Quirk's Air Conditioning Installation Project - Continued
As noted earlier, Vintage uses the OEM heater controls, which is very cool. You’ll pull out the switch assembly and replace the fan-switch itself (the new switch in located on the top of the assembly, in the same basic manner as the stock fan-switch. (Reference pictures: ControlSwitch#1 and ControlSwitch#2). Be prepared, getting the switch out (refer to your Falcon manuals) and attaching the new cables and wires is no big deal, but the cables are new and stiff and there must be a dozen wires coming off the assembly, so it’s a wrestling match getting the switch back into the dash (reference picture: SwitchIn). Lying on your back tangling with this, well, if you’ve worked under the dash for any length of time before, you know what I mean, it’s a back-buster. I pulled the ash tray out too, which allows for a little more access. The new switch controls all functions of the A/C system: temperature (heat and cold); fan speed (four speeds); defrost; and air flow between the dash and floor vents. Very clean set-up. The only other control is up under the dash around the fan motor, and its a temperature thermostat that controls when the compressor kicks on and off…I think.
The louver/vents provided are just Ok. Nothing fancy, just black plastic pieces. Vintage offers many other options, including some very cool billet aluminum models, but I was satisfied with the kit units. I did get a chance to see the louvers at a car show while I was researching the systems, so I knew what I was getting. Installing them was straight forward, drill and screw. The duct they provide is bit tricky to install. There is very little room under there, and the duct-routing is a tight fit, but this is to be expected. I did (and still do) have a problem attaching the ducts to the middle vents, and to this day I still need to call vintage to see what the trick is. Defrost and outer vents are no problem. (Reference picture: LouverHose)
(LouverHose and GloveDOA)
This bummed me out a bit. First thing, before you start the evaporator install, is pulling out your cardboard OEM glove compartment. Mine crumbled (reference picture: GloveDOA) and Vintage provides a plastic replacement. The fit is Ok, but not a close fit like I expected. That aside, the issue I have is that it is a very shallow box compared to OEM. But there is simply not room for a larger box, due to the fan and vent hoses behind it. Oh well.
A/C Hose Crimping
Regarding the A/C hoses, the directions simply state (paraphrasing here) “…measure, lube the o-ring and install…then take to a qualified A/C shop for crimping…” I'm no contortionist (I can’t even touch my toes) but you need to be able to get under and around everything to run hoses; under the dash, around the radiator core-support, under the battery tray, through the bulkhead, etc. etc. Feeling very proud about having done all that, imagine the look on my face when my A/C guy said "You know, the hoses have to be OUT OF THE CAR to be crimped." Man, I simply could not believe it. Maybe I shouldn’t expect this much detail from the instructions, but there is no hand-held tool that can crimp on the car - I asked - and the shop boys looked at me like I was from Mars. And they’re right, these high-pressure hose crimpers are mounted on the shop bench, and for good reason, they really have to lean on them when crimping. (Reference picture: Crimp). This was the last stage of the project; crimping, evacuating and charging the system. Dam it, I though I was done, but nooooo, another hour and half under, through and around the beast AGAIN to measure, remove, crimp, and then re-install the hoses at the shop. I remembered to lube the o-rings just like the instructions say (sarcasm again). Lucky for me it was a slow day at the shop, I had the bay all to myself while the good ol’ boys chatted about the events of 9/11.
Speaking of those terrible events of September 11th, you’ll notice the pictures from the later part of the project are dated, and it’s a strange feeling writing and reading this now. Pictures are dated two days before the 11th and another one is dated the 12th. There was a strange sense of guilt working on an old car while this was going on. Trust me, I wasn’t immune, I have a TV in the garage and I was glued to it as was everybody else was. When buried under the dash I had the radio on the AM news stations. Hopefully someday we can read this and the situation will have been taken care of, but as of this writing, were knee-deep in war.
Evacuation and Charging Of the System
The local A/C shop I went to pretty much let me (made me) do all the work like measuring the hoses, marking them where to cut, routing, mounting, etc. They cut the hoses and crimped all the fittings, but I did the final tightening of connections on the car. Either they wanted me to handle it since it was my two-month old project, or they didn’t want anything to do with issues regarding a system failure...hmmm, not sure which. Anyway, once everything is installed (Freakin’ thought the day would never come) she’s hooked up to a machine that evacuates the system, then charges it with refrigerant your system is designed for. I choose the R-134a vs. the old R-12, which is still available, and Vintage will provide a system for either choice. (Reference picture: EvacCharge). The evacuation draw-down takes about 30-40 minutes as I recall. I guess it sucks all the air (and debris?) out, and they can tell if there are leaks. I forgot how long the charging takes, but it’s minimal. Once charged, the technician goes over the entire system with a black light (reference picture: LeakTest), under the hood and under the dash. The black light will pick up any trace of a leak, as they add a bottle of special dye into the refrigerant when the charge the system. Zero leaks for me – dam if I wasn’t expecting leaks, with all the bull**** it took to get this puppy to fit!!
(EvacCharge and LeakTest)
Much thanks to Associated Radiator in Ventura, CA.
Odds and Ends – but Important
Add up ALL the electrical power requirements of your vehicle. You’ll need an additional 23 amps (something like that) to power the Vintage system. This alone may be more power than your stock generator puts out. If you have an upgraded stereo like I do, then there is a serious lack of juice and an upgrade is required. I went with a 62 amp. Alternator conversion, which is a relatively simple project. You can find all the information you need on that subject on the TFFN website, as well as many other sources. Ask me, I’ll help
Minor detail, but the Vintage evaporator/fan/heater box assembly fits so well under the dash that you’ll have an exposed carpet edge, as the OEM unit sat a few inches lower. Passengers won’t notice, owners will.
Running the A/C on a warm day and will tax your two-row radiator, and a very hot day may push it to its limits. I still have the original radiator and its been many years since its been rodded out, but she never got hot day in and day out. I installed a shroud, replaced all hoses, fluids, thermostat, etc., in preparation for A/C. I haven’t run her in 100+ degree temperatures yet, but she probably won’t hold, as on a fairly warm day I can already see a noticeable difference in the reading on the temperature gauge when the A/C is on. I played with 160 and 190 degree thermostats, but I’m sure the two-row has seen better days and its days are probably numbered.
I’m not sure what the deal here is. As long as you have the compressor running (which is automatic when you slide the defrost lever on) the windshield stays crystal clear, but depending on the weather situation (humid/damp) when you first turn on the defrost the windshield and windows fog so bad its simply dangerous. A fellow TFFN’r warned me that he had this problem in his Ranchero, but he is in Texas where it’s humid, but it doesn’t really get humid here in So-Cal, so what the heck?? My guess is that today’s modern cars (as well as our stock Falcons) use fresh air while in defrost mode. Recall you plug the fresh-air hole previously, so being a closed, recirculating system, you have moist air trapped in your car that builds up moisture in the defroster. So when you initially flick the switch, you can sometimes literally see vapor come out of the defrost ducts. When I say dangerous, I mean, more than 10 seconds of completely fogged windows, fogged so bad you QUICKLY open the side window and stick your head out! After that the systems dehumidifies the air (as A/C systems do) and it clears the windows beautifully, but at some point you turn the defrost off or the compressor kicks off automatically, and then when defrost is activated again you have fog again, although very briefly and not a big problem.
Now, as of this writing I have discovered that I had a water leak into the passenger side, which gave me wet carpet by the feet of the front seat passengers. It may be that the moisture from the carpet that creates a constant vapor/moisture/humid situation. Recently when the carpets were fully dry, I drove the car just before a rain storm, as I was when I had experienced fogging issues before, and I did not have the problem. So it may or may not be an issue of recirculation, but the fellow in Texas warned me. Buyer beware.
I think I caught most of the challenges above. Beyond that, the construction and quality of the Vintage components are great. Right out of the box I liked the way it felt, looked and was built. So when these problems first came up I decided I'd go the extra mile to make it fit. It was fun, I learned a ton about my car, A/C and related systems. But I must say the most frustrating thing about the whole deal is that Vintage told me AFTER THE SALE that this kit will NOT fit, that there will be grinding, cutting and modification required. Hell, I got an Email telling me this after I placed the order and prior to delivery, telling me they did not have a kit for a 64 Falcon. The kicker there is that their Email was in response to an Email inquiry I sent Vintage weeks prior to my order, weeks before I had any verbal communication with them. There was NO mention of this during the first FOUR extensive phone calls I made with Vintage prior to the sale, only "...minor modifications and drilling required....we have a 64/65 Falcon kit...it will fit right in" Crap, they guy who made the final sale to me just recently sold his 64 Ranchero, and he went through this install himself. Later, this same guy tells me that he had similar issues - WHAT THE HELL!?!
Now in their defense, old Fords are a pain to engineer around, even without 37 years of owner-made modifications to our cars. Ford engineers made a ton of changes themselves - but in this case Vintage could have and should have communicated this to me BEFORE I bought the system. Understand, we are the original owners, so we know that there have not been any changes under the hood of my Wagon, nothing to cause conflicts like this. I can’t believe that for sake of a sale they didn’t come clean. Its not like this story will be read by many people, however this is simply not good press for Vintage. If the system went in with minimal issues then a story wouldn’t have been warranted, writing it would be no fun, but I am compelled only because of the major hassles. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
Lucky for me I have a close friend who is a R&D manager at a company that designs and sells super-chargers to OEM manufactures such as Toyota, Ford, Lexus, etc. He's the guy that lays out a system on a new model for OEM production, for the manufacturers. Who better to figure out belt paths and mounting design?! So, my buddy and his shop helped me to drastically modify the compressor mount to fit. Without support like this, forget about it.
As of this writing (April, 2002) I've had cold, cold, air blowing for several months, and no problems. Was it worth it? YES! Would I do it again? I'll pass on answering that question, depends on my mood, and since December 01’ the Falcon is no longer a daily-driver, she’s retired from the daily grind again (for the third time). Quite frankly, an under-dash FoMoCo unit would blow plenty of cold air into the cabin, and its clear that a FoMoCo install would be a piece-of-cake. Would one be better suited to pay an A/C shop to install a Vintage kit? YES, absolutely; unless you are inclined to live with a project like this for two months. (Geez, I missed out on the HOT summer months with A/C!)
I can't think of anything else, besides this story has really grown long. Sorry if this seems helter-skelter. Feel free to Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll give ya a hand.
Hope you enjoyed the story.
Shawn in Ventura, CA