Environmental Impact

Climate Control for ’60s Chevys

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography by Jason Scudellari

Today you’d be hard-pressed to find a new car without air conditioning, but in 1962 that wasn’t the case. That year a new Chevy Impala two-door hardtop sport coupe had a factory price of around $2,800, and adding DeLuxe air conditioning bumped the tab by over $360—that’s roughly 13 percent of the base price. As a result, lots of Chevy shoppers back then decided to tough it out and forgo the A/C and cope with hot days by rolling the windows down and turning the windwings out. Of course, all that did was funnel hot air into the passenger compartment, along with the occasional flying insect.

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002 Vintage Air’s complete SureFit kit 1962 chevy vintage air
Vintage Air’s complete SureFit kits for ’61-62 Chevrolet Impalas use Gen IV technology with fly-by-wire electronic servo motors to operate the doors that direct airflow. The system is controlled by a sophisticated ECM mounted to the housing.

As far back as 1976, Vintage Air has been supplying universal aftermarket A/C systems to make it easy for enthusiasts to keep their early cars and trucks cool. Since then, Vintage Air has continued to incorporate the latest technology in their product line. As an example, at one time OEM and aftermarket climate-control systems used cables or vacuum motors to control the doors that directed airflow in the evaporator case—both systems had limitations due to the limited movement of those doors. Vintage Air’s Gen II and IV systems use fully electronic microprocessor-controlled servo motors to control the operation of those doors, which allows them to travel further. The results are dramatic gains in airflow, superior defrost performance, and true bi-level operation in both heat and A/C modes. Today that technology has been combined with Vintage Air’s SureFit vehicle specific kits that are complete, bolt-in climate-control systems that require no significant modifications to the car (some holes may have to be drilled).

003 Vintage Air’s patented electronic cable converters 1962 chevy vintage air
Vintage Air’s patented electronic cable converters included in the kit change mechanical movement of the original controls into an electronic signal.

Available for a wide variety of cars and trucks, the SureFit system shown here is for ’61-62 Chevrolet Impalas without factory air (PN 561062). For cars with factory air, Vintage Air offers systems (PN 964062) that use the factory A/C outlets. As with all SureFit systems full OEM-style operations include infinite air temperature blending, infinite blower fan speed adjustment, and high-volume dehumidified defrost mode.

While Vintage Air has made installing a contemporary climate-control system as simple as possible, there are a few additional considerations that will ensure it operates at peak efficiency:

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004 the control panel retains the look of the original 1962 chevy vintage air
After modification, the control panel retains the look of the original while operating all the features of the new Vintage Air system.

Insulation/Weatherstripping

In operation, an A/C system takes in air from a confined area, pushes it across a coil in the underdash evaporator where the heat is absorbed and the humidity converted to water droplets that drain to the outside. Cooled air is then pushed out through the vents onto the occupants while the heat is carried to the condenser in front of the radiator. It stands to reason that minimizing any additional heat source will make the A/C system more effective so it’s important to insulate the firewall, floor, doors, roof, and make sure all the weatherstrips are in good condition; tinted windows will also help.

005 the stock glovebox was removed 1962 chevy vintage air
To begin the evaporator installation the stock glovebox was removed. It will be replaced by a new, smaller version that comes in the kit.

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Electrical System Requirements
Our Vintage Air SureFit system requires a constant 12V source and a dash light feed. While that is simple to install, the sophisticated electronics require a stable power source and good grounds to eliminate the possibility of any electrical feedback that may cause erratic operation. An alternator is also a necessity as the original generator will not provide enough amperage to support the system.

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Receiver/Drier Installation

The Receiver/Drier filters the refrigerant, separates vapor from liquid refrigerant, and removes moisture. It has an arrow indicating the direction of refrigerant flow and must be oriented within 30 degrees of vertical and mounted where it will be exposed to cool air, if possible.

006 This is the stock heater plenum it is removed 1962 chevy vintage air
This is the stock heater plenum; it is removed along with the original defroster duct—they will be replaced with new components. The radio and speaker are also removed but will be replaced.

Heater Control Valve Orientation

Installing the heater control valve incorrectly allows hot water to circulate through the heater core warming the air that the A/C is trying to cool. Most water pump heater hose outlets are on the low-pressure (suction) side of the pump. The intake manifold outlet is the high-pressure side of the system. As water pressure in the hose helps the valve seal, if they are installed backward, or in the wrong hose, they will not shut off completely and some hot water will continue to flow.

Always Install a Compressor Safety Switch

There are two types of safety switches: Binary switches protect the system from excessively high (406 psi) or low (30 psi) pressure; trinary switches provide the same high and low protection, plus an electric fan engagement signal at 254 psi (on high pressure side).

007 the original blower motor assembly is removed 1962 chevy vintage air
From the engine side of the firewall the original blower motor assembly is removed.

Proper Evacuating and Charging

Leaving air and water in the system will reduce the efficiency of an A/C system dramatically. Evacuating the system with a vacuum pump for 45 to 60 minutes removes air from the system while the vacuum lowers the boiling point of water, so any moisture in the system boils away. To accurately determine if an A/C system is charged properly, dedicated gauges that show low and high side pressures are required. A general rule of thumb is high side pressure is two times ambient temperature plus 15 to 20 percent. An overcharged system (too much refrigerant or oil) results in higher system operating pressures and poor performance. An undercharged system will show lower operating pressures and poor performance as well.

008 The new evaporator case has a pair of brackets that attach to the firewall 1962 chevy vintage air
The new evaporator case has a pair of brackets that attach to the firewall.

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Adding Oil to the Compressor

New Sanden Compressors from Vintage Air come with the proper amount of oil, so an additional amount isn’t necessary. Adding more oil can result in excessive system pressure, which results in poor system performance. If you are using an OEM compressor in your system, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on oil capacity.

009 This large bracket attaches to the evaporator 1962 chevy vintage air
This large bracket attaches to the evaporator to the lower edge of the dashboard. The rectangular hole (arrow) provides access to the unit’s electrical connections.

Follow the Instructions

We’ve all heard this one: Before you begin installation, read all the instructions, warnings, labels, and any other printed material included. Then, familiarize yourself with all the components before you start. If you still have questions, get them answered before proceeding. The Vintage Air tech guys would rather prevent a problem than cure one.

Installing a Vintage Air SureFit system is a great way to get all the benefits of a contemporary climate-control system in your classic Chevy without making major modifications to the car. Think of it as a personal environmental impact statement.

010 The supplied firewall cover plugs the hole for the original heater 1962 chevy vintage air
The supplied firewall cover plugs the hole for the original heater and provides mounting points for the evaporator case and holes for wiring, A/C, and heater hoses.
011 a spacer is used on the rear evaporator bracket 1962 chevy vintage air
For proper placement, a spacer is used on the rear evaporator bracket. It may be necessary to remove the factory insulation retainers if they interfere with the Vintage Air mounting brackets.
012 The included press tape is used to insulate the suction line 1962 chevy vintage air
The included press tape is used to insulate the #10 suction line to prevent condensation. The expansion valve is insulated protecting it from ambient temperature as it senses the temperature of the refrigerant in the return line and regulates flow.
013 When installing the evaporator case it should be level and square 1962 chevy vintage air
When installing the evaporator case, it should be level and square to the dashboard so any moisture accumulating in the case will drain properly.
014 A hole is drilled in the base of the firewall for the drain hose 1962 chevy vintage air
A hole is drilled in the base of the firewall for the drain hose that comes from the bottom of the evaporator case.
015 When installing duct hose stretch it as tight to make it as smooth as possible 1962 chevy vintage air
When installing duct hose, stretch it as tight to make it as smooth as possible, then measure, mark, and cut it to the appropriate lengths. Keep in mind bends and kinks are obstructions to airflow; when bends are necessary, make them as smooth and gentle as possible and support the hoses, if necessary, to prevent “drooping.”
016 kit included driver side and passenger side louvered outlets 1962 chevy vintage air
Our ’61-62 Impala non-original A/C kit included driver side and center/passenger side louvered outlets. Kits for factory A/C cars use the original outlets.
017 Connecting the engine compartement fittings 1962 chevy vintage air
The engine compartment connections are: 5/8 intake heater line, #10 A/C suction hose, #6 evaporator high-pressure liquid line, and 5/8 heater return line.
018 condenser should be mounted with the tanks vertical and the tubes horizontal 1962 chevy vintage air
Vintage Air’s parallel-flow condenser should be mounted with the tanks vertical and the tubes horizontal. The larger #8 discharge fitting from the compressor should be on top and the smaller #6 liquid line fitting will be on the bottom (this one is viewed from the engine side).
019 Included in the SureFit kit are pre bent drier and condenser hardlines 1962 chevy vintage air
Included in the SureFit kit are pre-bent drier and condenser hardlines and the required hose for the specified 134a refrigerant.
021 control valve is directional and must be correctly oriented in the high pressure heater hose 1962 chevy vintage air
The Vintage Air heater control valve is directional and must be correctly oriented in the high-pressure heater hose (an arrow on the housing indicates the direction of water flow).
020 the O rings must be lubricated with compressor oil and overtightening the fittings must be avoided 1962 chevy vintage air
When installing A/C fittings the O-rings must be lubricated with compressor oil and overtightening the fittings must be avoided. Be sure to always use a backup wrench on the mating fitting.
022 The heater control valve is installed with the servo motor facing down 1962 chevy vintage air
The heater control valve is installed with the servo motor facing down. It is controlled by the ECM on the evaporator case.
023 Vintage Air systems come with a binary pressure safety switch 1962 chevy vintage air
Vintage Air systems come with a binary pressure safety switch. A trinary switch with an electric fan operation signal is available as an option.
024 To ensure proper airflow through the condenser install the most effective fan possible 1962 chevy vintage air
If your car has overheating problems, it won’t get better with A/C. To ensure proper airflow through the condenser, install the most effective fan possible (mechanical or electric) with a shroud and position the condenser ½ to ¾ inch in front of the radiator.

Source
Vintage Air
(800) 862-6658
vintageair.com

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