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Dealer Air meets Vintage Air in a 1946 Ford

2/7/2017
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A hot car is no fun. In fact, they can be down-right miserable. That’s the point I was at with Elmer by the time we got home from our California trip. The add-on A/C that my Dad had installed years ago, affectionately referred to in those days as “Dealer Air” had given up the ghost. It was nearly 35 years old and was originally designed to work with R12 refrigerant.

When I converted it to work with R134A refrigerant, it didn’t go quietly. I encountered leaks, erratic performance and in the end, I gave up chasing ghosts in the machine. All of this drama played out during our two week road trip to and from California in 2014.

Through the 2015 show and rod run season we used the delivery very seldom. Driving a stuffy, velour-interior vehicle on 105 degree day is not appealing by any stretch of the imagination. Consequently, it sat idle for the majority of the year until it cooled off in the fall. That’s when I started looking for a solution.

Which, for me, on the Delivery, all comes back to not modifying it too far from what it was in it’s 80’s heyday. I want to pay tribute to the history but within reason. Plus a non-drivable street rod is not something I believe in. Nor would my dad, Ron, have wanted it that way.

The closest thing I could find in looks to what it had was an emerging Vintage Air product that replicated the add-on A/C units of the mid 60’s used in Mustang and the like. I even figured out that I could paint the evaporator unit grey like the one I had been looking at since I was 5. Cool.

After some discussion with the great folks at Vintage Air, George and Rick had figured out the components that I’d need to build a complete solution. Much like we already do here at Speedway motors with our exclusive 725-1000, 725-2000 & 725-3000 Gen II kits. Ever the guinea pig, I ordered all the parts that would come in the kit I’d eventually come to build as our exclusive Speedway offering. There was one small deviation in the parts that I bought, versus what we currently offer in our kit. Sharp eyes will have already picked it out.

I wanted to retain my stock, art-deco Harrison heater so I ordered my evaporator unit with A/C only. For simplicity, versatility and all-around universal appeal, all Heritage kits from Speedway include both Heat and Air.

I started my odyssey with the expectation of spending a full weekend. As it turned out, it took far longer for me to remove the old system than it did to complete the Vintage Air install. A very pleasant surprise indeed.

The components included are as follows: Evaporator Unit (Your choice of face plate style)

  • Vertical Condenser Unit (Kits available with Horizontal, Vertical or minus condenser)
  • Sanden 508 Compressor (oil pre-charged)
  • Line kit with fittings, binary switch, drier and firewall bulkheads (I didn’t use)
  • Mounting kit for evaporator
  • Drain Line kit for evaporator
  • Detailed Instruction Booklet

I wanted my system to look as much like the original setup as possible, so I opted to paint the under-dash box to match the monochromatic theme that was begun in the 1982 redo. This also gave me the chance to address some overspray issues from a careless dash repaint by a previous owner. Again, aluminum foil to the rescue. I got to paint it twice because I forgot which grey paint was correct. The second masking went even better. Because practice makes perfect!

While the paint dried, I set to removing the old stuff. It was already empty with nothing to reclaim, so there’s a plus. The condenser that my Dad used, God bless him, was about 8” wider than it needed to be and was going to be near impossible to remove through the hole left by removing the radiator/latch pan. Note I said near-impossible. Turns out, I’m good at bending, cutting & breaking stuff.

Yes, that took me 3 hours.

At any rate, once I got all the old stuff out, I was eternally grateful for the simple and straightforward mounting hardware and universal brackets supplied with the new components. Once I had all the major parts mounted, I ran the lines and fittings I wanted to use, where I wanted to use them.

I needed to make sure I got to the A/C service shop before 3 so they could crimp my fittings. That goal was hit easily as the line kit was nearly perfect as it was. I think I trimmed a sum total of about 1 foot.

Some of the fittings needed to be clocked specifically so I taped them around the outside in position and they were able to crimp them right where they were.

All the original unions were clamped, not ideal on high-pressure lines

Once the lines were finished and re-installed permanently, I wired in the rest of the remaining bits to be done and set the system on the vacuum pump for an hour or so to draw out any moisture and to ensure everything had made a good seal. The system was charged to specifications and is still working fantastic almost a year later!

This step should be done by a certified, licensed tech or shop.
Works like new, looks like old. Cool!

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