I need a radiator for my '80 automatic with a slightly modified 355. Typical stuff here. The original is in semi-sad condition and beyond repair but still holds coolant well enough to drive it around town. However, I am only cautiously optimistic that it would be safe to drive too far.
I'm looking at several choices and have a budget to consider with two in college at the moment. Everyone sings DeWitt's praises and they seem to have a very nice product but are out of my immediate price range ($495+ at last check) so I need to consider other possibilities. And please, no insult to DeWitt's is intended here. It is apparently a great company with a great product that I just can't afford at the moment. Of course, every local parts house sells a replacement radiator but the quality is undetermined (plastic tanks are a problem waiting to happen). There are several on eBay that are also to be considered. Champion (from several vendors) has a 3 row aluminum for less than $200. It looks ok other than the inlet is not a curved tube but a spliced section. I don't know if that is a big deal in my case or how it affects the general fit.
I don't need fans, etc. in my locale. I have a warmed-over cruiser that I like to enjoy for Sunday drives in the mountains and other sedate activities. I rarely push it too hard but I found that it will go a lot faster than its 33 year old drive-line and suspension really appreciate (sounds like a "while I'm at it" moment coming up). A factory replacement brass would probably be fine in my car but I want a little extra cooling just to make me feel better about it. I've already changed out the belts, hoses, pump and fan clutch so a new radiator is all that's left.
I need help deciding what to do and I know that my fellow forum members are just full of opinions.
I was in the same fix some time back - needed a radiator but funds were short. I went ahead and purchased a Dewitts anyway but I figure I'll never have to worry about radiator issues ever again so it was worth it. Think it over, the dewitts product is premium!
About 4 years ago I bought a 3 row radiator from radiatorworld.com, it was delivered to my house for $169.99. I put it in my 1981 which has a new crate motor in it and have had no problems at all. My crate motor is a 300Hp motor. Do not know if they are still around.
I have been in the very same position with a lot of things for these Corvette's.
If I can pass on any advice, for what it is worth, save up for a top quality radiator for cooling. Nothing is worse than buying something for a few dollars less and having to take it out again later on down the road.
Why risk the possibility of an expensive tow bill, possibly chipped paint on the fenders and hood from pulling it out of the car, trans oil and coolant everywhere, lengthy discussions with the vendor why there is no warranty...
I better stop as I had just about spent $1,000.00 dollars thinking about it.
If your radiator's side tank(s) and hose connections are still solid, any radiator shop should be able to rebuild it to the same dimensions as you now have. I know that the price of copper has gone up, but a replacement copper core, reassembly and testing should cost anywhere near $500. And, when you get done, it will be just as good as a 'factory'-new radiator and will fit like the original.
There aren't too many 'auto' radiator shops anymore; but there are still shops that fix truck radiators. And a radiator is a radiator. If they can find a core, they can fix it.
Oh, don't tell them it's out of a Corvette; tell them it's out of an old Chevy you are trying to get running again. That IS the truth...and it will keep the price from being doubled!
There are a few things more aggravating, than an over heating or leaking cooling syatem. Not many, but a few. That is one area where I don't have an issue spending a little extra. I have a Dewitts for each of the C3s and one for the Camaro. No issues. However a budget is a budget.
A hundred dollars off does sound inviting though.
Tell ya what, I bought an Ebay radiator, 2 to be exact and I paid 140.00 shipped for my 3 row Tri-Core made in USA radiator for the Vette in October and I bought one previously for my 70 W30 442 in March of last year. The 442 has since logged about 8k miles and even a 2600 mile round trip road trip that was trouble free. Car ran cool as can be even in the Vegas sun with the AC blowing it was under 180. The Vette has logged about 500 miles on the radiator from same place and its logged 4 to 5 hours of garage idle, rev and even an hour running at different revs for a cam break in. Highest I have seen it go was 180 with a 160 thermostat installed.
Have to say, at 140.00, it's the best aluminum radiator I have ever bought. I was turned on to this by a bunch of the Mustang guys as they swear by these. Now, don't get me wrong, use your better judgement on what to buy and what size. I am just giving you my experience as I battled back and forth with which kind for the vette when I got it. Seems when I asked, the majority was "buy this kind from this vendor", or "rebuild your stock one", or "spend a thousand on this set up", or "If you don't do this you suck" type of responses.. Seems no one wanted to hear the part where I said I wanted to spend 150 area for an aluminum. Which is cool, I took all the suggestions in and in the end I went with my gut and my wallet.
I get that on all the forums people follow the popular guys and what they run and have bought and recommend and for the most part I follow that tried and true strategy as well. Especially on my W30 442 since I only run top dollar parts on it. However on radiators, I tried my luck with outside recommendations. The one for my vette fits perfect, almost identical size. Inlet/Outlets are same size and same direction and angle. Even the tranny fitment for early 76 was correct.
As for other brands, I can't comment on there quality. Even this one I would say use your own judgement. If you need more info feel free to PM me and I can pass along the listing or info. Don't want to plug some non supporting vender by throwing there name out in the open as it's not fair to the ones who do support this place. However it doesn't hurt to have options to choose from, and real life experiences from the cheaper brands and I am just giving my .02 from my experience.
I just put in a rad from US Radiator/coolcraft in LA Calif. Great fit looks same as orig except it has 42 rows instead of my original 32, my temps are down to about 190 instead of 210. It was not cheap 600.00 plus shipping, very happy
I replaced my Original radiator in my '78 L-82/4 speed car with a "Modine" replacment, beefy 4 core design about 5 years ago. It fit perfectly and have had no issues at all. Car runs pretty cool even in the summer in FL with the A/C on...I think it cost around $250ish back then...Good Luck.
The decision is going to have to be yours and yours alone. With a family and a budget, you'll make the choice that's best for all involved. Whether you go with the cheapest or most expensive, it could last for a long time or crap out in a few months. You never know. I took the original aluminum out of my '72 back in 1981 or so and replaced it with a brass and copper replacement from a local parts house that was very reasonably priced. That radiator is still doing fine. You do the math and count the years. I kept the original that couldn't be repaired back then. No one in my area would repair aluminum. I recently had it repaired and will be putting it back in this coming spring. (Going to keep the copper one just in case.) Good luck with your decision.
Thanks for all the opinions and stories! I'm weighing all my options at this point and trying to plan for what is coming up with my car. For those of you with good results from your replacement radiators, I would appreciate sources to check out.