Resurrecting vintage A/C can be cool, if you know what you’re doing


Despite winter’s consistent attempts to reach out from its icy grave, it is (technically) spring. Driving season is almost upon us. Many of us rush to complete winter projects so we can get our baby out on that long ribbon of endless asphalt.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/04/23/fixing-vintage-air-conditioner


I have a 1964 Buick Electra 225 with factory air conditioning. In the early 2000s I did a “by the book” conversion to R134a including all new hoses with crimped fittings, flush the system, new oil, receiver/dryer, front seal on the compressor, etc. I also had the evaporator recored. The reason I went to R134a was because at that time most people were predicting that R12 would one day become completely unobtainable. As you point out, R12 is still available and I wish I would have just left the system alone. The a/c does work well, but over the years I have battled the front seal in multiple compressors due to the higher operating pressures of R134a. Thank you for your wonderful tips!


I’m looking forward to getting your book! I bought a 62 Buick Skylark convertible that has stock a/c that hasn’t been converted (and hasn’t been used in decades!), and I want to get it working with R12. I live in Sacramento CA, and although we have beautiful Spring & Fall weather for top down driving, Summers here get above 100 degrees. So your book will hopefully be really helpful!


At the risk of being labeled a “hack,” I replaced the York piston compressor on my AMC Matador. Vacuumed the system and checked for leaks. Charged with R134a and the proper amount of ester oil. Very little cooling. If you are obsessed with R134a, follow the author’s instructions precisely, to the letter. If you are more flexible, consider readily available R152a as a substitute for R12. The internet is loaded with information on R152a, all is positive. I tried R152a and it works perfectly! It is every bit as cold as R12, but readily available as “canned air,” keyboard duster," or “dust-off.” Buy a 4-can package at WalMart for the same cost as one can of R134a. If your hoses, condenser, evaporator, receiver-dryer, and expansion valve are junk, go with R134a and replace everything. Otherwise, keep it stock and enjoy R152a and 38 degree air from your factory air conditioning!


I just bought a 1967 Pontiac Bonneville four door hardtop. It has factory air and it’s all there except the compressor power lead is unplugged. I am hopeful that the original GM compressor can be tested and the whole system can be made to cool. This car is huge inside as well as out. With all the side glass down, you get buffeted to death by the wind. I have my local mechanics diagnosing this 56,000 original, 2 owner car. I want the survivor look and have everything working as designed.


I have a customized 63 Rambler Classic wagon. It’s powered by a hopped-up AMC/Jeep 4.0L. I married the Sanden style compressor to the original 63 Rambler evaporator and expansion valve. I went junkyard shopping for a condensor and settled on a Chrysler LH platform parallel flow model. I use a generic drier and had custom hoses made to match the flare fitting 63 parts to the o-ring later parts. I’m running R134a in it now and it’s adequate, but I have run Enviro-Safe ES-12 in it, which I think is just a bit better. Last time I had it charged I didn’t have the ES-12 available locally and didn’t want to wait for it to come in. ES-12 is a blend of LP gas and Butane – LP is a better refrigerant but doesn’t carry oil well, Butane carries oil – hence the blend. Yes it’s a flammable gas… but not enough to worry about in an AC system. Gasoline is much more dangerous and you carry 12-20 gallons of it around!