Bill Carberry loves old cars, but mostly, Bill Carberry loves old Fords! Around the time that he graduated high school in 1979, he already had two old cars: his first car, a 1954 Chevy and his second car: a 1959 Galaxie. And as any of us old-car-drivers know, you have to have a job fixing cars because you’ll always need parts and money and a place to fix them! Bill went looking for a job and he found one at Cap-A Radiator in Oceanside, NY. He wasn’t looking for a job in the radiator and air conditioning field, but since the owner of the company, Joe Fels, offered him one, he jumped on the opportunity. It was only a couple of years before Joe offered his hard-working employee a much bigger opportunity: ownership. When the chance to buy the Farmingdale, NY Cap-A Radiator franchise came along, it was offered to – and accepted by – Bill Carberry. For decades, the shop specialized in three areas:
Since its inception, The shop in Farmingdale has moved only twice, both times to larger locations a half-mile further east on Route 109. But those certainly weren’t the biggest changes made to the business.
Around the year 2000, while attending the huge semi-annual swap meet in Carlisle, PA, Bill realized that there really weren’t many shops still doing radiator and heater core repairs on vintage vehicles.
During the 1970s, considered the heyday of the cooling system industry, there were radiator shops everywhere. But changes to the industry weeded out more than 90% of the players. Within a couple of decades, there were very few towns that had a place to get a radiator repaired. This didn’t create much of a problem for people with modern cars, as they could easily find new parts to replace a leaking radiator (even if it cost more than they’d hoped to spend). The much larger problem was for owners of classic cars. Nobody was carrying radiators for older cars, as the market simply didn’t justify the expense of building them. And with radiator shops spread much farther apart than they’d ever been before, many classic car owners sought out people who could repair their vintage radiators, heaters and gas tanks.
It was the early days of the Internet and Google was still in its developmental stages, so advertising on the Internet wasn’t going to get the word out to potential customers in need of expert radiator repair work. The best place to advertise was Hemmings Motor News. After all, it covered all kinds of vehicles, was distributed everywhere and was read by nearly everyone in the hobby. Cap-A Radiator took out its first ad in Hemmings and Classic Heaters was born. Heaters? Why not radiators? Well, as Bill said at the time “who is going to spend the money to send their radiator halfway across the country to get it fixed. He soon learned the answer: Many people! The industry had really deteriorated and quite a number of Hemmings readers began calling and asking Bill if he also repairs radiators. In 2003, he bought some website names, ClassicRadiator.com and ClassicHeaters.com, to go along with CapARadiator.com.
With nobody on the staff capable of building those websites, Bill started learning how to do it himself. He also bought the website www.ClassicFordRadiator.com (and eventually several more). This site is where the company makes its Internet sales, and it’s going through a massive change that should be completed in 2022.
The Logical Next Step — Classic Restorations
But there is more to Cap-Radiator than just cooling system, air-conditioning and gas tank repair. Around the same time that the “Classics” lines began to develop, some of the shop’s long-time customers began asking Bill if he could do other repairs to their cars. At that time, the company had acquired a reputation for two decades of quality service and, as we said, Bil loves repairing classic cars. As customers started bringing in their beloved classics to get cooling system and other work done, the classic car repair business began to snowball. Classic car enthusiasts driving down Route 109, a major thoroughfare, began rubbernecking at all the magnificent cars being entrusted to Cap-A Radiator for work, so the word spread and eventually, Bill’s three-bay shop was just too small for his growing customer base.
The Inevitable Expansion
In 2018, after months of negotiations, the company acquired its newest building, located at 994 Fulton Street in Farmingdale, NY. The new shop (still located on Route 109) had so many bays, that Bill chose to rent half of it to the transmission repair business that was already occupying the space. They still had more than double the amount of room that they did at the old shop.
When the company moved into its new digs, it was able to move all of its huge inventory, much of which had been kept in multiple storage units in Farmingdale, onto the shelving units that Carbery and crew built. And there is still room to comfortably work on seven cars — real ones, not the little plastic speedbumps that pass for cars today! Long Islanders with classic cars from the 1920s to the 1970s, but in particular the 1950s to 1975, entrust their prized possessions to Long Island Classic Restorations!
So, why are you reading this story in the Galaxie Gazette? Because Bill Carberry not only still has the 1959 Ford that he bought as his second car ever, but he’s also the President of the Empire Galaxie Club Chapter of the Ford Galaxie Club of America, a position that he holds because of his profound love of Ford Galaxies, as well as all antique cars, but none as much as Galaxies! While he does love his Fords, Carberry isn’t prejudiced against other classic American cars. He is active in the Long Island Car Club Council, an association of classic car clubs that coordinates most of the clubs on the island. Bill also creates and prints the Council’s annual calendar, doing his best to prevent conflicts of major club events every car-show and cruising season. Please go to https://www.longislandcarclubs.org/ if you’d like to learn more.
New Galaxie Radiators
For many years, there was no way to buy a new radiator for most Galaxies and this upset Bill. He was the recipient of many phone calls from people who knew his passion for the cars and also that he was one of the top-rated radiator shops still around. Bill took matters into his own hands and began building his own Galaxie radiators. Made here in America, with cores built in Detroit, tanks and straps in Philadelphia. These special radiators from Classic Radiator are assembled by hand (usually Bill’s) at Cap-A Radiator in New York. Made from copper and brass, just like the originals, Classic Radiator offers 3- and 4-row replacements that cool better, last longer and are significantly more durable than the aluminum radiators that are now coming out of China.
These radiators are drop-in replacements which, unlike many of the Chinese radiators, need no special modifications on the installer’s part, even if upgrading to a four-row. They also offer high-efficiency radiators in both sizes. High efficiency cores were created in the 1980s. Instead of the tube centers being 9/16” apart, they are just 7/16”. This allows for more tubes and more contact between the tubes and the fins, thus creating more heat dissipation and significantly better cooling. Best of all, these all-metal radiators will look almost exactly like the original. However, if you need 100% authenticity for a show car, Bill Carberry can help you there, as well. He keeps new cores for Galaxies (and other cars) in stock, so he can reuse your old tanks and straps to keep your numbers matching! Since each radiator is built to order, owners of manual transmission cars don’t need to purchase a radiator with an automatic transmission cooler that they don’t need!
The Inevitable Expansion Tanks
Over his many years in business, Carberry has repaired many of the old brass expansion tanks but, as puts it “they became less and less repairable over the years.” Without anyone manufacturing them, Carberry stepped up to the plate once again and now there is someone making them – Bill Carberry! He still repairs them and sometimes they are repairable, but Galaxie owners and repair specialists from all over the world buy their brass expansion tanks from Classic Radiators and Heaters.
If you would like to learn more about Bill Carberry’s radiator, air conditioning, gas tank rebuilding and classic car restoration businesses, check out these websites: