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Vintage Air A/C Conversion for 1st Gen Rivieras


TexRiv_63

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Beautiful wood. Source?

I think Bill got it from CARS instead of Clark's. (less expensive)

The one bummer about it, was that not one of the pieces fit without some trimming. I'm glad Bill bought it though. It just made sense while all of the pieces were already out of the car.

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All told, I have 50 "billable hours".

That includes cleanup and painting of some parts. Fixing the vent balls. Fixing the glove box door. Probably other "extras" I'm not thinking about.

I am fortunate that I have installed several underdash systems before, as well as installing a factory trunk AC in my 55 Special, so I wasn't intimidated by the theory of installing. I also used to own a 63 Wildcat convertible with Air so I was familiar with some of the oddities of (oh, let's just say...jingle balls).

I also want to thank TexRiv_63 for his spectacular pictures that he sent me early on. This helped a bunch. Thanks Don.

I will be happy to supplement any info through PM's or emails. I am usually a lurker here on the Riv site. I hope y'all enjoyed my blood and sweat. (No tears)

;)

Mike, the install looks great and will cool so well Bill will probably use this as his daily driver. I was very impressed with the glovebox, that was definitely beyond me. Good work!

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Get Don to post some of his pics as well (or I can). If you want to supplement my build with his pics. He clearly was scratching his head more than I was, since I didn't take as many pictures. :D

My head was bleeding back then! I have a lot of pictures and can supply higher resolution if needed, let me know the best way to do it.

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I put the parts list and numbers together from all the recipts I had and BEFORE Mike's labor I had close to $ 2200 in the project.

This may be missing items like antifreeze and tranny fluid but its everything else.

Its also not including a new wood kit that was about $ 150.

If it keeps me cool on the way to South Bend (something my stock system had issues with) I will be a happy camper. I drove 5500 miles to Seattle and back with no A/C and was not looking forward to doing that again.

I will say this is not a project for the feignt of heart, I will tackle most things on my car and maybe could have done this but it would have taken me a much longer time and I know I would not have gotten the glove box door fixed. Well worth having Mike do it.

I also was surprised at how much stuff from the old A/C unit there was. Multiple Big boxes....

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IDLE CURIOSITY: Is that a copper-coloured interior, ie. metallic finish, or just a medium brown? Buick and Corvette both had silver upholstery at about that time, which I love. Copper might be even cooler. Not thermally cooler, as in the rest of this thread, just more stylin'. Lovely wood btw.

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I drove the Riv out to Bill's house last night in stop-n-go traffic. Not terrible rush hour, but enough to give me an idea of how it would cool in the real world.

When I got there, Bill took me for a ride with the AC cranked. Outside temp was around 92 with 75 percent humidity. Remember, this ain't Phoenix. It isn't really a dry heat. The vents were sweating, but we weren't. I was darn near cold, which meant Bill was reasonably comfy...

After dinner, a fine homemade beer, and our business transaction was finished, Bill gave me a copy of the Riview.

What a great magazine! You guys do a great job. I'm thinking of joining the ROA just for the "rag" ;) Seriously.

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What an day, i thought we would be able to take the car for a nice easy drive today. Dee and I climbed in a prepared to enjoy the hard labor Mike put in to keeping us cool.

Worked well for the first 10 minutes or so, then the belts started squealing like Ned Beaty in Deliverance. Back home we came and off came the old belts. A few hour later I had the new belts on.

Then we did go for a longer ride. 39 - 40 degrees coming out of the center vent translates to 80 degrees in the car. Cool enough and beats the 95 degrees and 95 % humidity it was outside.

Tomorrow we try again as we are going to go visit the fabricator who made the center console for me.

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If it keeps me cool on the way to South Bend (something my stock system had issues with) I will be a happy camper. I drove 5500 miles to Seattle and back with no A/C and was not looking forward to doing that again.....

I live in one of the 'warmest' areas of the country; that said, I took my newly aquired 'survivor' for a 60 mile cruise the other day in temps around 100 at highway speeds. The A/C has been gone through by the PO and puts out reasonably cold air. What I found was that the insulation (or lack of) and loose window seals pretty much overcame most of the cold air coming out of the ducts. I kept putting my hands in front of the outlets to get that 'A/C feel'. I've got some work to do to make it more liveable.

Steve

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I have covered the floor and firewall with Dynamat and have the roof rail rubbers to replace as soon as I can get my back window down.

I have replaced the seals between the back window and front.

You are right, it hard to cool a car when it leaks like a sieve.

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  • 7 months later...

I'm bringing this back to the top because I got an email regarding the installation of the interior piece of sheet metal to cover the heater hole.

Remember, the heater hole has a raised lip that can't be covered with metal from the engine side.

If the engine was not in the car and the firewall was going to be painted anyway, I would personally cut the lip off, fill the unnecessary holes, bondo everything, then proceed with normal bodywork to completely remove evidence of the original heater.

Ok,

A) That's just me

B) Nobody is going to reinstall original AC if the VA unit is working.

My reasoning for this is that there are plenty of first generation Rivs that haven't had the alteration, so why go to the trouble of undoing it for judging?

With that said, don't hot rod an Auburn.

Cool?

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  • 8 months later...
  • 7 months later...

Well I purchased the evaporator and control panel this week, so I can finish my interior.  Now to figure out the best way to install on everything in my application.  Im sitting in the office now with my original control panel and the VA one trying to see how I can morph the two together for the best 'original' looking one.

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The unit slides in pretty easy for me.  My concern is where to mount it at.  Using their supplied brackets wont work, Im going to be making my own.  The two at the dash side seem easy enough I can mount them to the dash runners, its the one on the firewall side Im puzzled by.  Im thinking self tapping screw into the base of the cowl, rather then popping a hole in my flat firewall.  Having a lonely bolt in the middle of the firewall would just look weird, sorry if that sounds OCD (it is)

 

Can one of you guys confirm that the cover by the fan/fittings comes off and stays off?  Im assuming thats only for shipping?  The instructions call out removing it but I dont see it being put back on anywhere.

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I left the cover on as I thought it might quiet the noise of the fan.  Picture is without the cover.  Really don't have a good picture of the firewall but I see the bolt you are talking about.  You could paint it black or maybe weld a stud to the firewall.

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  • 11 months later...

Back to the top... For anyone considering making this conversion, it is 90 degrees and 90 % humidity down here in Texas. 

 

We took the Riv out for a long ride after the rain stopped today and I was comfortable and my wife was cold.

 

Thats the kind of A/C I like.

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I have a Gen IV system in my 65 installed by the previous owner, and it seems to work reasonably well. Not much air out of the center vent, but the two barrel vents do pretty good. Only thing that I REALLY want are slide controls; just not fond of the rotary controls. A new set is pretty pricey, though.

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The control panels arent that bad, and are plug an play except for mounting.  If your air from the center vents isnt great I would stick my head under and see how they hooked it up.  The center vent connection is weird because you have to go from a round hole on the AC unit to a rectangular flat vent in the dash and it takes some engineering.  Depending on how he did it something might have popped off

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11 hours ago, alini said:

The control panels arent that bad, and are plug an play except for mounting.  If your air from the center vents isnt great I would stick my head under and see how they hooked it up.  The center vent connection is weird because you have to go from a round hole on the AC unit to a rectangular flat vent in the dash and it takes some engineering.  Depending on how he did it something might have popped off

I pulled it out recently, and the hose was completely off. They had attached it with foil type a/c tape. All I had was duct tape, so I reattached it with it, and it does get air out, just not a lot. It's about the only way to attach a round hose to a square box though. 

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Vintage air makes a duct that goes from oval to flat.   Its flat enough to fit inside the factory rectangle.  With a little engineering you can get it mounted inside and tape it up then.  Give a better flow

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When I did mine I bought a VA dual outlet and removed the duct adapters from the back. I can't remember exactly if I modified anything but they fit the back of the Buick center vent pretty well. I attached the VA pieces with silicone and it worked great. Unfortunately no photos...

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