June 10, 2022

Making your car cool starts at the front

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Hemmings Media Workshop

These days, it’s easier than ever to customize your ride: parts, advice and services that once took a near-expert to source are now just a click away. What was once the exclusive realm of professional shops can now be realized in your own garage and there’s just about nothing you can’t do – or at least take a stab at – yourself.

And, let’s face it: it’s all about the “cool factor,” right? A custom mid-century hardtop? A vintage pickup truck? A home-built race car? Maybe a hot rod with just the right stance or an Eighties-era factory muscle car? We’re living in the Golden Age of the automotive aftermarket and if you can imagine it, there’s a good chance someone is making the parts to help you do it.

But, here’s the cold, hard reality of this gearhead gold rush: every change, upgrade or custom touch you make to your classic has a direct effect on everything else. Dropped stance or lifted rig? Make sure the suspension system is redesigned to make it drivable. Making the exhaust system a little more obnoxious? There’s more to it than just an aggressive tone – the right set of headers ensure proper backpressure and performance. Think 1,000 horsepower is a good idea? There’d better be a beefy transmission, driveshaft and rear-end in the plans, too.

One of the most overlooked parts of any custom project is really a collection of parts: the cooling system. Just about any change to a drivetrain – from a new set of heads to an entire engine-swap – will demand some sort of upgrade to the system that keeps everything cool and running smoothly. And if the right radiator, fan, fan shroud and placement of each aren’t planned correctly, there’s a good chance the rest of your plans could go up in a big cloud of white smoke. Let’s go over the core elements (there’s some radiator humor for you):

Radiator: We like to say, “It’s more than just a box.” Aluminum, brass, stock or custom tanks, inlet, outlet, number of rows, stock or custom appearance, placement in the vehicle – more than a few elements to consider and all of these questions can only be answered when the entire project is understood by the shop supplying your new radiator.

Condenser: Are you planning to install air-conditioning in your project? A new A/C system in an older vehicle will add an additional source of heat under the hood and the cooling system needs to accommodate that.

Transmission cooler: Will your custom ride pull a trailer? Are you planning to race this thing? Does your classic already feature a transmission cooler in the stock radiator? A common misconception is that a transmission cooler in the radiator adds heat to the cooling system. But that’s not completely true: the manufacturers have featured this cooling combination in new vehicles for decades and it’s proven to help keep the transmission cool while not affecting the cooling systems. You need to design a custom cooling system to meet your needs, with or without a transmission cooler.

Fan Shroud: This is probably one of the most frequently overlooked elements of a new cooling system. The right fan shroud, properly installed, can make a double-digit difference in under-hood temperatures and the engine’s ability to dissipate heat. Never forget the shroud!

Fan: Are you running a mechanical fan in its stock configuration? Maybe an electric fan? Pushing or pulling air? Is your radiator in its factory-stock location? Has your engine been modified in any way? The radiator fan seems like such a simple part, but a lot of engineering goes into fan design and there’s an entire world of fan technology at your fingertips: make sure you get some trusted advice on the best solution for your specific drivetrain and how you intend to use it, since a high-quality fan is one of the most important and often overlooked elements of your cooling system.

US Radiator is exactly that: radiators made in the US. But we’re so much more than just a metal box. We’ve been consulting and creating custom cooling systems for just about anything you can imagine. Whether you’re restoring a classic or building something radical, we’ll design and build the system you need. Your job is to make your ride cool and ours is to make sure it stays that way. Call us or visit us at and let’s get started!