Upgrading A Vintage Air R-12 System

What if you have an early Vintage Air system that still runs R-12? First of all, congratulations on installing a system that has served you so well for over twenty years! We still hear from customers that continue to enjoy their “vintage” Vintage Air systems. But if you need to service the system, it’s time to upgrade.

Many of the original Vintage Air system components may be retained from an R-12 system if they are in good working order. The evaporator unit, controls, and engine brackets may be reused. But the 134a conversion will require upgrades to the condenser (see condenser information in the “Basics” section), replacement fittings and hoses to “barrier type,” a new drier/receiver, and usually a new compressor. Each application
will vary, so please call one of our technicians to discuss your specific project.

Take Responsibility
Regardless of your position on the debate about climate change and ozone layer depletion, the simple fact is the change is now law, and we believe anything we can do to limit pollutants is always a plus. We must also go on record saying ALL refrigerants, including HFC-134a, should be dealt with responsibly, using proper control procedures and recycling machines for each type of refrigerant you handle.

Continuous Improvement
Over almost four decades, we have continuously improved and reinvented our products to better serve our customers’ needs. In 1982 as part of the move to 134a refrigerants, we developed the SuperFlow micro-tube condenser technology to improve the efficiency of our new systems. Heat exchange
was improved by 40% over comparable sized, conventional tube-and-fin condensers.

In the mideighties, we realized that many of the “old cars” we were all building and modifying were starting to become “classic cars,” and were becoming more valuable every day. Owners of these cars were becoming reluctant to cut or damage the original sheet metal on their, now valuable, classics. We knew there was a need for “bolt-in” type air conditioning systems that would not require any (or minimal) cutting, drilling or modifications to these vintage cars and trucks. And so we designed the first of our series of SureFit “bolt-in” climate control systems for the ever popular ‘57 Chevy, and then ‘55-’56 Chevys. Today, the SureFit systems are a major part of our product line, which now covers most muscle cars,
classics and vintage pickups.

In 1999, we completely redesigned our most popular systems using state-of-the-art computer modeling applications to improve their performance and reliability. These new Gen II TM units incorporated unique features such as electronic servo-actuated air doors for enhanced air flow and defroster functions. We used “virtual” modeling and actual wind tunnel testing to improve overall cooling and heating capacity. We also re-engineered our control panels to utilize the new electronic functions of the Gen II systems. Despite being disparaged at the time by some competitors in the
market, our Gen II technology systems have proven to be the largest selling and most trusted climate control systems for over fourteen years!

Our next challenge in 2000 was to engineer a better way to mount and drive all the engine accessory systems such as the alternator, the power steering pump, and of course, the air conditioning compressor. Fitting a modern V8 engine into a vintage vehicle’s small engine compartment has always been a problem. We felt a super-compact drive package was needed. Also, conventional mounting bracket systems available at the time usually attached to the modern V8 engine’s cylinder heads, making modifications like varying deck heights and performance intake systems problematic. And finally, and maybe most important, rotational harmonics from misaligned brackets and pulleys on high performance engines can cause metal fatigue and drive failure in short order. So a stronger design was needed.

From our studies of OEM drives, race car drive-components and our own experience at Bonneville, we created the first high-performance, all-inclusive, block mounted engine drives that we now call the Front Runner Systems. The Front Runners are the most compact mounting packages available
anywhere. We have tested these drives under some of the most grueling punishment we can deliver: thousands of road miles, thousands of autocross laps, and component destruction tests in our R&D facilities. Front Runners were the first, and they’re still the best.

And we never rest. In 2001, we once again started from scratch to design the next evolution (a revolution, actually) of Vintage Air’s climate control systems. These all-new Gen IV Systems incorporate everything we have learned over thirty-six years. We created an entirely new evaporator case with amazing capacity and air flow delivery plus easier mounting in later model cars. We went back to an idea we pioneered many years ago of using separate cooling and heating coils, combined with our advanced electronic controlled air blend doors, to improve performance in the
new Gen IV systems. We even built our own in-house CuproBrazing TM facility to manufacture our coils. To operate the new Gen IV systems, our in-house engineers developed solid-state electronic controls which eliminate all vacuum requirements, all cables, and the conventional capillary tube thermostat. Now the Gen IV system controls can be mounted almost anywhere you want in the vehicle, with only a slim wiring harness to route! On many of our Gen IV SureFit Systems, this technology even allows you to adapt your car’s original dash controls to our fly-by-wire electronics. Owners of these new Gen IV systems tell us that they honestly feel the Gen IV is as good as the climate systems in their OEM late model vehicles.

And there are many other small, almost unnoticeable advancements too. We hold patents for our deceptively simple looking “Electronic Cable Converters” included in many SureFit kits (Page 13). These little devices replicate the mechanical movements of conventional cable levers into an
electronic function which “learns” the “stroke” of a vintage car’s original cables in order to control the Gen IV SureFit systems.

And speaking of SureFit kits, we have continued to add to our expansive line of “bolt-in,” make-and-model specific, climate control systems for vintage cars and trucks. Each one of our SureFit kits is engineered using as many as five or six examples of each make and model vehicle (see below). Most people don’t realize that every car model produced in Detroit has had many small and large design changes throughout its manufacturing cycle. We document and allow for these variances to make each kit as close to “no-cut and no-drill” installations as possible.

Throughout the past thirty-seven years, our products have received many patents and industry awards for technology, and we have pioneered
many important advancements in the mobile air conditioning field. We strive to make updating or adding a modern climate control system for
your special vehicle as simple as possible. Remember, when you choose Vintage Air, you are getting almost four decades of knowledge and experience, plus the skills of over 120 American workers with each system.

Just ask anyone who owns a Vintage Air system. At Vintage Air, Performance Is ALWAYS First!