Brief History Of Old Cars

From 1896 to 1930 there were approximately 1,800 automobile manufacturers before the 1920’s, most of which lasted from 2 to 5 years in business

Experiments with air cooled, steam and electric vehicles were a failure due to the easy accessibility of gasoline. Electric cars were
deemed as female vehicles. They could travel at a top speed of 20 mph and could only be recharged in big cities as rural areas had no charging stations.

Steam cars were a great idea, no gas, no pollution but very difficult and timely to start and operate. So eventually the gasoline powered vehicle won out in favor and practicality. Most early auto entrepreneurs named their vehicles using their last name such as Maxwell, Chalmers, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Oldsmobile, Scripps Booth, Ajax, Babcock, Chandler, Duryea, Franklin, Graham Paige, Jewel, Nash, Rickenbacker, the list is endless.

In 1900 cars were expensive. They were all handmade and considered a rich man’s toy costing over $1000 which was a lot of money for the time. Then came Henry Ford’s mass produced assembly line Model T for $265 which changed the automotive industry. Most manufacturers fell by the wayside with an industrial revolution forever changing the world.



Radiator Fabrication

Constructing a new automotive radiator core for a vintage car is a work of art.

In the beginning, these craftsmen were true pioneers. They had nothing to work with but trial and error. They experimented with materials such as copper and brass to determine how internal combustion engines operated to prevent overheating and dissipation of heat transfer.

Two types were used such as honeycomb tubular cores with various types of tubes and fin configurations. Many honeycomb style radiators were tried early on. Patterns consisting of hexagon, square, diamond,  etc.  created a practically an endless array.

Honeycombs were either cartridge or film type construction. Cartridge cores are individual tubes cut to the depth necessary, then swedging the ends, placing them into a jib packed tightly and face dipped into ⅜” lead bath front and back. Cores were run off machines in lengths then placed in a jig and also face dipped. Once the core is constructed the upper and lower tank sections are soldered to complete the radiator.



Overheating And Leakage

Neglect is the most common cause of radiator failure in classic cars. Most enthusiasts do not perform regular maintenance for the cooling system, such as flushing the engine block and changing the coolant,  which should be done on a 2-year schedule.

In my experience fan belts, hoses, clamps and water pumps should also be checked periodically and replaced as necessary. Never use STOP leak, it will completely swell and clog everything including your engine, radiator and heater core.

Maintenance will undoubtedly prevent a lot of future problems, such as clogged radiator leaks, blown head gaskets or ruining the entire engine.
Care and prevention are well worth it and better than being on the roadside waiting for a tow truck.

About 20 years ago a gentleman called and asked us to construct a special radiator for a 1910 Oldsmobile to be entered in the Great American Race, which is held yearly in the US from coast to coast. He insisted that he had to travel through the desert and needed optimal cooling. We completely disassembled the radiator, cut a facing off his original core for authenticity and
added a modern heavy duty copper-brass core with facing on the front side for originality. On a later date, he called and thanked me for our work. He traveled through the desert of 112 degrees without a hitch.  Proof that a radiator design and maintenance is key.