Quirk's Air Conditioning Installation Project
(Shawn Quirk's 1964 Wagon -
the recipient of this AC kit)
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Here’s a bit more
than My Two Cents Worth about my installation of an Vintage Air “Sure-Fit”
Air Conditioning system into my Falcon, but here it is; maybe it will help
someone with their A/C installation, maybe it will help someone fall sleep
We have a 1964 Ford Falcon, four door Station Wagon. While I'm not a
pro-mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, I've done every repair on my
Bird for the past 10 years and I felt I was competent enough to tackle this
job. Turns out I was right, but the install could not be completed without
the support and help from a long time friend, whom happens to be more than a
professional wrench. I’m not a writer either, technical or otherwise, or a
photographer for that matter, so don’t expect too much from this piece other
than hearing my story, reading and seeing some facts, and taking my opinions
for what they are worth. Depending on the application used to look at the
pictures, you may have to zoom in or out, but you can see things pretty
well, they are relatively high resolution (and quite large files).
off, I don't want to unfairly dog Vintage Air and their “Sure Fit” system,
so please consider that my Bird’ is a 37 year old car - a 37 year old Ford
no less - so it would be very difficult, I’d say impossible, for anybody to
design a ‘Drop In’ system that would truly drop in without much of a
hassle. Consider too, that this system in fully integrated, its not just a
box under the dash, i.e., along with under-dash louvers it runs defroster
air through the system (thereby dehumidifying the air, which is good for
defrosting efficiency), incorporates your heating mechanisms (heater core,
plenum box, etc.) and the fan blows through all these systems and all are
controlled by your OEM dash levers. Kind of a complex system until you get
familiar with it, but Vintage has a great product; the components are equal
to or better than I expected and the system does exactly what it was
designed to do – bold cold air. And considering that this unit was designed
for a Ranchero, it does a great job blowing lots of cold air into
this four door Wagon. There is a lot of air space to cool in this wagon,
and it cools it well. Heck, I’d swap the highest-speed fan setting for one
more slower speed.
On with the story
You Finally ‘Need’ Air Conditioning
One summer too many I told myself, one summer too many of being hot with minimal
ventilation to cool me down in the Wagon. You have the same routine; get
off work, open all four windows, open the vent windows (‘wind-wings’) all
the way to force as much outside air into your 130 degree interior, an
interior with vinyl seats no less. I’d lived with it for years (as my
parents had for the first 27 years) because here in Ventura, CA, it never
gets much warmer than maybe 85 degrees, and worst case that’s only once or
twice a summer. But when my daily commute brought me to
Simi Valley, CA, dealing with 100+ degree summer days everyday was when I started
my search for an A/C system.
Which Air Conditioning System?
are several systems to choose from for our Falcons. I had paperwork and
quotes from Vintage Air and Classic Air from several years ago, but the
Internet has opened up any opportunities and allows for a in-depth research
with little hassle. I’m not going to spend much time detailing the
selection process, but as far as I know we have three basic designs to
The ‘stock’ Ford
system. This system came with our Fords (Mustangs, Falcons, etc.) in the
60s, or was installed by a dealer as far as I know. There are companies
that rebuild these original systems, keeping everything stock.
The ‘Daily Driver’
system. This resembles a Ford unit as it is mounted under the dash as
well, but build with modern, efficient components. The under-hood
components are all modern and efficient (less draw on engine power, i.e.
better gas mileage). The evaporator/fan box mounted under the
reasonably like a Ford unit, but not really.
- The aforementioned ‘integrated’ system.
my investigation process, I got very good information about Classic Air (a
company out of Florida, I believe) positive feedback about their product as well as their
customer service and support. I narrowed it down to Classic Air’s re-built
Ford unit or the Vintage Air system. I was familiar with the Ford hardware
as I’ve seen plenty of them in Stangs’ and Falcons over the years. And when
I spoke with Classic Air, they answered every question. I didn’t sense much
enthusiasm during my calls, but they knew their stuff. Vintage product is
very popular with the Hot-Rod crowd, so all you have to do is go to any
sizable car show and you will see plenty of their hardware. Vintage
answered most of the questions I had in my earlier calls, but I was
given some advice from more than one Falcon owner, warning me that their
service and support may be lacking. After much thought, and considering
that my Falcon is a daily-driver, I chose the Vintage Air system for the
Wagon. Dreaming of cold air in the summer, strong defrost power in the
rain, upgraded heating in the winter…sweet…I could HARDLY wait.
Place the Order
The system was bought directly from Vintage, verses going to a local ‘authorized
dealer.’ Seems to me that a dealer meant middle-man and a mark-up on the
price, but I did not get pricing from a dealer, so who knows. I know of
several Falcon owners who paid to have Vintage Air systems installed by a
dealer, and the prices paid seemed rather expensive, but once you see what
you’re up against…well, you be the judge that. I went ahead and placed the
order over the phone, very easy.
The system arrived in a timely manner, as promised. Two well-protecting boxes
came right to my door step. Heck, for the better part of half a day a
sharp-eyed thief could have bagged the system, just sitting there by the
door. Geez, I thought UPS was going to require a signature…oh well, saved
me a day or two chasing a UPS truck. After fondling the parts, envisioning
the fit, the look, etc, I began.
There are two sets of instructions provided, basically for two (kits) that
ultimately plumb together. One set (one page actually)
is for installing the compressor and pulleys (see Compressor and Compressor
Mounting Kit section below). The second set is for under-dash components
and condenser installation. Neither tells you where to start, and I wish
they supplemented their instructions with tips on how to do what they
say needs to be done. They just say “do this” and you have to figure it
out. Vintage advertises that they have very informative instructions with
drawings, but I don’t think so, at least not in this case. What a cry-baby,
huh? I must have read them half a dozen times prior to starting the
project, and they made the project look so simple you’d swear it was a
weekend job. Not that I had any illusion that this would be the case, I
wasn’t born yesterday, and I had already set aside the entire summer to do
this, planning on weekends and maybe a few week-nights to work on it. I
used the summer alright…and then some, including weekends, MANY week-nights
and ANY free time I had in between. Luckily I had been provided lots of
information (tips, warnings, opinions) during my research, and I was more
than aware that the pulleys (crank, water and power steering pump pulleys)
and compressor mounting would be the biggest areas of concern. Yep, Yep,
Yep and Yep.
Compressor and Compressor Mounting Kit
Vintage supplies a kit that is for a 1965/66, 289v8 Mustang. It includes
the compressor, compressor mount (the bracket that mounts the compressor to
the engine), crank pulley, belt Idler and eccentric, bolts, etc., but the
(reference picture/document: Comp&MountDrawing)
are clearly labeled Mustang with no mention of a Falcon or any other
application on the document. Yeah, yeah, "Early Falcons & Mustangs, they
are the same.” Simply not the case, as far as this install goes. All
quality parts however, no issue there at all.
Under-Dash & Condenser Components
Again, quality parts, nice design. But unlike the compressor instruction sheet,
the instruction documents for the under-dash components (evaporator/heater
box, defrost and dash vents, fan switch, etc.) and condenser are written
specifically for a 1964/65 Ranchero, so the instructions and drawings are
made for those cars specifically, as are the components. So with the
information and feedback I had prior to the purchase and these instructions,
I had little reason to doubt that the under-dash assemblies would fit.
Let’s find out.
Gettin’ Under the Hood...
In the beginning, I spent MANY an hour hanging under the hood and over the fender,
laying things out, trying to make sense of the fit, or lack of fit as it
were. (Oh geez, what have I done, I spent all this money on this beast and
it looks impossible). I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with
Vintage, and they made some attempts at helping over the phone, but as a
fellow TFFN’r (http://www.tffn.net/)
mentioned to me long ago, their support was not awe-inspiring. Early on,
when it became clear that things just didn’t fit, Vintage pretty much said
they would give me my money back; they were at a loss for fitting it to my
car. But in their defense, being 2000 miles away and having a 37 year old
Bird, what could I expect?! I would guessthat a 289 configuration
on a 65' Falcon is the same as the 65/66 Mustang, so the compressor kit they
provide may work on a 65’ Falcon, but on my 64' 260v8 the power
steering, alternator, water pump pulley, etc., were simply not lining up
with the compressor. Not even close. Seemed to me this puppy just didn’t
Luckily - and quickly - Vintage gave me the name and phone number of the
company that designs the compressor mount and pulley kits for them, and the
design engineer (named Herb) to talk to. Thank the Falcon Gods I found this
gentleman; very patient, very understanding. I think he bent over
backwards, listening to me for probably a dozen phone calls over a couple
weeks. It did strike me as odd that Vintage gave me this phone number so
quickly. I was on the first of my calls with Herb, and it was clear my
premonitions were right about the compressor fit. It didn't.
Compressor Mount Issues Power Steering, OEM
The compressors mount conflicts with the OEM power steering (PS) bracket/mount.
Essentially the Vintage compressor bracket moves the PS mount away from the
head 1/4 of an inch or so (the thickness of the compressor mount). (Reference
picture: PS #1
and PS #2), this causes PS belt
(PS #1 and PS #2)
Compressor Mount Fit
The compressor mounts against the water pump and cylinder head, but not
squarely. For proper operation and belt-wear, the mount must align the
compressor pump pulley-grooves with the crank and water pump
pulley-grooves. We removed as much as 3/16" off one of the welded 'bosses'
on the mount; the longer of three that the water pump bolts goes through
into the block. You can see this boss (reference
#1) located under the vacuum line into
the distributor. With the power steering issue above taken into
consideration, by grinding of a couple bosses and using a washer or two on
another, we were able to correct both PS and compressor mount problems.
Possibly a 65/66, 289v8 water pump is
different than my 64 260v? Who knows.
The drawing of the compressor mount is not up to date. While speaking with the
Herb, it became clear that there had been design changes that were not
incorporated on the Vintage drawing, which could confuse an installer (me).
The changes I noted may not effect form, fit or function, but they were very
blatant changes, and if there are blatant changes to the physical design of
the mount not reflected in the drawing, who knows what changes there are
that will effect the fit and are not incorporated?!