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Air Conditioning Buyer's Guide - Chill Factor
Stay cool this summer with air conditioning for your classic Ford
As we get into the thick of summer, many classic car owners dread taking their cars out of the garage for a relaxing ride on a Saturday afternoon. We can't say we blame them much. We've driven plenty of early Fords with sticky vinyl seats that soak your shirt to your back in 10 minutes flat. Sure, you have cowl vents and vent windows to stave off some of the humid, stale air, but they only work when you're rolling down the road at a decent clip. What happens when you're stuck at a light or get caught up in some bad traffic? Then you feel that stagnant hot air begin to attack you. It's not a pleasant feeling and we know more people would get out and enjoy their classic Mustangs and Fords if they had "conditioned air" to keep them cool.
Aftermarket air conditioning has certainly come a long way. Many of our "seasoned" readers will remember underdash bolt-in offerings from catalogs like Sears, JCPenney, and others. These knee-knockers, as some enthusiasts jokingly refer to them, did a great job of keeping the front seat passengers cool (at least their upper legs and torso anyway), but you certainly didn't want to be in the rear-facing seat of dad's Country Squire wagon with the windows up driving through Arizona on your way to the Grand Canyon, that's for sure.
It wasn't until the late 1960s that many Fords started having an available option for in-dash, factory-installed air conditioning (most air conditioning up to that point was an over-the-counter dealer add-on). It's hard to imagine such times when just about every new car sold today comes standard with air conditioning and power everything thrown into the base price.
Aftermarket air conditioning has come a long way since then. Even the underdash units that are still available are nothing like those old 1960s units. They have more efficient, multi-pass evaporator units, high-flow condensers and, of course, way more efficient compressors that take less horsepower to turn, and as such are more fuel efficient. So, even if your only installation option is an underdash-style, know that it will certainly do a great job of cooling your classic Ford.
But think outside the box for just a minute here folks. Sure, we're going to show you a whole slew of direct-fit options for classic Fords, including Falcons, T-birds, trucks, and more, but in this day and age of modification and customization, don't think for a minute you're stuck with a stock system's package in your custom interior. Every company we talked to offers different types of vents, duct work, fittings, hoses, and more. Even the main underdash unit can be had from a company's universal or "street rod" line of hardware to better suit a custom dash or firewall setup. Many builders are now using bulkhead fittings and routing heat and A/C lines in the fenders out of view with just a short length of hose between the inner fender and the engine.
Heating and cooling system design is only limited by your imagination and the system's capacity. Want flush-mounted vents that close off completely like new Mustang vents? They've got 'em. Want an all-black vent without the chrome trim for your modern-looking interior, or possibly paintable vents? They have those too. So, without further rambling from yours truly, check out the latest and greatest heating and cooling systems, options, and accessories right here.