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Vintage Air SureFit Air Conditioning Kit Installation - 1965 Mustang

8/4/2017
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We’ve got our disassembly behind us and we know the basics of how an air conditioner works, so let’s talk about what we need to do to get a Vintage Air system installed in our Mustang, because it’s HOT… literally. And we want to be COOL. Ha!

It’s interesting to think about air conditioning in cars. Our cars are what get us from place to place, to work, to run errands – they transport our families. Nowadays, air conditioning is a necessity because it helps drivers and passengers stay comfortable. But when you look at classic cars, you seldom find features like air conditioning. Back when these cars were originally purchased, budget came first. Things like what motor, which horsepower option, which transmission, color, etc. took priority. Owners cared more about looking cool and going fast than they did about comfort. And now, 50 years later, the cars are still around but people care about different things. They still want to look cool, but they also want to be comfortable and safe too. The car enthusiasts that once didn’t care about things like air conditioning care now because of the families and the spouses that they take along with them. It’s just one of those features that’s hard to live without, and it’s hard to imagine that people ever did. Kind of like cell phones…

We are in the midst of great technology. Fortunately for us and our classic, non-air conditioned cars, Vintage Air has spent years developing systems for most every specialty vehicle on the road. Like I’ve mentioned before, our ‘specialty’ vehicle is a 1965 Mustang Fastback. It’s one of those cars that looks fast even when parked. The problem however, is with the Fastback’s big back window. It just lets too much sunlight and heat into the car. If the window were smaller, it wouldn’t be as hot in there, BUT you had two choices back in 1965 – either a weak factory-installed air conditioner or a console. You couldn’t get both. But now with Vintage Air’s new Sure Fit system, you can have it all. The developers at Vintage Air even went so far as to re-engineer the controls so the dash could keep its original ‘look.’ The only difference in appearance is when you look under the hood – you’ll notice an A/C compressor that wasn’t there before. Fortunately, new technology allows the Sure Fit system to be smaller AND more efficient than factory air, yet still looks like a factory air option!

There are a ton of steps in getting a system installed – fortunately Vintage Air has already done a lot of the legwork to make sure everything works together like it should. They’ve definitely done their homework – and have even produced easy ‘step by step’ instructions with photos for their end users. Their kit not only comes with the parts you need, but also enough hoses to plumb the car and templates you can use to cut necessary holes under the hood, etc. An important thing to do before you start any of the reassembly is to plan ahead. You should detail it like it came straight from the factory – and plan where you want everything to go. Like my dad said, ‘it’s like putting five pounds of ‘peanuts’ in a one pound bag – it’s crowded under there. But it does fit – and you’ll be rewarded with four extra pounds of enjoyment.’

Let’s go back to the ‘detailing’ part. If you’re going to spend the money to install a new system under the hood, why not make it look fancy? Since parts had to be removed, replaced, or repositioned anyway, my dad decided to send a few parts off to be powder coated to help with the aesthetic appeal. The alternator, alternator bracket, and adjuster bracket were all original Ford parts from 1965, so they were OLD. Powder coating helped bring a new life to those parts that were still working fine but didn’t look the best. It was almost like a face lift… but for engine accessories. The compressor bracket and power steering bracket – both new parts from Vintage Air – were also powder coated to match everything else. Keep in mind, though, powder coating the parts makes for a tighter fit, so you may need to remount the bolt holes like we had to do.

Although you’re able to use some of your original parts, some adjustments will need to be made. For instance, the alignment and function of the original pulleys and belts was a concern. You want the belts to line up and work with the new system, so you have to find the correct pulley that will run it – and one that will run everything. Like I mentioned in the first article, the original pulley we had was only a single groove because it only ran the alternator. With the new system, this wasn’t going to work so we had to find a new, double-grooved pulley – one that would run both the existing parts and the new air conditioning system.

We also had to use a new power steering pump, as the original 1965 power steering pump wasn’t compatible with the whole Vintage Air system. The original would’ve been in the way of the new compressor, so Vintage Air made a new bracket to mount it beside and underneath the air conditioner – which made it easy to get to when putting in power steering fluid. My favorite car guy (my dad) told me this was a nice feature because he could alter/modify the power steering pressure by modifying the pulley diameter and high pressure valve. Here we go with the physics again, I tell ya…

Side note: When working with this new system, make sure to leave all ports sealed so no moisture or humidity can get in. If you loosen any caps, make it short. Moisture in the system = Baaaaad.

At some point of the installation, the new controls need to be wired. It can be before, during, or after all of the work under the hood is done – it really doesn’t matter. All of the new Vintage Air controls are electric - the switches tell the system when to kick on and when to switch between hot, cold and defrost.

We’ve already discussed how cold air works in the system, but what about heat? Heat is made because of the hot water in the system, so when you’re using the air conditioner you obviously don’t want the hot water to be run. The temperature control valve shuts on and off and helps keep the hot water out when you don’t want the heat to be run.

The air conditioning in this system runs on 134A Freon and is under extremely high pressure at all times. Vintage Air supplies all the necessary fittings to make sure everything is put together like it should be. Hose clamps work fine, BUT we decided that a crimped fitting on our project would work and look better. However, a special tool is required to create a 360 degree seal, so we had to reach out to a local guy to help us finish that because we didn’t have the necessary resources to do so.

It’s a little scary when you have to modify something in order to do something else, especially when there’s nothing wrong with the component in the first place. In our case, the center console – perfect condition, so a little heartbreaking to change at all! But like I mentioned above, back in 1965 you could either order Mustang Fastbacks with a center console OR factory air, but not both. Fortunately in 2017, we’re able to have both at the same time BUT that’s only the case if the console is trimmed up a bit because there’s just not enough room. Because of the size of the heat/air box under the dash, a slight notch had to be cut into the console. Vintage Air realized this modification needed to be made in that model of car, so also supplied us with the cut-out pattern that we could use to make the necessary trim – along with the formed plastic insert for the console. The original OEM glove compartment was also a tad too big for all of the new components to fit, so Vintage Air also supplied us with a new plastic box which fit the same, it just wasn’t as deep as the previous box.

So! There are obviously a lot of steps when installing a new air conditioning system in a classic car but let me remind you - pre-planning the routes for the heating and air lines is VERY important. You should expect to do repairs and maintenance on the motor in the future – after all, it IS an old car! Something is bound to happen at some point or another! In planning, you should also consider your ability to get to everything under the hood, as well as making adequate room so the exhaust header will not harm any of the new components.

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