When your car was designed by the manufacturer, the size and placement of the radiator was taken into consideration. Since cars from the musclecar era often had lower horsepower engines than what we see today, the factory radiators were often more than capable of keeping your engine cool. A simple swap 30-40 years ago might have been a small-block to a big-block, and often the radiator was part of that swap.
Today we’re putting more power under the hood than what the factory radiator can handle. If you keep your engine stock, you’ll likely be fine with the stock unit, with regular maintenance and upkeep on your radiator core. But more horsepower means more heat, and it means that you should consider an upgrade to your cooling system, especially when you’re putting a couple hundred more ponies under the hood. Champion Cooling Systems can help you get your cooling system back in check.
Choosing a proper radiator for your build means a lot more than just getting a radiator with the proper hose locations. That’s often the only thing that people consider when they’re choosing a radiator, and Champion tells us that’s only a part of the equation. Radiator tank location, core size, and core thickness are also things to consider, as well as air flow and coolant flow.
There are two types of coolant flow on a radiator: cross flow – from one side to the other; and down flow – from top to bottom. Either of these systems can cool your engine equally, and choosing top/bottom tanks or side tanks is based on fitment, not cooling capabilities. Some vehicles have a taller, narrow opening, while others have a wide opening and can accommodate side tanks.
There is also the core thickness to consider; a two-row is sufficient for lower horsepower engines, up to three-row and four-row for more powerful engines. Each of these is typically a single-pass style, or you can opt for a double-pass style, as found in many LS swaps where the upper and lower hoses are on the same side.
The double pass sends coolant through one section of the core and then it runs through the tank and back through the opposite direction through another section of the core. Double-pass radiators can often do a better job at keep the temperatures down.
Champion also tells us that the ‘bigger is better’ theory isn’t always true when it comes to radiators, because your engine will perform better at operating temperature – the way it was designed and built. Having too much radiator can keep your engine from performing at its peak power, so getting a larger radiator than what you need isn’t always the best choice.
So how do you go about making sure you have the best radiator for your classic hot rod or musclecar? That’s simple: reach out to the people at Champion Cooling Systems and discuss what you have under the hood. Not only do they stock thousands of applications, but much of the work is done right there at their facility, and choosing a radiator is not something you have to do alone.