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retrofitting Air Conditioning
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mickeyflorio
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:21 pm    Post subject: retrofitting Air Conditioning Reply with quote

Hi all,

I've got an '88 Wolfsburg Vanagon, hardtop and want to retrofit airconditioning. Van did not come with A/C originally. I'm considering grafting on a pop-top, so I don't want to do the standard late model a/c with the tunnel from front to back and I don't want to do the rear-only westy a/c system. One other piece of info: the van is subaru-powered and I have the suby A/C pump. I know i'll have to get custom hoses made up.

A few questions:
1. A friend had an early vanagon with a front-only ceiling-mounted a/c. how does that work? are they still around? Does anyone have one to sell?
2. Seems that there are aftermarket a/c systems where everything fits into the dash. How well do those work? Who makes 'em?
3. Can I modify a westy or hardtop-with-tunnel a/c to work as a front-only?

Thanks,
Mickey in Denver

Just trying to figure out what the best plan of attack is, thanks for the help and I'd love to hear your conversion stories!
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r39o
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:34 pm    Post subject: Re: retrofitting Air Conditioning Reply with quote

I urge you to search the forum for more in depth into this topic. All systems have been shown and discussed to one degree or another.

mickeyflorio wrote:
1. A friend had an early vanagon with a front-only ceiling-mounted a/c. how does that work? are they still around?

Dealer installed. Blow on the front of your head. Unless you find a time capsule you will only find used ones in parts vans.

mickeyflorio wrote:
2. Seems that there are aftermarket a/c systems where everything fits into the dash. How well do those work? Who makes 'em?

Dealer installed a Behr unit. There are a few made by some after market suppliers. You need to use THE SEARCH function to find who makes those. They do blow cold or cool depending the particular setup.

mickeyflorio wrote:
3. Can I modify a westy or hardtop-with-tunnel a/c to work as a front-only?

Anything is possible. Is it practical? Depends on your skills.

Since you want to put a camping top on, you will likely not get a rear mounted system to blow in the front.
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edgood1
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vintage air is the company that makes aftermarket solutions. I believe the GEN-II system has been documented here on samba.

I know Daryl from AA transaxle has also installed this unit under the dash. It just fits under there if you relocate your radio and it replaces your heater core as well (which is nice).

You could use a stock vanagon system, there was the one above the rear seat installed on westies but it kinda sucks and takes up a lot of space. you'd be using all old used parts.


I am planning to install the vintage air system in my dash this winter. (I've also grafted a pop top on). I also considered replacing the rear heater core with a larger vintage air unit but I think it will be better if installed in the dash. I am one of the few who believe in the rear heater!

I'm budgeting $1500 for the project, using my existing subaru compressor.
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vintage Air works well. Do an internet search for Blake Heinlein. He completely documented the install. I did a few things different than Blake, but am totally satisfied with the end result. Nostalgic Air is another company, but had no luck getting the information I needed and Blake had done all the work. End Result:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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r39o
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where do you source the center vents?
.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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thummmper
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1991-1997 toyota previa ac system--check it out--compact in dash and rear unit as well. jy stuff.
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Thummper and MickeyFlorio:

I want to install a front, under the dash system also. There's actually a fair bit of unused space in there! I have thought a lot about vehicles that would already have A/C units that would fit under the Vanagon dash. I can't say that I have looked around in junkyards very much, so I am happy to hear from Thummper his hint about the Toyota Previa.

I was previously considering a Toyota 4Runner system, mainly because it is very compact. However, the interior space in a 4Runner, compared to the Vanagon, means to me the 4Runner system might lack the BTU power to cool my Syncro Westy.

I was quite impressed with Blake Henlein's system and write-up. However, since A/C parts can be obtained so cheaply these days and since I like a challenge, I have been considering making a custom under-dash A/C system.

My thought was to use portions of the Vanagon air box (mostly the flanges connecting it to the front bulkhead/firewall) and make an entirely new system that draws all the air from an enclosure that contains the evaporator, and uses an air mixing arrangement to mix cooled air with the heated air as all modern air handling boxes do.

Maybe this should become a thread, with Blake Henlein's system as the poster-boy?
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scubabrian
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the Gen II Vintage Air system in mine along with the stock 85 camper AC cabinet. The Vintage Air system will fit in the place of the stock heater core and you still can fit the radio in. I have the center vent running through the old ash tray and am using the old stock fresh air vents on each side of the dash. While its not a meat locker it does keep the van comfortable.
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Keyport Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blake Henlein's Vintage Air write-up is indeed very good and served as a much read guide to a Vanagon install. I interpreted in my own way before going forward to solve our long-term AC issues. The system does a very good job of blowing cold directly on our faces as advertised.

Two colleagues also deviated from Blake's plan and installed their own systems. I hired a local hot rod shop with some young craftsmen to fab a few goodies before installing the same basic system. The GEN-II evaporator, while effective, is challenged to keep the rear of the van cooled down on very warm days. There are larger units, but they do not fit under the dash. The added heat and defrost in one box is a very good feature. I eliminated the existing slider controls and went with Vintage Air controls to give the dash a very clean and uncluttered appearance.

Here's a link to the photo story of the build. The dash in the photos is sacrifical and is for prototyping. It was not used in the final installation. If I can figure out how to post a photo I'll try later, otherwise a photo of the dash hiding out in my gallery.

http://www.j-rodandcustom.com/J-Rod_%26_Custom/Projects/Pages/VW_westfalia.html

Good luck with your own design and solution. I hope you take it to the next level and report back onyour progress.
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presslab
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

r39o wrote:
Where do you source the center vents?


Here is a better pic of the vent:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


I got it when I bought the used Behr unit. I have about $500 total in my AC system, using my existing Subaru compressor.

One additional mod I considered is to tap into the front air tunnel (which sits just below the Behr unit) to provide AC airflow to the rear passengers. I didn't do it though.
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climberjohn
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suggest you call the guys at subagon.com.

They live in Redding CA, where summer temps are often well over 100 degrees.

They create Suby vans, add A/C to their conversions, and seem to know their stuff well.

Might be a good resource.

-CJ
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To the original poster. Last spring at a VW camper campout, a member was showing me his AC setup in his pop top Vanagon. He modified the long center duct to be easily removable. So when traveling, the duct was in place sending cool air up front. When camped, he could reach up and quickly remove the duct and get the head room back.

It looked a little funky, but was a good use of available parts rather than starting from scratch.

I looked at possibly going with a Vintage Air Gen IV their latest system, but it would have required cutting and modifying the cross beam to make room. I am surprised at the comments that there is a lot of "space" to mount a system. I found the opposite to be true. If you want to maintain the glove box and a stock appearance, you quickly run out of room. Removing the factory fresh air / heater box, gives you a lot more room, but once you start running defroster ducts and the 4 vent ducts, it gets tight pretty quickly.

If you don't care about the stock appearance or structure, you could pretty much add quite a few different systems from junked cars. You also need consider the time required. Working in my spare time it took probably 5 months to complete the install and that was with Blake doing all of the leg work.

I'd like to see a thread where someone does document the install of an AC system from an import. There are some very clever and talented people here on The Samba.
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a few bits collected to install AC in my 89 Westy which came from the factory with no AC.

Curious. Does the VW compressor have the capacity to handle both front (Vinatge Air or Behr)and rear OEM AC units?.. running at the same time?
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GrindGarage
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If in order to have air upfront sacrificing the glove box would be no big deal to me. I find it is a awkward setup plus I'm not much of a pack rat. Any of those vintage air setups sized to fit in that space. Maybe gut the glove box to retain the factory look and use it as a cover.
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GrindGarage wrote:
If in order to have air upfront sacrificing the glove box would be no big deal to me. I find it is a awkward setup plus I'm not much of a pack rat. Any of those vintage air setups sized to fit in that space. Maybe gut the glove box to retain the factory look and use it as a cover.


You can't tell, but my lower center cover has been cut back to make room for my remote stereo. I also fabbed brackets to support it since the original housing is gone. Cutting back the glove box would definitely give you a lot more room to get creative and the bulk of a combo heater/ac would be negated allowing for a smaller package.

When doing mods or upgrades, I always have the next owner in mind. My changes are done in such a way that the "originalness" can be returned if needed. I see the lower dash covers used for sale, so I felt comfortable doing surgery on it. The same should be true for a glovebox. I know this seems anal, but I can't help it. I boxed up all of the original freshair/heater parts just in case they need to go back in someday.

As far as running two evaporators on one Sanden compressor, I suppose someone that has done it successfully will need to chime in. Any other vehicles I have come across, Chevy Suburban/Nissan Quest that had dual airs seemed to have conventional compressors. I think managing the evaporator temperatures would be more of the challenge.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the Vintage Air Gen II under the dash and there is not much more room to add something larger. For the money, the Gen II evaporator is not a bad deal, of course if you could get parts for little or no money, have the time, then why not give it a try.

Building an AC system from scratch would be pretty neat but a lot of work. If you run into problems you are on your own. I guess if you were up to building an AC system from scrap parts, you would be up to engineering out any hick-ups you may run across. I had problems with my Gen II set up, but with the excellent tech support from Vintage Air we were able to track it down to a bad expansion valve. It's not clear how the valve was bad, it could have happened from contamination on installation but VA stood behind their product and provided a replacement.

A necessary mod to the Gen II unit in a Vanagon is to cut out the housing in front of the fan so that air can flow in. The stock set up draws air from the top. After you hook up the heater hoses, AC lines and run the right side duct over the top, there is not much room left for air intake with the dash right there.

For rear cooling, I blocked off half of the channel and ran one of the ducts off of the Gen II unit into it. Air does flow through the door, up the pillar to the two rear vents above the slider, but a second fan is going to be required to get anything significant out of them. I tried a computer muffin fan, but that was not enough. I think some kind of squirrel cage set up behind the glove box will be needed to provide the necessary air flow without making a ton of noise. Being separate, you could turn it on or off to suite passengers load. I think once I get the rear fan operational, this set up could work with a insulated van with some window tinting on a hot day. I don't think you will have rear passengers complaining of being too cold but it might do the job.

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edgood1
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

question:

I have this dash accessory. It covers the stock dash top.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


By cutting metal on the top of the stock dash would I be able to fit a larger unit in there, like a vintage air Gen IV?

It needs to be completely hidden under the dash accessory.
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
A necessary mod to the Gen II unit in a Vanagon is to cut out the housing in front of the fan so that air can flow in.


I actually removed the plastic cover from the blower housing. If I remember it was held in place with 3 tiny screws. A little silcone plugged the holes. I did contact Vintage air to ask if it was ok to remove it. They advised it would.

That is a really nice dash accessorie. From your post, I guess you are considering cutting up the stock dash and using the cover to hide the surgery. Vintage air has empty units for mock up. That might be an option. The newer Gen IV looks like a factory unit compared to the Gen II. I think between Blake's measurements and the specs provided by Vintage Air, you could get a pretty good idea if the Gen IV could be adapted to fit. One problem I recall was the intake was on the booster end of the unit and I was not sure if it could be turned around.

I had considered deflecting one of the vents to the rear above the slider, but decided to just concentrate on the front area. If the dog gets hot, he can come up front. With passengers and kids in the back, I don't think the Gen II would be sufficient on its own even with a 12 volt fan.

One thing I spent a ton of time on was applying sound deading and insulation. You really need to insulate the van as well as possible.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thing to think about with the Gen IV is condenser area. A few of us with the Gen II have upped the condenser size to 16x22. You can't get much bigger with the space available in a Vanagon in front of the radiator. If somebody made a 18x22 it would fit, but I didn't find anybody that made that size. You could be condenser limited with the larger Gen IV evaporator. I don't know for a fact but it is something to consider if you went larger.

Vintage Air give a rule of thumb for condenser sizing but the condenser sits so close to the sheet metal cross support under the grill that I think it really blocks airflow to the portion of the condenser behind it. There is no space for the air to flow around it before it enters the condenser.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:38 pm    Post subject: Re: retrofitting Air Conditioning Reply with quote

mickeyflorio wrote:

1. A friend had an early vanagon with a front-only ceiling-mounted a/c. how does that work? are they still around? Does anyone have one to sell?

Saw one on a parts van, wanted to get it, but It had a tunnel down the van behind the driver and it wasn't going to work with my Westy Weekender (rear seat in way).

Maybe I could have made it work, but....
John
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