Air Conditioning for Studebaker Cars:
First thing we will need to do, is get some idea of the components we'll need for such an installation. There are many directions one might take to add Air Conditioning to their Stude. Most need to be addressed first- since the availability of original parts, the lack of aftermarket parts built for our cars, and new changes in technology make a plan of action necessary before investing the time and money in such a project. The following will list the components needed and a few comments based on my experience.
The evaporator is the unit that fits inside the car. There are a number of styles that "can" be used, but here are what I've had experience with:
A: Original "hang-on" units- These can be found at various swap meets, local Studebaker guys cleaning out the garage, or advertised in Studebaker related publications/newsletters. Personally, I like the look, and the fact it's Stude stuff for a Stude car. I have installed three of these units in C-K's.
B: There were a number of vintage aftermarket "hang-on" units made. And units for other period cars. The Ford unit for Mustangs-etc. for example, is a nice fit and is being reproduced. Also, Sears, Mark IV, and others are nice installations. I have installed a Mark IV unit in a '57 Golden Hawk! It looked vintage! I have also used modern aftermarket units on a '60 Lark Convertible and a '60 Lark 4-door
C: I have seen and installed some "trunk-mount" units. I found an original '56 Stude-Packard unit and put it in a '52 Packard. I would recommend these only for the big sedans and if you chance upon one at a good price. The installation seems easy, but you really need to do some ducting to get the blower outlets to not just frost the rear window.
D: Underdash Units: these are a nightmare for some Studes! I got the smallest aftermarket one available for a '54 Coupe and it was really, really tight. I didn't like the installation at all, but the owner was adament against the original underseat heater and a hang-on unit. This unit had the combination heat/air coils. It was nearly impossible to keep the defroster hoses on. The only way it would have been better, is to cut the dash brace and remove the glove box on the C-K's (of course, he didn't want that either). I haven't attempted this in a sedan or Lark.
For ease of installation and cost, The "hang-on" unit is the way to go. It is very effective, not too intrusive (since it's mounted over the "hump"), and no one will fault you for having it.
A: Most Studebakers came with the York reciprocating compressor. If you have an original bracket, and are looking for originality, there are rebuilders that can rebuild this unit. I have had 2 Studes with this unit on them. They work fine. I just didn't like the low-speed vibration and definite power drain when they engage. Don't throw it away if you are going to switch! Some of the valves, and the original style clutch- etc... are NLA. Some Studebaker friend will need them.
B: Sankyo/Sanden rotary compressor. My personal favorite! It has 8 "bosses" to mount in any position. It's quiet, smooth, doesn't use much horsepower, and CHEAP! The 506 and 508 are plenty for a C-K, 510 for a big sedan.
A: Original Condensers: I would stay away from any used condensers that have remained in "open" systems for a number of years. The moisture caused corrosion will break loose and plug your expansion valve, or receiver-drier, and could even get to the compressor. Of course, if a car had a closed, operating system that didn't leak, it'll probably be OK to use.
B: New "universal" type condensers are available in a lot of sizes. I try to get ones about 6" smaller than the radiator. Like the Pontiac commercial say's "Wider is Better" I like to leave the top 6" of the radiator exposed. This is the hottest part of the radiator and I don't like to block the heat exchange. There are a number of mounting methods, but I prefer to mount it by the metal straps provided by the manufacturer. The edges of the condenser have holes for screws every inch or so, so it's easy to make brackets. I mount it to the original radiator support. I have also mounted these directly to NEW 3-core radiators using the plastic straps through the fins. I don't recommend this for an old radiator.
A: BRAND NEW ONLY! A sight glass is mandatory! A fitting for a low-pressure switch is optional. Universal ones are readily available. I like a low-pressure switch for safety- it will shut off the compressor if the system loses pressure.
A: Original hoses are fine. But, this would be a good time to change them. Especially, if one is converting from R-12 to R-134.
B: New hose. I try to standardize my installations with #10 hose for the low-pressure side, and #8 hose for the high-pressure side. Make sure you ask for hose suitable for the refrigerant you will be using. I prefer the crimped-on ends. A lot of auto parts stores have a "hose-crimper" for these and hydraulic hoses. Check around.
The only brackets available for a Studebaker are originals, or a copy of the original. I make all my own brackets, even if it's an original-style install. There are 2 "good" places for the compressor to go: the original position that Studebaker used (in the V), and mounting in the alternator/generator location and moving the alt/gen. I use the original position if the car has power steering, and there is enough hood clearance. I put it in the alt/gen position if I'm switching to an alternator. The alternator can be relocated to where a power steering pump would go, or in the V of the block between the heads. I have also relocated the generator to the original compressor position, and put the compressor where the generator was (this was done because the generator is smaller in diameter and fits on top the engine better for hood clearance. There are a lot of different factors that can determine how you wish to do this install.
I believe Lionel Stone had a repro of the original bracket available.
Radiator, Fan, Shroud, Electric Fan, and/or Fan Clutch There is no substitute for a 3 or 4 -core radiator in a Stude. You'll hear and read lots of overheating or running- hot stories from this club. Your local radiator place should be able to do the job using your existing tanks. It isn't cheap though- last one I had done was $285. At the bare minimum, you'll need to "enhance" the airflow through the radiator. The original shroud on the C-K's is a big help. There is even enough room to put a small electric fan in front of the existing fan blade. The addition of a Flex-Fan with bigger or more blades will also help with the cooling. Original fans and fan clutches are getting scarce, but are still available. Check your speed shops for a good Flex-fan, ASK them for their opinion on how quiet a particular fan is. I bought an inexpensive universal type and it was really NOISY! It sounded like I was doing 100mph with the windows down! An electric fan with a thermal switch ( I like the one that sticks through the radiator fins)will help if you do a lot of city/parade/stop-n-go driving with the air on. Fitting one to an early Lark is a job! A nice small 2-fan unit can be found on Volkswagon diesels.
Pulleys and belt-tensioners will be dependant on what options your car has and where you intend to mount the compressor. A good idler pulley is a timing-belt tensioner from a late model car. I have used them from several different models. Subaru 4-cylinders have one with a bracket already attatched. This bracket has a hole and a slot in it. You can fix it to your bracket, and use the slot for adjusting the tension. It is the type that rides on the back of the belt. I haven't found a good pulley setup for the water pump. Studebaker used a flat pulley the same diameter as the water pump pulley behind the fan blade spacer to line up with the compressor. The belt ran over the flat water pump pulley, around the crank pulley (3rd one on crank- closest to radiator), up to the idler pulley and over the compressor (mounted in the V of the engine). I usually have to run the belt around the crank, idler and compressor only. This means the belt's backside rides on the idler. See my pictures for diagrams of the different belt schemes. As for fittings, I like the flare or O-ring hose connectors rather than the "barb" style with the screw clamp. It makes for a more professional appearing installation. All used components will need to be thoroughly flushed and the expansion valves checked. This flush is available at your auto parts stores, and is very easy to use if you have a compressor to blow it through the lines.
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