Project F-Word: Performance Air Conditioning With Vintage Air

You’ve no doubt seen our ’69 F100 buildup, aka Project F-Word, on and noticed that we’ve already installed a new Gen-3 Coyote crate engine, Tremec 6-speed transmission, and a ton of other parts, including suspension. The ultimate goal is to build a truck that’s a ton of fun on the street, capable of playing with the big dogs on the autocross, and be an attractive and comfortable driver so that our significant other is okay to go for an extended cruise with us. A big factor in that comfort level rears its head when the weather gets hot outside, and to combat that, a good air conditioning system is mandatory.

Here are our boxes from Vintage Air, containing everything necessary to put cold air into our truck’s cabin.

Vintage Air has been in business since 1976 and is owned and operated by experienced street rodders who have been involved in the sport for over 30 years. Their official tagline is: “We offer the most comprehensive line of high-performance air conditioning components available. Every Vintage Air product incorporates the very latest technology available and offers the greatest efficiency and reliability available.” Your author has a lot of great experience with Vintage Air’s owner Jack Chisenhall and his various projects, including his 1953 Studebaker with a 705 cubic-inch Chevy big-block (a monster motor for the early ‘90s when it was built) that ripped off a 241 mph pass at Bonneville, and also drove 1,200 miles or so on the Hot Rod Power Tour soon after…and with working stereo and air conditioning that kept the inside as frosty as he wanted it.

Vintage Air recommends starting with the condenser mounting, and the first step is to measure the core support opening to make sure it’s correct for the application, so that’s what we did. Doesn’t that Coyote look sexy in there?!

Because Vintage Air has a great reputation for its air conditioning systems, they were a natural choice for our Project F-Word truck. We chose kit  #951157, a SureFit complete kit for the early Ford trucks that comes with an evaporator, condenser, control panel, hoses, and all the other things needed to install in the truck.

SureFit Air Conditioning Kit (PN 951157) Features:

  • Fly-By-Wire fully electronic servo motor controls with no cables or capillary tube to route
  • Infinite just-right-temperature air blending
  • Infinite blower fan speed adjustment
  • High-volume dehumidified defrost mode
  • Separate high-capacity aluminum plate & fin cooling coil
  • Copper/brass CuproBraze™ parallel-flow heater coil
  • Mounts behind the dash
  • Uses your factory system controls with our patented Electronic Cable Converters
  • Flat steel firewall cover panel
  • Replacement molded glove box (reduced capacity)

We used the supplied Vintage Air template and our step bit to drill the 7/8-inch hole in the top passenger side of the core support, then assembled the condenser mounting brackets for our truck.

Since our truck is in the middle of the initial build stage, we already had the front fenders and grille removed, so we jumped right into installing the VA parts on the vehicle. Follow along and see what is involved, though this is not a step-by-step manual.

Vintage Air includes a very detail-oriented installation manual that you’ll no doubt need to study ahead of time before diving in yourself. If you’ve never installed a Vintage Air system in a car or truck, know that it’s not that tough if you can turn a wrench, but plan on a full weekend for the installation—take your time and make sure you get everything installed clean and secure, and also factor in that once installed, you’ll need an air conditioning shop to check for leaks and charge the system with coolant.

At this point, we didn’t have the radiator for our truck so we installed the evaporator spacers according to the diagram in the instructions so that we knew where they went in the future when installing our new radiator. This is an important step because it puts space between the radiator and condenser for two reasons. One, so they don’t make contact and cause a leak. And two, so air can flow well through both the condenser and radiator.

First up, we installed the #6 condenser/drier hardline.

Next we installed the drier bracket, which comes in the kit.

The drier bolted to the bracket and then we installed the #6 hard line from the condenser and routed it through the core support.

Vintage Air sends you everything needed to convert your OE controls from mechanical to a fully electronic assembly. We start off by following the instructions and completely disassembling the OE controls, then cleaned them up.

We began by installing the cable converter assembly, levers, wiring harness, and Gen IV rotary potentiometer switch. Vintage Air also provides a new backing label for the new controls to install behind the factory bezel.

We started with our defrost vents first and got them mounted.

Following the instructions, we moved to drill the holes for our fender well bracket.

We marked the drain hole for the evaporator and drilled that. It comes with a grommet to protect the drain hose from rubbing on the rough, freshly drilled sheet metal, so make sure you install it.

With the line made, we drilled the core support and installed the line to the condenser.

Next, we built a #10 line from the compressor to the bulkhead including our service port.

We built our custom #10 line from the other port on the compressor to the evaporator inside. At this point we had both lines inside the cab and it was just time to secure them and move onto the next step in the instructions.

One of the things we are most proud of on this build is that despite it being home-built, Ivan has managed to keep things like the A/C lines well hidden for a clean overall appearance.

Then we assembled the evaporator bracket and hard lines. This unit goes under the dash, so make sure the connections are tight and leak-proof.

We hung the evaporator and controls, attaching it to the firewall with studs and nuts that are included in the kit.

The air-conditioning vent assembly attaches under the dash with a few screws and connects to the evaporator assembly.

With the Coyote engine you need to use an "H pipe" in the heater hoses to make sure the cylinder heads continue to receive sufficient water flow when the heater valve is closed. This is very important and here you can see how we worked it into the heater hoses.

The fans are controlled by a Trinary switch, and this diagram shows how we wired it and made it work with the activation wire coming from the Ford Performance Pack. The Trinary switch allows both your fan controller, in our case the Ford Control Pack ECU, or the Trinary switch to control the radiator fans. This is important because the engine computer uses the fans to control engine temperature and the Trinary switch uses the fans to control line pressure to make sure it stays within the safe limits while air is not passing through the condenser. This is normally only an issue when stopped or in low-speed traffic. With guidance from Rick Love, President of Vintage Air, we were able to get this wired in a way that kept both the Coyote and HVAC system happy. Note: the Ford Control Pack sends a positive 12-volt signal from the ECU to trigger fans, so we had to wire this a little differently than if you are using a ground trigger. This diagram is for the positive signal.

Stay tuned for the next exciting upgrade to our Project F-Word ’69 F100 project truck. Thanks to Vintage Air, we have brought it to the next level of cool.

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About the author

Rob Kinnan

Rob Kinnan requires very little introduction. Many would recognize Rob from his days as the Editor of Hot Rod Magazine. He is a dyed-in-the-wool hot rodder and muscle car enthusiast, a road racing aficionado behind the wheel of his Factory Five roadster, and a hardcore NASCAR fan.
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