Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions for First Generation Firebirds that have been asked on First Generation Firebird-L mailing list. Special thanks needs to be given to all the Firebird-L owners that took the time to respond to other subscribers questions. These pages are continuously updated as new information is posted on the mailing list.
|Q:||Installing AC on a non-AC car|
I presently own a '67 coupe with custom black interior. I've been toying with the idea of installing AC (black vinyl is HOT!), but am at a bit of a dilemma......I actually collected some original AC parts -evap., condensor and all the necessary ductwork under the dash. I have the center dash panel with the heater/AC controls and the center vent as well. (Not much invested -about $150). I've been told that it's an uphill attempt to get all this together and working, especially since R12 isn't readily available anymore and a compressor and dryer/separator isn't cheap, either.
To make a long story longer......Has anyone had any experience with an after-market AC kit like the one offered by Classic Industries? I'm interested in maintaining the original look of the dash that I bought with the center vent, but am HESITANT to cut holes for the side vents. I'd also like to use the original type heater/AC controls. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
I, too, am collecting original A/C components to convert my non A/C convertible to A/C. There are only a couple of cuts needed to convert to A/C but one is a biggie... The firewall. The holes in the firewall are shaped differently between the two. The other cut is for the fresh air flapper valve in the cowl area on the passenger side. Other than that, there is just a lot of plumbing.
Another project I'm working on is a 68 (sorry guys) Camaro. I've ordered the Vintage Air A/C from Classic Industries. It's cheaper than buying it directly from the factory. I've talked to several street-rodders who've installed this unit and all said it was great.
I spoke to the Vintage Air boys and they said that you cannot mix and match parts from there kits (i.e., A/C to A/C car, A/C to non-A/C car). I say this if you are planning on using the factory A/C controls with the Vintage unit on your non-A/C car. This means that the firewall block off plate that they supply will be either for a A/C car OR a non-A/C car.
|Q:||AC R12 and 134a|
|What do I need to do now to my AC system that R 12 is no longer available.|
|A:||OK lets clear up the mystery about R 12 to 134a first of all you dont need to go with a newer compressor and mounts. All of the newly rebuilt A-6 GM compressors are rebuilt using seals and oil for either R-12 or 134a. Check with your local parts house but this is true if it hasnt been sitting around for a couple of years or so. You must use a conversion kit that will replace the rest of O-rings and change to an Ester (not PAG) oil thru out the system. Dryer must also be changed to a 134a type but I believe that almost all manufacturers of replacement parts are doing this. You must flush out the entire system and blow out solvent and all traces of old R-12 oil . I do each component seperately to insure that all oil is blown out, use compressed air and denatured alcohol. Give it plenty of time to evaporate and add the proper amount of oil in each component before connecting togeather. Use the new style fittings for a proper conversion and have the system evacuated and charged at a licensed repair shop. If iit were me I would cap system and wait until I was at the repair shop before I installed the dryer as it can be ruined before its used if enought moisture is in lines and the air. Speaking of lines this would also be a good time to replace any rubber lines with the newer R134a type hoses. This is commonly refered to as barrier hose and is neccessary for a happy system.|
|Has anybody had any experience with R406A ? I've finished repairing my wife's factory installed A/C ( `67 Fairlane ). It's claimed to work better than R12, and safer as well. I know not many of you have the original A/C system's, but I was asking if anyone's even heard of this stuff before ? The web site claim's compatability with the old R12, and the oil. Thanks for the help.|
|A:||Ive done alot of research on alternate refrigerants. It seems that all have their drawbacks. NONE are a drop in replacement for R-12 REGARDLESS of what salesman or repair shops tell you. In the case of Autofrost, the mineral oil(R-12 oil) will react with some internal components. Autofrost has similar siblings and all the claims are the same. At least flush entire system, change to compatible dryer and use a compatible oil and appropriate charging fittings . I have a new oil that is compatible with all types of refrigerants. and has no harmful effects when mixed with any other oils. It is not mineral,PAG or ester but will mix with them all. In the case of the Firebird system, I would use 134a refrigerant 134a dryer, new multiuse oil,and a 134a expansion valve. Sure theres other alt refrigs but 134a isnt a real bad choice considering the widespread use and avaliablitly. 134a does operate at higher head pressures( high side) so a twin flow condenser is also recommended.|
|Q:||Freon R-12 Replacement|
I know that there were some in the group very knowledgible about A/C
from some previous discussions and I know very little about A/C
I heard from a mechanic that requiring R-12 to be purged from a system before installing R-134A is a hoax. He said that R-134A could be put into an existing R-12 system that is low.
Do these refrigerants mix? What would happen to the system if they were mixed? Regardless of the freon. What are the recommended pressures on the low and high sides. I have a 89 chevy that is low on freon and do not want to fill it with the incorrect freon or fill it too high. This will also come in handy when I replace the A/C unit on my bird.
The two freons are compatable. Some of the blends out there called R-12
substitutes actually contain both R-12 and R134A as well as other gasses
such as butane(not safe). The problem is the oil. R134A is not compatible
with the oils used in R-12 systems. The oil must be soluable in the
refirgerant so it can flow with it and therefore lubricate the system. The
correct way to change the system to R134A is to remove the compressor and
drain it. Then flush all the lines with solvent. Removing about 80 to 90
percent of the old oil is acceptable. Refill the compressor with the
correct oil, PAG or Ester oil, and reassemble. Evacuate and recharge with
I have seen conversion kits at some of the discount auto parts (Auto Zone, etc.) that have an oil that you meerly add to the system and it suppossedly changes the oil so it works, but none the seminars I have attended could recommend such an additive or even understand how it could work.
|Q:||68 Firebird with M/T and A/C|
|Could the '68 Firebird with manual transmission come with air conditioning.|
I found an original '68 Pontiac air conditioning sales brochure (SP 2819)
that states, "Firebird Custom Air Conditioning. Available only on
Firebird, Firebird 350, Firebird H.O., and Firebird 400 models with
automatic transmission, Combines heating and cooling units in a single
system for balanced all-season comfort. Features easy fingertip
control." Unless this was changed in a later update, this supports the
A/C (order# 582) was not offered on a standard transmission.
Also, the Pontiac Chassis Parts Catalog Revision Number 5 (Effective with Parts Release and Change Notice 68-3 dated March 1, 1968) does not list an Air Conditioner Package for the '68 as a 'Dealer Installed Accessory Package' (pg C-65, Revised 2-1-68). This is also supported by the 'Pontiac Dealer's Confidential Price List' for factory approved accessories (P68-1 effective September 21, 1967, pg. 1 of 19).
Since I was the one that sent information saying air conditioner could
not be ordered on any '68 M.T. Firebird, I thought I would let everyone
know about some more information I found about this. I found this in the
1968 Pontiac Sales Album in the Firebird power train section as of
08-10-67 (earlier date than the other documents I mentioned)|
Item Number 1 - 5, 3-speed:
Car Order Engine Code 341, 343, 344, 345, and a 3.23 axle could be ordered with air conditioning BUT not with the 3.55 axle.
Car Order Engine Code 342, 250 6 Cyl., 4 Bbl., engine code ZD, 3.55 axle could NOT be ordered with air conditioning.
Not that this matters much except to people looking for a M.T. with air and it conflicts with the other information. Anyone with a documented M.T. with air '68 Firebird?
|A:||Check your 68 service manual and look up radiator useage and rear end useage charts. They both show that a/c wasnt avaliable in M/T V8. I also know of orginal owners that were denighed this option when ordering their new (68) car. Perhaps one could have slipped by.|
|A:||what I said was that 68 wasnt avaliable with a 400,3 or 4 speed manual trans AND factory a/c. this also goes for R/A and Sprints with auto.or standard trans. . In 67 a/c was avaliable in all except the R/A(even Sprint) but you couldnt get the higher ratio rear ends. 3.36 was the highest gear for an a/c car. In 69 things changed a little but a/c wasnt avaliable with Sprints with auto. or standard,as in 68.There were some R/A cars built in 69 (there were even 32 T/As) with a/c.|
|Q:||AC Loses Freon Problem|
|I've got a 69 with AC which slowly loses it's freon. All O'rings were replaced by the previous owner about 4 years ago. When I got the car last year - it blew kinda cold. This year, it just blows. Yes, the compressor does kick in. I would say that the hoses are probably all original. Would this be an ideal time to convert to a newer "freon" and if so, what would need to be replaced. Recommended sources of parts and technical "tips" are appreciated!|
Napa and may other parts stores sell a conversion kit to convert to 134a.
It comes with new O-rings and Ester oil. While your replacing the O-rings
and hoses, spray brake cleaner into the evaporator and condenser and blow
with compressed air. This is to help remove excess oil that may not be
compatible with the new oil. Brake cleaner drys very fast and is a good
There is a plug on the bottom of the compressor. Remove the plug and drain the old oil and add the new oil. make sure you lube all the new O-rings with the new oil before you re-assemble the system. You'll also have to replace your receiver-dryer.
But, before I would disassemble the system, I would try to find the leak. If a service center cannot find a leak, the cost of a re-charge may not be as bad as you think considering everything you are planning on replacing.
The interesting point is you say the compressor is coming on but the air doesn't blow cold. It's my understanding that the compressor will remain off or will contentiously cycle on and off if the system charge is too low. You may want to check this out a little more closely.
I just had my whole firewall box apart and I couldn't believe how plugged the evaporator was. This would definitely affect the systems ability to cool. This may be part of your problem.
|A:||I wuld disagree about using brake kleen to blow out old oil, its too harsh on old rubber. Used denatured alcohol, it too evaporates quickly. Actually you should replace any rubber with "barrier" hose, which is designed for 134a. Seems as tho 134a will leak in places R-12 wouldnt. It will actually permeate rubber hose as the molecules are smaller. Theres a real good site on conversionsby the EPA under alternate refrigerants. Dont know the URL. use search engine to find.|
|A:||I need to point out that pressure/cycling switches were not yet being used in 69, so the compressor runs with the power from the controls, even with no freon. Those switches came on the scene I believe in the late 70's or early 80's.|
|Q:||AC actuators and Antenna Plug|
|As I am taking apart the front end of my bird, I have found two things and I don't know what they are. One is come kind of canister and the other is a strange wire, like a plug or something. I took pictures of them so you can see what they look like. If you know what it is please tell me about it.|
|A:||The canister is the vacuum reservoir for your AC system actuators (Fig s2.jpg). The plug appears to be for your radio antenna (Fig s1.jpg).|
|A:||The one in the door jam looks like a antenna wire. The can with the vacuum hose looks like a reserve vacuum can. I took one of those off of a 7# Nova when I removed the A/C system. It was used to add additional vacuum to the ventilation controls.|
The AC actuators are actually only used for the COLD IA position of the heat/AC selector. This actually means "cold inside air" and is just to the LEFT of the COLD position. In this position, the heater core is completely bypassed and the AC compressor is on with air recirculated from inside the vehicle. There are two vacuum pot actuators which are plumbed with a tee in parallel: One for the cowl plenum, which is a normally open spring loaded flapper that shuts off the outside air intake. It is located on the passenger side of the cowl area under the cowl grille and basically blocks off the cowl area to the fender side of it. The second one is in the passenger side kick panel vent which is normally closed. This one opens to allow inside air to be drawn (sort of backwards) into the AC evaporator intake. The position to operate on outside air is called COLD OA, which is just to the RIGHT of the COLD selection. This is where the actuators are switched off from the vacuum source and springs open/close them to their relaxed positions. About halfway between the COLD and the HOT selection, the compressor switch shuts off (temp. door is also allowing some intake air to the heater core after it passes through the evaporator, giving you a mixed temp.) All the way to the HOT postion allows air through the (now ambient temp. with no compressor) evaporator and then fully through the heater core for hot air. Incidentally, the kick panel flapper actually replaces the manually operated one that is used for non AC cars. There is a domed plastic cover (matches kick panel color and texture) that covers the vent so that the actuator is protected. COLD IA is like the MAX AC or RECIRC positions found on cars today; the air from inside the car is recirculated for those hot sweltering days like we have here in Maine for about a week out of the year :). If you don't install the actuators, you won't get the "MAX AC/RECIRC" and I'm not sure of the performance. Anyone know for sure? (I'll bet it's sufficient for us Northern folks without it).
P.S. The VENT position allows the plenum to open and the kick panel recirc to close in their relaxed states. The compressor is off and the heater core is bypassed. You just get outside air coming in through the (ambient temp.) evaporator and into the AC outlet distribution. Hope this helps.
|Q:||Adding After Market AC Unit|
|My 68 did not come with AC and now that I live where it hits 110 easy in the summer, welllllll. How hard is it to add non stock AC and I won't even ask about the money, HA HA Thanks for your thoughts|
|A:||Easy... $1000 and a weekends worth of work. Vintage Air. I bought their kit for my 68 Camaro.|
A couple of advantages to using this product is that their
systems is much more compact compared to the stock system,
is R134 compatible, and probably more efficient than the
original system as well. Ask any factory A/C car owners
about the pain and agony of performing a spark plug change.
The Vintage Air product should make this much easier since
most of the system is hidden inside the car.
In a recent edition of Classic Car Garage on Speedvision, the host talked to an air conditioning pro who often installed Vintage Air systems in hot rods. Both the technician and Vintage Air's own documentation suggested installation by an A/C pro due to the complexity and the risks of accidentally venting the refrigerant to the atmosphere.
But I would think that the Vintage Air system for your car should be fairly straight forward, custom made for that car and dash, and will include all the necessary brackets and hoses. I feel fairly competent mechanically so I'd probably install the system if it were my car, then leave the final charging and testing up to a pro.
|Q:||Power Flow Ventilation|
'69 owners have our OWN unique problems - like finding correct blower assemblies for the Power-Flo Ventilation system option available on non-AC cars.
How does this differ from a heater only car - vendition system?? My convertible has a fan motor and a slide control to allow fresh air in. Is this the same thing??
No, that's your standard heater system. There was an option offered
in 1969 and 1970 full-sized (Catalina, LeSabre etc.) and mid-sized
Pontiacs and Buicks (LeMans, GTO, Grand Prix, Skylark, Grand Sport), and
1969 Firebirds that had two small blowers in the upper cowling. The air
came through the dash vents at the lower corners of the dash, even when
the car was sitting at a stoplight. The motors were the same as the rear
defogger, and the fan switch had two speeds and was marked "AIR", "HIGH"
and "LOW". On the Pontiac, the switch looked just like the power top,
power antenna or rear defogger switches, and went in one of the openings
cut into the dash in that area - this is shown in the 1969 Factory
Service Manual on page 15-16, figure 15-27. The reason it's in the
service manual was that in addition to it being available from the
factory, it could also be had as an accessory package and could be
installed by the dealer technician or anybody else crazy enough to try
I have 5 sets of blowers, one of which is a complete New Old Stock accessory package for a Tempest-GTO-LeMans or a Grand Prix, and its part number is a 1970 six-digit accessory package number. Other blowers I have are both this design and from some full-sized cars, but I have never seen a Firebird with this option, nor have I seen any parts supposedly from a Firebird.
Besides seeing the option listed in some production logs many years ago (before PHS) the only evidence I have that they existed is I spoke with a guy who has been selling 69 TA and Firebird parts for many years who claimed to have a 69 Ram Air IV convertible with the option, and I got an email a couple years ago from someone who claims to have the only 69 Trans Am equipped with the option from the factory - but I never got a chance to speak with him.
Since there were Firebirds built that were not available with AC (Ram Air IV and Sprints) this was a cheap alternative to circulating air into the car while sitting still.
|Q:||AC and Ram Air|
|Was the AC option available on a '69 Ram Air?|
for what its worth, ac was avaialble on both auto and ac cars in 69
(not true for 68 see below).
However, NONE of the true ram air cars ever received factory AC. (ie 67-8 ram air I, 68 ram air II or 69 ram air IV equipped cars)
now the 1969 400HO cars (dubbed 'ram air III' in 1969 when you also added cold air induction option) could get AC no matter what tranny you ordered...
why? well im guesing because the RA III cars, aka 400HO in '68, were esssentially standard 400 cars (especially the auto equipped "RA III/400ho" cars). Outside of the longbranch manifolds all 400ho/ra III all cars received, they were pretty much std 400 cars (ie no mandatory 3.90s, no special 400 heads, no upgraded cam, no beefier lower end (all 2 bolt mains), etc)
note: the manual 69 RA III s DID get the upgraded 068 cam but not much beyond that. so since RA III cars were very close to std 400 cars mechanically/performance wise PMD must have figured that it was ok to get ac for these cars.
Please though, no RA III flames! the pontiac 400 is an awesome block in *whatever flavor* it originally came in! its just that i think the 'RAM AIR III' monaker is a bit misleading to many espeically since its 'numerically higher' than RAM AIR I and II.
========= 68 manual tranny and ac...
ama specs show that pontiac did NOT offer ac if you ordered a manual gearbox in 1968 note however that this was NOT true in 1967 and 1969 when ac and manual birds COULD be ordere4d. why this is so is one of pmds minor little mysteries....
|Q:||'69 Heater Cables|
|My heater cables are broke on my '69 Firebird. How do I hook these up?|
|A:||I just fixed a broken heater cable one of my 69 birds. I'm way behind on reading this digest so maybe someone has already covered it. I'll keep it very short and you can drop me a line if more detail is necessary. Assume this is not the A/C vacuum type. Three cables, all cables have mounting tabs that go on the controller end, each tab is color coded. Blue tab controls defrost and hooks on top and left on the controller and to the defrost gate near the gas pedal. Black tab controls heater on/off and hooks on top and right on same slide as defrost cable (controlled by same lever). Other end of on/off cable hooks almost exactly opposite of defrost cable on passenger side. Red tab cable hooks on bottom of controller and controls temp. The other end of temp cable goes on top of the heater core box behind the glove box.|