Good news about an old radiator

I got a call from the guy I found to repair/clean my radiator. But first, some missing parts of the story.

I took the radiator in last week to Broadway Radiator in Hesperia. After calling around to various radiator places, one name kept coming up as soon as I said “I have a radiator from a 1950 Willys that I need looked at” and that name was Charlie at Broadway. Charlie said he hadn’t seen a radiator like that in many years. Apparently, I have what is known as a v-cell radiator. Essentially, there are parallel channels that run vertically from top to bottom. The front and back are soldered to seal the channel, and these channels are held together by soldering the fins between them. I drew up a quick picture to the right showing the water flow.

Apparently, this style radiator is also very hard to work on. With no tubes running through it, you can’t do a traditional “rod out,” and with the construction based on solder to keep these otherwise open channels closed, any extra heat when removing the core from the frame or tank will cause the solder to come loose. Once that starts, it’s very hard to get it to go back together without causing more damage.

So, after I got a lesson on radiator technology from the 50’s, Charlie took the radiator out back to see how water was flowing through it. When adding water where the top hose would normally connect, water would flow to the bottom, but far more water would come out of the filler hole. Exactly the problem I was having when it started boiling over! Charlie then pushed water through the bottom and a whole lot of crap (mud, rusted metal from the thermostat retainer which was missing from the thermostat housing, other random stuff) came shooting out the top of the radiator. After that was done, he tried putting water through the top again, and it all flowed out the bottom like it was supposed to.

At that point, I could have taken the radiator home and kept driving Ike, but I decided that I better get it at the very least pressure tested. I asked Charlie to pressure test it, then to take it apart to give it a good cleaning and make sure that the radiator is good. And now for the good news…

The radiator pressure tested fine with no leaks. Apparently this 60 year old piece of metal is a prime candidate to be taken apart and fully cleaned out. I’ve also got a set of brand new model-correct radiator hoses, a new 160 degree thermostat, new thermostat retainer, and soon to have a newish thermostat housing. My housing is heavily pitted and I’m actually surprised the top hose was able to seal against it at all. I was also very surprised that apparently no one makes a reproduction thermostat housing. I was able to find a seller with a good used one. If that one isn’t up to my standards, I’ve found someone with a NOS part that I’ll give a try.


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