Of all the accessories ever added to an automobile, air conditioning may be the best. Anyone who has ever gone cross country during the summer in a car without it will no doubt agree. Traveling while feeling like you could fry an egg on your forehead takes the fun out of any trip. Today virtually every new car is equipped with an effective heating system and A/C, and thanks to Vintage Air many street rods are too, including the 2014 AMSOIL/Street Rodder Road Tour '59 Chevy.
To keep our Impala the right temperature at all times we installed a Vintage Air SureFit system with Gen II technology for '59 and '60 Chevrolets (PN 961056). Not only does this unit have the ability to heat and cool the apartment-size passenger compartment of our Road Tour car, no modifications to the dashboard are required to install it.
Vintage Air's new Gen II Technology adds a long list of features to aftermarket air conditioning previously found only on modern OEM systems. Thanks to the elimination of cable controls and the integration of electronic servos there are dramatic gains in efficiency. The butterfly doors that direct both warm and cool air can travel farther and seal better thanks to electronic operation. The new controls also provide superior defrost performance and true bi-Level operation in both heat and A/C modes.
In addition to the elimination of cables, improved coil technology and a CAD-designed case provides greater cooling/heating capacity and a more efficient air mixing chamber in the smallest possible package. Another new feature is the servomotor-operated heater control valve, which provides temperature blending in all modes of operation.
In addition to all the other advantages of the Vintage Air SureFit system are the really cool (no pun intended) cable converters that allow the original controls to operate the new system. Basically the converters do what their name implies, they convert the mechanical movement of the levers to an electrical signal that operates the servos. Calibration is easy enough—set the maximum travel, then the minimum travel and the system figures out what to do in-between.
To mount the compressor on the LS1 powerhouse we chose a Vintage Air FrontRunner system.
This totally engineered package solves the most critical shortcomings of conventional aftermarket accessory brackets, such as premature belt failures caused by mechanical tensioning, excessive belt length runs, awkward component placement, and cylinder head mount-bolt variations.
As Vintage Air explains it, “The FrontRunner spring tensioner provides continuous SAE-spec static and dynamic belt tensioning and the block-mounted design allows any deck height/cylinder head combination as it uses no head or intake mounting bolts like conventional brackets.”
Due to the truss-architecture design that is CNC machined from T-6061 billet aluminum the FrontRunner is extremely rigid. Pulley sizes are engineered and matched for optimum component speeds and the system is available in machined or gray anodized finish and the precision-machined hard-coated aluminum pulleys reduce weight and wear like steel.
Engineered to clear most GM and aftermarket tuned port fuel-injection systems the FrontRunner fits into extremely tight chassis configurations.
During its travels the Road Tour often encounters brutal cold and blistering heat, but inside the AMSOIL/Street Rodder '59 Chevy we'll never know the difference, as we can battle whatever Mother Nature sends our way with the flip of a switch.
Hanging on the front of the 427-inch LS1 built by Ron Shaver Racing Engines is a Vintage Air FrontRunner drive system. It's clean and compact and mounts the A/C compressor, alternator, and power steering pump driving them all with a serpentine belt.
1. Hot Rods by Dean installed a Vintage Air SureFit heater and A/C system for '59-60 Chevrolet in our Impala. The system provides everything needed, even a new glovebox.
2. One of the advancements provided by Gen IV technology are electronic stepper motors that control operation of the butterfly doors, which direct airflow.
3. The Vintage Air unit tucks behind the dashboard. To simplify installations mock-up cases are available for many of the systems offered.
4. HRBD mounted the electrical relays for the Vintage Air system behind the passenger kick panel (not yet installed).
5. With the Vintage Air unit mounted the heater and A/C hoses were routed out the kick panel through the duct for the original fan motor. The hose on the bottom of the evaporator case drains any condensation that accumulates.
6. On the firewall side the hoses come through the supplied block-off plate—they run between the wheel house and fender and connect to the compressor for the A/C and engine for the heater.
7. The A/C compressor used with the FrontRunner system has unique fittings that make it extremely compact. Note the service ports in the hoses.
8. These things are Vintage Air's patented cable converters—they change the stock cable controls to electronic operation.
9. This is the original '59 Chevy heater cable control. It's been disassembled and cleaned.
10. Here the stock levers have been reinstalled in the housing and one of the converters has been attached.
11. The movable link from the cable converters attach to pins on the factory levers and are retained by spring clips. Operating the stock levers move the links in and out of the converters. The result is an electrical signal is sent to the servo(s) that operate the butterfly doors in the evaporator housing that direct airflow.
12. With the Painless Performance Products wiring harness, heat, and A/C ducts and wiring for the stereo there's a lot going on under the dash.
13. Once the converters are attached and the control is put back in place it's a simple matter of plugging in the wiring harness from the SureFit heat and A/C unit.
14. The converted controls look like they came from the factory, but the system they operate is far better than what was available in 1959.
15. Vintage Air's SureFit system installs without any modifications to the dash. Note the aluminum trim that looks better than new thanks to Sherm's Custom Chrome Plating.