Gunners Garage

Oregon’s Radiator Supply House does it all

 

Mitch Garrett of Radiator Supply House () in Sweet Home, Ore., can restore a radiator for a compact car or a semi truck. “I’ve been doing radiators since 1976.” Barrett said during the American Truck Historical Society’s () 2017 convention in Des Moines, Iowa. He owned a heavy equipment industrial radiator shop in Medford, Ore. “I realized we could do more; I always had ideas so I started RSH as a nationwide warehouse.”

Business took off. “We always custom manufactured radiators,” Garrett explained. “And now that radiator fabrication for old cars and trucks has turned into a large, growing business, my older son Will started Ice Box Performance as the performance side of our business. Some people want the older radiators restored and some don’t have an older radiator, but they have a vehicle, so we manufacture one for them. Some people are putting turbo diesels in semis and want to get a radiator. We build one that fits into the factory location.”

A man had a 1929 Packard. “He wants his radiator restored to original and that we can do. It depends on the customer. They have their rigs and some are stock and some are modified. We match what they have and build them radiators. Restoring radiators back to original is also something we do. We go to lots of old-car swap meets to buy up all the antique radiators. We went to the Portland Swap Meet and picked up 61 radiators. I remember some really cool ones from different antique cars—Essex, Oakland and Packard.”

Garrett said antique car radiators are different from pressurized radiators. “Pressurized types didn’t show up until about 1950,” he said. “ And then they went to a 4-lb. radiator cap, which wasn’t really a lot of pressure.  Then they went to a 7-lb. cap in about 1955. In about 1963 or 1964, they went to a 12-lb. cap. But pressure works against the seams and joints in a radiator. With more pressure and vibration they’re going to come apart quicker.”

Garrett said automakers run 16-lb. caps today. “Then they can go to a smaller top tank and plastic,” he noted. “The old ones with no pressure last longer and are restorable, but if you have radiators with old cell type cores—diamond cell, hexagon cell, octagon cell, square cell and cellular—they don’t make them in the United States anymore. They do in England, but they’re expensive. The core for the Packard was $3,000. That’s just to get it in our shop before we take it apart, restore the pieces and rebuild it. That’s another $1,000.”

Garrett said that his 40-person staff can do radiators in vintage style or “anything else.” RSH builds radiators that are 9 ft. tall and 18 ft. wide. “We build radiators for motorcycles and everything in between,” Garrett said. “Six employees work on the layout bench and they do all the custom stuff.”

A man needed a radiator for a ‘37 Diamond T. “We’ll build him an aluminum unit,” Garrett explained. “It’ll be polished aluminum and fit in the original location, It will have all the cooling power he needs and work with his modern turbo diesel. One side will be a diesel for the turbo cooler; one side will be the radiator. It’ll fit in the factory location. It cleans up the rig and makes it look nicer than putting it under the cab and trying to vent the turbo. It’ll look sanitary.”


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