In a modest way, RADCHAT intends to showcase the radiator specialists which make up our industry in Australia.
This time, we have "targeted" long time North Queensland radiator identity KIM RYAN.
Kim is believed to be the first radiator shop in NQ to branch out into manufacturing his own brand of radiator product. His is an interesting story that is not over yet.
KIM RYAN - NTH QLD
RADIATOR MANUFACTURING PIONEER
Kim's career in the radiator industry started by chance back in 1978 with a job working as a spray painter at a business called Bundamba Smash Repairs. Bundamba is a suburb in the busy urban corridor almost mid-point between Brisbane and Ipswich. At the time, Kyim was introduced to the late Kevin Bresln (of Valley Radiator Service fame) who operated a small radiator business out of the same premises. Kim was interested in radiator repairs, so Kevin taught him how to recore radiators during his lunch hours. Although born in Darwin, Kim lived in Cairns in sunny North Queensland and decided to get away and tour the country on a working holiday. Bundamba was as far as he got. Kim could see an opportunity for himself in radiators back in Cairns so pulled up stumps, returned to Cairns and opened Ryan's Radiator Service in a small 4 x 7m shed in Maranoa street. Within three months the business outgrew this site and moved to a larger premises at the corner of Spence and Draper street, moving again to an even bigger site at the corner of Spence and Brown street six months later. Kim remained at that location until he sold the business in 1998.
In 1982 Kim decided to branch out into radiator core manufacturing with equipment obtained from England(Tooling & Development) USA (Amtool) and Australia (Baking oven). To aid the manufacturing division Kim established a small tool and die operation and pioneered the art of making recessed headers using adjustable dies. The idea for the adjustable header plate die came from a visit to a Sydney lighting company called Sylvania Osram lights. They had adjustable length dies for the manufacture of fluoro light fixtures that were of varying length. His tool and die shop is still the only one operating in Cairns today. Header plates were exported to New Zealand operators and cores were sold to Adelaide, Darwin and throughout Queensland. Kim reports output of approximately 40-50 cores per day. His biggest early customer was a gent from Adelaide called Gary Washington who visited Cairns with his father Lincoln Washington. Cores were sold unboxed but packed in wire cages with 10 or so pallets trucked to Adelaide, mostly using backload rates by a friend with a semi trailer. Kim reports Gary started his own CT core manufacturing not long after. Along with radiator cores, Kim manufactured oil coolers, A/C evaporators and condensers with his own equipment from his in-house tool and die shop.
Not one to stand still, (he must not have owned a TV) Kim started a sideline of making exact reproduction fuel tanks for De Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft. All tooling and jigs were manufactured in-house. The quality and workmanship was soon recognised and given the small number of Tigers on the Australian aircraft register, a reproduction total of aproximately 40 units speaks for itself.
Kim ceased core production in 1991 selling his equipment to a rapidly expanding K&J radiators based on the Gold Coast. Back then, the emerging availability and threat of complete assemblies and the offer from Kees Weel influenced Kim's decision to sell. As a manufacturer of cores, Kim was one of the original sponsors of the first national radiator conferences held in Alice Springs 30 years ago. In 1998 the business was sold to Peter Heath ex Cairncross Radiators in Brisbane. Peter continues to run the business to this day.
Kim's flying interest started with a pilot's license in 1982. Never one to stand still, and always looking for a new challenge, Kim started an aerial advertising business called Nighthawk Skysigns which operated from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The size of the lighted sign was the same as the one on the side of the famous Holden airship (blimp) currently operating around Australia. Day time banner towing was offered largely in North Queensland. The aircraft was a modified Cessna 172 with a special propellor and super-low stall kit fitted. The aircraft had a Never Exceed speed of 80 knots and a reported stall speed of 30 knots. Kim reports it was a demanding task to hitch up, take off, climb and land. Business suffered in Sydney in 2000 with all local flying banned during the Olympic Games. At $6000 an hour, Kim lost a significant amount of forward bookings and after 911 Kim says most of this type of activity is restricted over densly populated events.
With a return to Cairns in 2001, Kim's career took a different direction with the operation of a charter bus from the Cairns International Airport to a resort hotel. Being unable to purchase a specialised bus for this operation, Kim set about and purpose built a 17 seater bus. This business lasted until 2007, and when visiting Mackay with his family for a sporting weekend, Kim had a chance meeting with Dan Bianchi, owner of Hills Radiators. Dan offered Kim the position of general manager of what is a significant player in the overhaul of heavy industrial mining radiators. Kim again returned to Cairns in 2008 when the business was sold.
These days in Cairns, Kim linked up with Pacific Radiators owner Ken Horwood, who tracked him down after finding him available. Ken was Kim's long time manager at Ryans Radiators back in his manufacturing days before branching out into his current business. Kim assists on the bench and he enjoys the hands on change in pace. A lot of changes have happened in the industry, workshop activities have evolved in the last 30 years, mostly for the beter.
Kim can't stop developing new ideas and improvements throughout life, as his current hobby is a testament to that. A 1997 Proton Satria has been converted by Kim to full electric power. It is an ongoing project and Kim hasn't bought fuel for it in the past two years. With a top speed of about 60kph Kim gets a range of about 60km costing about $1 a day. His average trips around town are about 20 minutes. He imported the electric motor from China and says the enormous torque takes it's toll on the gearbox. He plans to modify the car to direct drive in the near future. (Maybe he likes the lack of cooling system maintenance with electric powered cars)
Kim Ryan has had a colourful career throughout the radiator repair and manufacturing industry. To see an opportunity and develop an idea is a natural for him. Returning from Bundamba to Cairns after abandoning his working holiday proved to be the start of a long and interesting career which, if Kim's past history is anything to go on, isn't over yet!
JJ SMITH RADIATORS
JJ SMITH Radiators was started back in 1938 by Jack (JJ) & Bert Smith and they soon established themselves throughout the Sydney market. In the photo it can be seen 3 delivery vehicles shown in the late fifties. On the left is an FJ panelvan, then an FE and FC utes. Good to see Aussie cars being used at the time, especially when alot of imported makes (English types) were around at the time.
The new local vehicle manufacturing industry at the time were giving the imports a good shake up. This is just the opposite of what is happening today, with the ease of availability of a vast range of imports. How the wheel has gone full circle. Around the early sixties Don Nowland took control and entrenched the business in the marketplace with the business then trading for approximately 50 years. Don was an avid golfer, he loved the game and would not miss a saturday afternoon game for quids. He was the chairman of the ICE group, aswell as the radiator representative of the MTA of NSW. Don was also active with his local church group and gave his time to local charity work.
Don's Nephew Dave Tolhurst arrived on the scene in 1988. Dave's background before this was in spare parts with Mercedes and Honda dealers. These days the business employs 3 repairers and one delivery driver. The busness catchment area could best be described as Inner-West and Eastern suburbs. Dave reports challenging times and like most businesses today, find the reduction in margins on complete assemblies affects the bottom line. Asked his opinion of the quality of the imports, Dave reports a mixed bag. Some have to be avoided or treated with caution, while some new players offer the same quality as the traditional suppliers. Dave sees the lack of a published core price list as a major setback which makes it difficult to price the non-assembly lines, which are the key to clawing back the other lost margins.
Dave's thoughts on industrials - With the cost increases of raw materials, it's almost doubled the price of truck radiators to the end user in the last 5 years. On a positive note, Dave says that the shops that have made the investment are sure to survive, but he's not sure about the future of the fringe dwellers of the repair industry. In the end, those remaining in the industry will probably benefit from their departure. So for a business that has been around for such a long time, they must have been doing something right over the last 80 years. As Dave says, with some current customers going back 40 years, a loyal customer base has been a key factor in the success of his business, and will continue to play an important role for the future of the business.