Has anyone added AC to a '53 Carribean

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bdgeorge
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Has anyone added AC to a '53 Carribean

Post by bdgeorge » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:38 pm

Hi. I am thinking about adding AC to a 53 Carribean. I really would like to keep it totally original, but in our long Florida summers (April - November) we are limited in enjoying a vehicle without it. Does anyone have experience in adding AC to a '53? I am thinking about the under dash type unit that bolt on and can be easily removed. Was wondering about electric system conversion, and radiator issues. I did this to a '53 Ford F100 and had no issues. Thanks, Ben

Dave Czirr
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Re: Has anyone added AC to a '53 Carribean

Post by Dave Czirr » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:39 am

Ben, I can appreciciate your dilema, surely the postwar Packard one would least like to modify without a potentiall large value hit would be a Caribbean though if the ultimate resale was also to someone in a hot climate perhaps that would be minimized. But as you say, it inhibits your enjoyment of the car. Equipping a 6-volt car with aftermarket AC has been the subject of hundreds, probably thousands, of queries on many antique car forums, and generally without much in the way of confirmed and proven installations. I don't think any of the maker of underdash units make one for 6-volt, but I can't say I've studied the marketplace myself - a good search of these aftermarket AC makers is probably your first stop. If you have to build a system, minor issues are making or finding compressor brackets and pulleys; the 53/54 Packards with factory AC did have a larger radiator and in 1954 also had a larger fan. These are really minor issues, for something in the range of $500-$800 you could have your radiator recored to a larger core, and although they are noisy, finding some universal flex-fan shouldn't be impossible. The real issues come with the electrics and the two biggest of those seem to be finding 6-volt blower motors with enough oomph, and the matter of the electric clutch on the compressor. There are some who say a 12-volt clutch will operate OK on 6-volts, there are others who question that. In the end, you may end up being forced to convert the car to 12-volt which is another probable hit on the value.

There is a gentleman who comes on here often, Howard56; I know he's looked into this situation and I believe him to be a seriious and careful researcher of these issues so I'd have confidence in his suggestions. You might also consider going on the AACA Forum and the PackardInfo.com forum, both are littered with commentary on this issue though you'll have to spend some time with the search functions to find the meat of it. Of course we'd be interested in how this plays out on your car, so please do update us on your findings and progress.

Howard56
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Re: Has anyone added AC to a '53 Carribean

Post by Howard56 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:27 am

As Dave mentioned, there's been lots of discussion on this. Putting all monetary hit or authenticity to the car aside for the moment, several have made the addition. The main points which have to be overcome are in no particular order, driving the compressor, the compressor and bracket, & the evaporator style & mounting and last but certainly not least, voltage.

As to the radiator and cooling, Dave has already mentioned the different radiator and fan. His suggestions are appropriate and if AC was added properly both would be done. In addition to the flex fan, there is a 6 blade Mopar fan which has been used in a couple of cases. An inch less in diameter than the Packard heavy duty fan, it would also require some machine work or adapters to fit it's small center hole to the larger Packard pump/fan hub. It does look more appropriate though. Some have kept the stock radiator setup but not sure what their climate is or if any issues in doing so.

On to the other issues. Driving the compressor correctly will require a crankshaft pulley & finding NOS or good used 53-54 Packard could be expensive or a challenge. Unlike the 55-6 pulley, AFAIK no repro's to fit the 51-4 is offered. There was an individual who reported that a certain Ford damper assy will fit on the Packard crank. If so, that would give multiple bolt on pulley options. I don't know for a fact this works nor do I know anyone personally who has done it as to whether other modifications are needed. I can supply information the individual posted on the damper if someone wants to try it out. Obviously, the looks of the Ford item might be slightly different. Some have driven the compressor with a single long belt looped over all the existing pulleys. While not the best option, it can be done but leads to some potential issues if not done carefully. Lack of sufficient wrap around the fan pulley and belt whip from the long spans being two. Careful placement of the compressor and detail work on the fabrication to ensure belt is in a straight line and that long stretches are supported by an idler pulley will be needed. That approach screams modification.

Next item is there are no manufactured brackets for the compressor so you are on your own. Some photos have been posted of various approaches -- simple bolt over the head types using existing stud locations to wild brackets mostly on the front of engine using several other available bolts. It all depends on the ingenuity and skills of your fabricator. I personally prefer the looks of the over the head type as being more appropriate and more like Packard did it. The early prewar compressor bracket was a essentially a flat plate over the engine and manifold. Later 53-4 was more of a vertical setup with the compressor up and to the side of the manifold. Unfortunately, for proper belting, anything with compressor fairly high requires the separate crank pulley for a decent fan pulley wrap. Some photos are scattered around the packardinfo site but will be hard to find. I'll make a look in some of the old threads and if I come across some, will try to collect them for future reference.

Electrical is an issue all to itself and AC does take several additional amps. The stock 6v Packard generator would be running near max output under some conditions. While Packard never felt the need for a higher amp output, some disagree. Changing to a 6v alternator is one approach some have considered but most adding AC just convert the car to 12v and have done with it. I won't go into the pluses or minuses of that approach and leave it to your desire. There have been installations where an elaborate 6v/12v setup have been done. Some just placed a spare battery in the trunk to work the AC and charge it manually as needed. Another that comes to mind utilizes a small alternator driven by an extra groove on the compressor pulley. It charges a small motorcycle battery which feeds the AC unit only. The dual approaches work but are more complicated. Extra controls or caution so the two voltages do not mix or stay energized all the time are needed. While the alternator/battery approach works well, I know the owner of one car is looking for 6v options right now to return the car to a more simple setup and stock look. Having said that, some 6v problems are:

The compressor itself would almost need to the the modern Sanden for ease and availability. That is pretty much what all aftermarket suppliers carry and is extremely reliable. Old compressors invite parts issues. There are no Sanden 6v clutch coils so that could be an issue. There have been reports that the 12v coil will work fine on 6v and a few are known to be using them on 6v apparently without difficulty -- but it is not a documented official OK thing to do. Because of that, warranty problems could be an issue if something should fail.

The blower is another item. There are apparently no easily available 6v motors that will just drop in. The typical aftermarket evaporator has a dual shaft motor driving two wheels. Dual shaft 6v motors seem to be non existent so a single shaft heater motor would have to be adapted. There are some single shaft/wheel blower evaporators out there. Classic Auto Air's Sidewinder series hang on units is one that comes to mind. Downside are it's modern look and the fact heater motors are generally a bit smaller in capacity than AC motors. You would have to adapt the motor mount and get a motor with proper shaft adapters to drive the generally larger shaft bore wheel. Some on the pinfo forums are considering that approach rather than change to 12v but while there seem to be conversions already done, no one apparently has any direct info as to any details.

There are a couple of people actively working on finding and documenting a 6v solution but progress is unknown at the moment. If there is news, will surely be posted as it becomes available.

bdgeorge
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Re: Has anyone added AC to a '53 Carribean

Post by bdgeorge » Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:34 pm

Dave and Howard, Thank you for your advice and great detail. This is going to be much more involved than when I added AC to my '53 ford, but I guess I knew it would be. Your value issue advice is understood and appreciated. Any modicifations would have to be reversable. I will take your suggestions and keep on studying.
All the best, Ben

Howard56
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Re: Has anyone added AC to a '53 Carribean

Post by Howard56 » Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:35 am

As was mentioned, 6v solutions have been inquired about not only here but in other make forums. Many suggestions have been made from voltage converters to hybrid units but none seem to have been entirely workable without some issue coming to the front. Apparently the potential sales volume or maybe the number of configurations needed is just not enough for the aftermarket AC guys to get interested.

If you decide to attempt the project am sure there will be many here or on pinfo who can offer moral support but probably not much else in the way of proven solutions. Anything you try or find that works and you can share with pictures, part numbers, or drawings would be most appreciated. Eventually we will get enough ideas tried and proven on our own to offer some sound information.

It would be nice one day to be able to suggest someone buy XYZ companys AC unit and then go to Napa or somewhere else and buy such and such, drill some holes and bolt the items on. Of course, by the time that happens XYZ companys product will be obsolete and we're back to square one but there is always hope. :)

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