors, and with the way gasoline engines are designed, the non-fuel-injected motors require a little less cooling, whereas the fuel-injected motors nowadays require more cooling because they run hotter.”

For fan customers, they may need help determining if they should replace their engine-driven fan with an electric version.

“Many of the early vehicles did not have a properly sized engine-driven fan shroud from the factory, which caused overheating, so customers are upgrading to an electric fan,” said Fred Militello, who works in marketing and technical support for Be Cool, a radiator and fan supplier based in Essexville, Michigan.

An electric fan can also be the best choice for a customer who wants to install air conditioning in their classic vehicle.

“Some of the benefits are the [electric] fan only comes on when you need it; the fan is only engaged when the engine temperature or the A/C pressure requires the extra air flow,” said Rick Love, executive vice president for Vintage Air, a fan supplier based in San Antonio, Texas. “When you’re going down the highway, you don’t have the fan running because you are getting enough air flow through the radiator as it is so you don’t have the horsepower drain on your engine driving a fan.”

Some of these customers may also choose to install a second fan for air conditioning.

“Aside from the main engine cooling for those early model cars, a lot of [customers] put air conditioning on and some of them like to run their engine-driven fan [but] they don’t want to upgrade to electric,” said Heath Langenfeld, sales and marketing manager for SPAL USA, a fan supplier based in Ankeny, Iowa. “What [installers] will do is add a thin-line fan up front as a helper fan [for] that air conditioning in the hot climates.”