The future of cooling in space, in Formula 1 and in the renewable energy world, has created an unlikely $1 billion automotive success story in Queensland.

    It has also provided unique cooling solutions for some of Australia’s fastest cars, on road and track.

    The humble radiator is the foundation for the success of PWR Holdings, which has a global workforce of 550 people split between the Gold Coast, Indianapolis in the USA, and Rugby in Britain.

    It produces tens of thousands of custom-made radiators each year, including some which could be heading into space.

    Every Formula 1 team uses some form of PWR product, although secrecy rules prevent the company confirming even the basic details.

    “We do a lot of bespoke stuff, whether it’s small customers in Queensland who know us and might be doing a restoration, or a bespoke situation for a hypercar. It’s at a vast array of levels,” the chairman of PWR Holdings, Roland Dane, told CarExpert.

    “It’s very difficult to compare it with any other business. It’s a pretty unique business in that it covers everything from aftermarket oil coolers for the transmissions on (Toyota) LandCruisers so they can tow, to aerospace and defence cooling technology.”

    Founded by Kees Weel more than 20 years ago, PWR has boomed in recent years after winning a worldwide following for its ability to produce one-off solutions to complex cooling problems. It’s not just traditional radiators, but also advanced surface cooling devices.

    Success in Formula 1 has helped, so too has victory in Supercars in Australia, but now it’s future technologies which are helping to drive the company.

    “Motorsport is our biggest single area, followed by aerospace and defence. Aftermarket is important, but is the smallest of the divisions,” said Dane.

    “We do F1, Supercars, NASCAR, Le Mans sports cars. There are all sorts of one, two, or three-off projects. We do some Formula E work, we do some Dakar Rally work.”

    Dane will not be drawn on PWR’s work in the defence and aerospace areas and said it’s too early to go into detail about the company’s activities in renewables.

    Still, he is happy to talk about the company’s value and the plan for a new $21 million headquarters and manufacturing base in Queensland.

    “It’s been around $1 billion for over a year. It’s been steady growth except for the hiccup everyone had at the beginning of COVID,” he said.

    The future expansion will double the Australian workforce at PWR and the size of its factory, as well as supporting around 75 jobs during the fit-out of the larger advanced manufacturing facility.

    The plant will even include a staff gymnasium and an in-house restaurant called ‘Weely’s Diner’.

    Much of the technology at PWR is unique and specially developed, including a miniature wind tunnel to check the airflow through and around radiators.

    “We’ve got a CT scanner of the type used in health services, so we can make sure our quality control is at the level of our best customers. We do in-house vacuum brazing,” said Dane.

    “Some of the most valuable resources are intangibles, like the certifications we have here and in the United States.

    “What gives the company its strength is the people and culture, and the innovation. The leadership of Kees Weel over the last 20-plus years has allowed people to innovate.

    Looking to the future, Dane is happy to talk about expanding the workforce – “we’re always recruiting” – but avoids any detail on future success.

    “We don’t give guidance. But we intend to do more of the same,” he said.

    Paul Gover

    Paul Gover is one of the most experienced and respected motoring journalists in Australia. After more than 40 years on the automotive beat there is nothing he has not done, yet he still brings the enthusiasm of a rookie. He has worked in print, digital, radio, television and for every major publisher in the country. He is also a national motor racing champion and once co-drove with Peter Brock at Bathurst.

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