by Owen Crombie
Almost from the first day that I bought my first Sprite, it has had a tendency to overheat at various times. Solutions over the years have included having the radiator cleaned, reverse flushing the block, fitting an electric fan, fitting a header tank and sealed cap, fitting a hose from the back of the head (heater outlet) to the top tank of the radiator (original temp gauge hole). The temperature gauge in any case is better in the head, after all that’s where the excess heat will do the damage. In other words, the obvious and less expensive options.
With the advent of hotter race motors even all this wasn’t enough.
A later model cross-flow radiator coped better than the old MK 2A unit, but it is fairly difficult to fit because you need different hoses, thermostat housing, the extra cross pipe behind the rack and the later model mounting hardware. The header tank and electric fan naturally remained.
A cheaper alternative was to adapt the radiator from an Austin 1800. This involves a bit of fancy soldering to get the hose inlets to the right size, and some clever work with a hammer to adapt it round the chasses rails, and a few handmade brackets to hold it in place. This worked very well even on very hot race motors. But they are heavy!
Aluminium is the obvious answer. And there it is, the VW Golf radiator. Very light, enough cooling capacity so that you need to blank some of it off, but more difficult to fit because it is big. If you don’t mind cutting a few bits off the car it’s quite easy though.
The latest conversion is the Suzuki Swift manual radiator. It is smaller than any Sprite radiator, weighs very little more than the Golf one and has the outlets in convenient places, although the cross-flow thermostat housing makes the top hose adaptation easier. It’s not hard to whip up some brackets to fit it, and with the electric fan running can keep the race motor cool forever (you can view this on my car).
Of course for all normal situations a new heavy duty core in a standard radiator will do the job, but where’s the challenge in that….?