Gary_Ash

Endangered species: auto radiator shops

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Posted (edited)

The radiator in my 1948 Studebaker M5 pickup truck sprung a big leak, probably a solder joint let go.  I had a new core installed about 15 years ago when I restored the truck. So, I thought, “No problem, I’ll just pull the radiator out and haul it to the local radiator shop in New Bedford or Fall River, MA.”  It turns out, there aren’t any shops left in the area that can solder up a leak in a copper core or replace an old core. All the local garages can do is order a new one, usually an aluminum core with plastic tanks for current cars.  It’s strictly remove-and-replace. 

 

After many phone calls, I found Central Auto Radiator in Pawtucket, RI, about 30 miles away. They are a full-service shop capable of repairing and recoring. But, he said he is now the only shop between Boston and Connecticut that does this work.  He buys cores from Maine Auto Radiator in Lewiston, ME, one of the last suppliers of cores for antique and specialty vehicles. 

 

So, if you have a real radiator shop near you, go give the owner a big hug and some of your business. 

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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You are right, Gary.

Sanford Radiator in Waterboro, Maine   (207-247-6250) re-cored my 55 Studebaker President around two years ago, 10 day turnaround, cleaned, coated and tested the fuel tank  and cleaned and tested the radiator from my 39 Packard this spring. Same 10 day turnaround.

Seems to be a father and son operation, started by the grandfather I think. They relocated out of the City of Sanford a few years ago to their present rural location.

I'm not sure about the hug, though.

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There used to be one in the city were I once lived - city of about 350,000 (at the time) - and it's no longer there. I don't know if other shops have sprung up in their absence, but they were the only rad shop I knew of in the city at the time.

 

There are a couple of places that call themselves "radiator shops" in the (slightly smaller) city where I live now, but the last time I needed a radiator recore for my '61 Mercury, I stopped by both places and they were closed mid-day to go run errands or for lunch or something. I thought, "to heck with that" and ordered a good quality aluminum unit online. I might still get the original unit recored for originality's sake. Both shops seemed to be run kind of as a hobby.

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There is also Harry Heiten in Worcester. I know they work on early car radiators (much older than the 50s) because a friend was just talking to them about his.

 

 

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My last experience with a radiator shop:  I had a water pump that disintegrated and spewed shrapnel through the system.  After fixing that, it seemed to run warmer than normal, so I'm thinking that the radiator may be partially plugged.  I took it to this shop to see what they had in the way of a larger radiator (I knew that the factory offered one when new) because I did a lot of desert driving and towing. The owner crawls under the car, sticks his hand up behind the grill, and says "It's not hot at all.  Your radiator is totally plugged.  You need a replacement."   So I said, "You've got your hand on the AC condenser."  :D 

 

Aside from that, I used Fred's Radiator for years for recores, repairs, etc.  He's been gone for decades.

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The town 14 miles from me was the home of McCord radiator building new radiators seemed like everyone that worked there would carry in government jobs and  fix clean and repair. Sure was no shortage of repair ( home shops) But this all is gone now McCord is gone and only one radiator shop left and they would like to sell out    

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ABC radiator in Baltimore Maryland has done a number of radiators for me . Built a 4 row for my 66 , one for 1916 Overland [ not org core ] . Great to work with and honest .King32

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Gary, not sure where you’re located but I live in dartmouth. Have been taking my radiator and fuel tank issues to Mark at Riverside junk yard in acushnet for a few years. He just sold the yard but is keeping the radiator business and moving that. Currently he’s closed until the move is complete but that was his first business before the junk yard. Not sure when he’s going to be back up and running but I can call and find out. Thanks for posting the other company as I have a customers radiator right now that needs to be looked at.

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Posted (edited)

Is there anyone on the west coast that does this? My 57 Ford near Portland has a bad heater core. 

Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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VL2, If you can't find a after market replacement you can try the guy that rebuilt mine.  The one I have in the Mercury is a one year produced heater core and none are available.  Did a great job and comes with a warranty.  He also did my radiator for the car.  Worth a shot if you can't find one.

Salinas Radiator

(831) 424-4140

 

 

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For Victorialynn and other West Coast people, The Brassworks in Paso Robles, CA is the place to go for any radiator or heater core.  They built an excellent radiator from scratch for my 1932 Indy car replica.  

See https://www.thebrassworks.net/

 

Even for East Coast people, the shipping cost is not that bad.

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Southbridge Radiator Southbridge, Massachusetts they do antique car and truck radiators and fuel tanks.  Been around a long time and claim to be " The best place to take a leak in town ".

 

 

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Just rang ABC radiator in Baltimore Maryland to do a pressure and flow test on my 1921 Lincoln. Will report back on

how it goes.  

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Recently used my local guy at Sunwest. Great work at a more than fair price for what they have to deal with...

If you're ever in the Phoenix metro area and need a radiator work done, go to Sunwest Transmissions and Radiators. Been there for years and as far as I know will be there for many more decades (according to the folks I spoke with).

 

https://sunwesttrans.com/

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Posted (edited)

Victoria,

 

If you are interested a young acquaintance  in south Seattle that works in a commercial radiator shop. When the shop began doing mostly commercial radiator work, he began doing the old school type of work on the side. He does nice work and because he is a good friend of my nephew, his prices were more then reasonable, for the work he did for me. To date I have two cars with radiators he has reworked, and one gas tank. 

 

He was able to save the core for one of my 1937 Studebaker Presidents. It needed cleaning, and because the header piece needed to be removed to do the job, most said it was an impossible job. The brass header would be destroyed during it's removal. Reuse would be impossible, and the tolerances for openings were required to within the range of .001." He was able to build a jig and use an ancient machine  to stamp the openings, in a new header piece, and  solder each tube by hand.

 

I haven't talked to Pat in some time but if you are interested I will contact him.

 

Bill

Edited by Buffalowed Bill (see edit history)
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 I go to a small radiator locally and he never seems to have any business. I commented on it one time about how he could make a living on the little business that he has.

 His comment floored me, he said that he only does it as a side line, his real job is flying 747"s for a living!

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Posted (edited)

I have a good shop that does nice work (Ellet Radiator in Akron, OH), but their main business is giant heat exchangers for big ships and heavy equipment. They have the equipment and ovens and all that stuff to do a nice job, but they only do the car radiators on the side. They don't make any money doing the car stuff but they have a fairly significant client list and do nice work. They just put a new core in a 1970 Corvette big block radiator for me and it was about $400, which I thought was quite reasonable. I'll probably send them my '41 Buick radiator next winter for a new core. The main guy is older, but his son is involved in the business so hopefully he continues the work. You can ship them stuff and they'll do it.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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Only one radiator shop in the Dayton Ohio area and its in Fairborn.

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Posted (edited)

Fairborn is where my neighbor is from.  His son runs the auto repair shop he started there. I do believe it's called Davidson imports.

Edited by Laughing Coyote (see edit history)

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On 6/10/2019 at 9:55 PM, Laughing Coyote said:

.... you can try the guy that rebuilt mine.  The one I have in the Mercury is a one year produced heater core and none are available. ...

Salinas Radiator

(831) 424-4140

 

 

Wow, good to know. Thanks for the information. What is it with this year and make and their hard to find parts (heater cores and vacuum boosters)? Incidentally, the Vacuum booster place you referred me to just called today to tell me they're done with my booster. I should have it installed next week. Thanks again for that, too.

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