Sucker Punch Lead artOne thing leads to another … and in the case of our 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door project car, affectionately known as “Sucker Punch,” every upgrade we made exposed weak links in other areas of the project.

Like when you add a blower and two, 4-barrel carbs, Sucker Punch’s now muscled up small-block needed better cooling. Not to worry, as hurdles like these are the perfect way for any gearhead junkie to get new goodies delivered in the big brown truck.

Customers can either provide a simple line drawing – no CAD needed – and some have sent in a foam or wooden sample as a template               – Eric Saffel, Afco Racing Products

When Sucker Punch needed a cooling upgrade we turned to long-time radiator experts Afco Racing Products, and had to suss out an appropriate upgrade for the old Chevy with its newfound muscle.

Originally, we planned to use an off-the-shelf unit but since we were experiencing clearance problems with the blower snout, idler, and electric fan hub, we turned to the pros at Afco for a solution. It didn’t take long for these battle-worn veterans to determine our best route was to custom-fabricate a unit that would provide a resolution to our upgrade woes.

Why Custom Instead Of An Off-The-Shelf Component?

Afco has a stellar reputation as a leader in cooling system technology, thanks in large part to its comprehensive line of high-quality aluminum radiators and supporting accessories. The cool thing about Afco (pun intended) is that the company can take work with any “template” a customer can come up with. On top of that, the cost isn’t much more than an off-the-shelf unit. In other words, it’s  a custom piece without the custom cost.

Each radiator produced at Afco features skilled fabrication with high-quality fittings and connectors.

Afco guru Eric Saffell elaborates further, “To complement the direct fit radiator program for both street rods and muscle cars, Afco offers a custom radiator program capable of building almost any design imaginable,” he said. “We understand that some applications require a specific build to fit within the space allotted. Some vehicles have pinched noses, chopped grill shells, superchargers, or blowers in the way which requires us to get real creative. We strive to offer a radiator program to meet all needs at an affordable price, even if it’s a custom job.

“Our custom radiators are built in-house at our Indiana facility and are tested and inspected before getting carefully packaged and promptly shipped out, always within two weeks from the date that we finalize the build,” Saffell said. “Customers can either provide a simple line drawing – no CAD needed – and some have sent in a foam or wooden sample as a template. We also have forms that we can email or fax to help ensure we build the radiator right, the first time. Accuracy and cooling efficiency are two of our team goals that our customers appreciate and have come to expect from us. Repeat business is common and very much appreciated at Afco.”

Nice work from expert craftsmen, and it does not cost much more to have it built to your specifications, either.

Customer service and customization is only as good as the materials used and Afco uses quality pieces. They work with domestic cores when they build their radiators, which ensures consistent fitment, good appearance, and outstanding durability. They also use furnace brazing to seal the radiator core to the tanks instead of using epoxy like many lesser-quality radiators. Furnace brazed construction provides for a stronger overall radiator assembly that offers outstanding durability and longevity.

The Details of A Custom Afco Radiator

project-sucker-punch-boosting-edelbrock-cooling-off-afco5

  • Tailor your radiator exactly the way you want with the flexibility to solve clearance and fitment issues.
  • High quality level of craftsmanship and materials
  • Electric fan lets you specify cooling parameters.
  • It comes equipped with internal transmission cooler.
  • Afco offers one-stop shopping with Coolant Combo Kit that includes coolant, recovery tank and billet cap.
Afco also features an optimized fin design and fin-per-inch count. These features help maximize radiator cooling performance in a limited area of space. The skill level of this project is super easy. The car’s owner managed to pull this off in his garage with very little fuss.

It’s one thing to do custom work in a professional garage with a crew that is accustomed to performing this type of work day in and day out, however, it is something completely different in a backyard garage with a regular Joe behind the wrench.

Any Joe (or Jane) with a socket set, adjustable wrench, and flat head screwdrivers can pull it off. As always, having a mallet nearby is always handy, but if a regular mallet doesn’t work, it’s a good idea to have a larger one just in case.

With the myriad of cooling options Afco provides, we carefully measured the under hood area and provided the parameters. Afco returned a custom-built and polished aluminum radiator with built-in transmission fluid cooler, polished aluminum fan shroud, and premium 16-inch electric cooling fan to permanently fix our fitment and cooling issues.

This new radiator should keep Sucker Punch cool, calm, and collected when putting the hammer down.

Putting It All Together

After draining the coolant, we broke the old radiator free and set it aside. Then, we bolted in the new Afco radiator. To cure aforementioned space deficit at the front of the engine compartment, we modified the existing support by adding two welded end-pieces and connected them via a gently vee’d tubular brace. The support is a crucial component. Not only does it “locate” the radiator, it also ties the front fenders together. Our new brace remedy’s clearance issues and helps stiffen up the front structure. We used a 180-degree thermostat as well.

If a bigger mallet doesn't work, build your own solution. Now, all the drive accessories, blower pulley, and radiator live in harmony.

After the unit is bolted in, reconnect upper and lower hoses and clamps and refill with coolant. We used Afco’s Coolant Combo Kit PN 100042, which includes two gallons of Afco high-performance coolant, stainless steel polished recovery tank, and polished billet Afco premium radiator cap.

In all, the install took around one hour to complete and a couple of hours to test-drive Project Sucker Punch’s new cooling system. Kudos to our in-house technicians and the guys at Afco Racing for their awesome expertise, advice, and support.