I'm not going to do a step-by-step here, but hopefully the info and photos will give you some understanding of what
I did and how I did it, should you decide to take on this project. You can click on any thumbnail for a super-sized photo, and I've
added notes to many of the photos as well for clarity. I've loosely organized this into 4 sections, starting with under the dash...
After pulling off the dash and removing the original heater box and controls, I decide the first thing I should do is add some better insulation to the wall. I wasn't sure it would matter much, but I was there, and it couldn't hurt. So I pulled off the original insulation
(it was already half falling off anyway), used it as a template to make new pieces out of Thermotec material, and simply stuck them in place. I also lined the top of the air box channel (again, because I was there and could), but otherwise left the channel alone. This channel would no longer be used for heating/cooling, but the air vent would still work, so the air would still travel through here if I ever wanted to use it. Why would I use this, you ask? Well, the Vintage Air system is a
recirculating system, so it's not getting fresh air from outside. This way, I could still have fresh air intake if I wanted, and the air would come in under the dash (in general) which would get pulled into the A/C fan intake. So the recirculating system can become a
pseudo-fresh-air system if I ever want it. Here's some photos of adding the insulation...
The first step to install the Vintage Air COMPAC unit was figuring out how to mount it. So the next picture shows the bracket I made for the main rear mount point. This bracket simply attaches to the existing heater box mount points, and then the cross drawn in permanent marker is the COMPAC mount location I worked out.
The next photos show all the mounting locations I worked out for the COMPAC box. The brackets are the universal brackets that came with the box, but I had to massage
the front and right side bracket a bit to suit my needs. The far-right picture shows the COMPAC box
The condensation drain port comes out the bottom of the COMPAC box, so I had to work out a way to plumb this outside. It seemed like a great idea to simply run it out the original flap and hole for the transmission dipstick/fill. I have a Toyota 5 speed in there now, so this doesn't do anything anymore, and there's plenty of clearance room underneath. The Vintage Air kit came with a short piece of black vinyl tubing, but it wasn't near enough. So I found some more at Lowe's in the gardening section... used on outdoor water features. Then I found a couple rubber elbows at O'Reilly's, wandering through the "HELP!" section. These were PCV elbows for some Ford truck, and were the perfect size to fit onto the vinyl tubing. Then, using some quickset epoxy for plastic, I built the drain line you see below, and routed it as shown. The line
travels nearly straight down, along the underside of the transmission tunnel, and then simply exits about an inch below the frame. To
secure the exit point, I used a padded line clamp that I twisted a bit for orientation, and then mounted
it on top of an existing line clamp for the wiring harness (taking care that there was no way the condensation dripping could get on the wiring).
Next task I tackled was adding a pair of vents to the center console
- one for the driver, one for the passenger. I originally thought I'd use round vents, because it sounded like what would look right. But fortunately, I grabbed some vent pictures off the web, printed them out 1:1 scale, and my wife and I sat in the car, holding them on the console to see what would look right. Boy was I wrong about the round ones! Square looked far more "correct". So all I did here, as you see below, is remove the speaker grill, cut out the speaker hole some more, add a center support brace, and then recovered the middle section of the console with some new vinyl material I got from Victoria British.
And below is the finished console, with the middle
photo showing how I used some ducting and a "Y" adapter to connect both vents. The far-right photo shows my first test fit of the console... with the "Y" adapter attaching to the 180° adapter coming off the top of the COMPAC box.
Next on the agenda was the center dash piece itself - where the controls needed to go. Obviously I was pulling the existing heater controls out, but I really wanted to maintain key appearance features, and keep a "it could have come that way" look. So I chose the Vintage Air control you see here accordingly, as it would fit in a very similar location as the original, and had a nice "period" look to it. To fit it, I only needed to open up the center
rectangular cut-out in the vertical direction. This enabled me to keep the pull knobs. So I had some custom parts made - the middle photo - and added some decals to them using the original "COLD AIR" and "AIR FROM HEATER" text. These then fit through the original holes. The left "COLD AIR" pull would still work, but the right "AIR FROM HEATER" pull would just be a dummy now, since it would no longer be connected to anything. Maybe I can figure out something cool to use it for later :)
Next up is how I did the heater lines - a bit crude looking, but effective. I didn't want to change the location of the lines coming into the cockpit, so that meant they had to take an immediate 90° turn upon entering the cockpit, go behind the COMPAC box, and the circle around the side to connect to the heater core. Plus, the intake line had to have the included shut-off valve inline somehow. The photos below may not look too pretty, but it worked out really well, and fit perfectly in the limited space I had.
Since I no longer had the 3.75" dia. air hose coming in from the blower motor, I used that hole for my A/C line routing. It was in the perfect place to connect to the COMPAC unit, kept the lines in a nice subtle location, and meant I didn't have to drill any holes in the car. So I made the cover plate you see below - two identical plates, one inside and one outside, and then bolted them together. In between them are the rubber grommets for the A/C lines, as well as some thin insulation on each face to help hold them in place and keep from sliding around and damaging paint. The far-right photo shows the A/C lines in place.
FYI... Vintage Air has a unit smaller than the COMPAC unit, called the MINI. I got the COMPAC unit because it looked like I would have plenty of room for it. Once I started connecting everything though, I began to doubt... thinking maybe I should have gotten the smaller MINI unit. Several times during this project I thought that, but I already bought the COMPAC, so I stuck with it. In hindsight now, I'm glad I did!! With a convertible top, in Texas heat, I suspect that the MINI would have had a much harder time cooling the car, due to its smaller capacity. And it all worked out and fit good anyway. So I'm glad I struggled through the tight fit of the COMPAC unit.
The last few photos below show some of the final ducting and wiring everything up. It looks a bit scary, but it's really pretty straightforward. The Vintage Air Gen II COMPAC system is fully electronic, so there are no cables to worry about off the controls... just a bunch of wires.
The first photos here show me test fitting the compressor bracket I obtained from Bret Blades. That's a
bungee cord you see wrapped around in place of the belt. Everything lined up perfectly. Other than this bracket and a couple
Heim joints, those were the only pieces I got from Bret - since everything else was going to be custom. However, he does sell a complete kit if you don't want to go the route I did. FYI... I chose a compressor with REAR in/out instead of the typical TOP in/out because I thought the lines might route better that way. I was right!
The next photos below are showing creation of the sliding bracket
to finish the compressor mounting, which connects to the stock generator mounting point on the front engine plate. I then added small spacer between the slide bracket and the compressor to get things lined up perfectly. This spacer is
by chance the same spacer I created for my first alternator conversion that I have documented on this website. The sliding bracket I created here got
modified a bit more and ended up serving a dual purpose, which I will get to in a bit.
The next photos show my test fitting the alternator... using rags, blocks of wood,
bungee cords and duct tape to try and find the perfect position and hold it there while I worked out the stuff around it. This was a bit
of a challenge!
This is a new alternator you see here. I had a similar alternator conversion already, but the 180° mounting points of my previous alternator would not work for this setup. So after MUCH searching, I found this
one. It's got 120° mounting points, and is correct for this side of the engine. It's a GM CS130D alternator, but doesn't have that old style "GM alternator" appearance to it. This alternator style is actually used
in modern cars, but I think it has a cool classic look to it that matches well with the car. And the polished aluminum version here compliments everything else that I've changed over to polished. Plus, this style of alternator has dual INTERNAL fans, so I didn't have to worry about getting too close to the radiator hose or the hood prop (which I will talk about shortly).
Below... using some more pieces of that universal compressor bracket set I bought, I fabricated a "U" shaped cradle piece for mounting the alternator... and then this "U" bracket needed to get welded onto the compressor bracket with perfect belt alignment. What you see here in the photos is "U bracket version 2.0" because the first attempt didn't work out quite right. I held the "U" bracket in place with vice grips, and then once I was sure the belt was lined up, I welded small spots on all four corners. I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to move/warp out of position while I finished the welding, so I zapped a few extra points just to be sure. Then I pulled it off the car and thoroughly welded things together. The far-right photo shows the "U" bracket fully welded in place.
On the other side of the alternator, for belt tensioning, I fabricated up a
Heim joint linkage with LH thread on one end and RH thread on the other. I got the joints and nuts from Bret Blades, and then built and welded the assembly myself to the measurements I needed. Using
Heim joints here made it MUCH easier to tension the
alternator, since the belt is so short. The top side of the linkage connects to the alternator, and then the bottom side of the linkage actually connects to the top of the compressor slider bracket. This way, both alternator and compressor tensioning force is off the engine mount, not off each other. The photo on the right may help clarify this, as it shows all the pieces laid out.
Finally, the photos below show the final mounting of the alternator/compressor engine bracket. Somehow I managed to get the belts to line up perfectly. It couldn't have worked out better!
Somehow I missed this in all my research online... but I had a major
interference problem with the hood prop rod. The alternator fit under the hood with no problem at all... but where the hood prop rod was, it was directly in the way of the alternator. It's entirely possible that my hood prop was already incorrect for some reason, and others don't have to do this. Not sure. The photos you see below show my "repositioning" of the hood prop. I actually heated the thing up with a torch, and flipped the mount point 180° by carefully twisting the rod. Then I did some re-bending and massaging to get it to prop up the hood properly and snap into place properly when the hood is
down. The result of this is that the hood prop is now on the other side of the pivot point from where it was, which puts it closer to the RH side of the car. Now, it rests nicely between the alternator and the side of the car... no interference problems at all.
Next up... since part of this project was to address engine cooling, I opted to make a fan shroud... since what Healeys come with certainly doesn't do a whole lot to direct air. I wasn't looking for much - just some minor improvements in directing air flow. The photos below show what I did. What you're looking at is a piece of 1-1/4" wide X 1/16" thick aluminum that I bought from Lowe's, polished up a little, and bent into an arc. Then I made the bottom end brackets out of some high temper steel I had. The brackets mounted
using the existing bolts that hold the bottom radiator brackets, and then on top to the piece of aluminum. Then, at the top of the arc, I simply drilled a hole through the center of the stock shroud, figured out a spacer to fit between them to hold position, and then tightened everything up. The end result is a simple, rigid, and seemingly effective fan shroud.
Now that the fan shroud and up-rated radiator were in the car, I could move on to mounting the condenser. This was a bit tricky, but with some care and patience, it came out perfect. I opted to buy an off-the-shelf condenser that I found at Nostalgic Air Parts.
It looked like it would be the perfect size to fit, and was as big as I could possibly get in the space I had to work with. Plus, it's one of those "superflow" condensers
that are supposed to be superior to the old "tube
and fin" style. Especially when using with
R-134a, which apparently requires more condensing
area than the old R-12 systems. And on top of
this, the price was awesome! So if I got it
wrong or messed it up, I could buy another one of a different size and still not be at the price of a single custom-made condenser.
The photos below show my mounting solution. I made a bracket for each corner out of high temper steel, VERY carefully positioning the
condenser so that 1) it was perfectly parallel to the radiator, since you can see it from under the hood and I wanted it to look good, and 2) so that the bottom A/C line would fit into the extremely limited space I had. The upper #8 line was easy... I just positioned the condenser to pass this line through the hole in the radiator support, where the hose could just run along the inner fender well and connect to the compressor. That bottom #6 line though... what a beast to work out!...
I used aluminum tubing for this
line (which is bendable by hand), and used two sections that I joined together. The first "front" section connects to the condenser, then loops around between the front suspension mount and the X brace, and then passes under the condenser and radiator. It then runs along the frame, gets secured by a line clamp that's mounted to the same bolt as the brake union block, and then connects to the "rear" section of line. This rear section then simply continues along, curves upward past the brake servo, and comes in to the far side of the drier. Below you can see the front line section, and it's connection to the rear section....
...and then in the left photo
below, you can see the line coming up to connect to
the drier. As for the drier, this was mounted
using the included mounting straps to the outer two
screws that attach the RHD steering blanking plate.
That way I didn't have to drill any new holes.
It was a nice fit, and a nice place to mount it.
The drier is equipped with a trinary safety switch,
so it's got the standard high/low pressure safety
protection, as well as "pressure is getting a bit
too high" protection where it's capable of turning
on the electric fan. This works in conjunction
with a temperature controlled fan controller to
insure pressures and temperatures always stay in
After getting all this stuff mounted, the last really important step was to double-check all my clearance. So the photo below shows the steering turned all the way to the left lock. This is the "worst case" for clearance. Everything checked out great... no clearance problems... except for the very bottom of the electric fan. It had some mounting tabs that protruded downward slightly - tabs that I did not use for mounting - so I actually had to shave them down slightly to keep from touching the steering linkage at full lock.
Speaking of electric fans... the photos below show how I mounted the fan. I simply used the existing X brace, adding a couple "L" brackets at the top, and
drilled two holes down at the bottom. Keeping the stock X brace in tact meant that the fan isn't as close as I'd like it to be to the condenser - especially towards the top, since it's at a slight angle - but this was the least intrusive way to mount it, so I figured I'd try this first and only modify further if necessary.
The Derale fan controller I bought came with an inline NPT mounted
temperature sender, so I had to figure out where to put this. I chose this route instead of one of those probe sensors that you stick into the radiator fins because this seemed like it would obtain a far more accurate temperature reading than an external probe. The photo below shows how I adapted this into the upper radiator hose using an AutoMeter hose adapter (which is specifically designed for doing
this sort of thing). The temperature sender is oriented out the bottom. The adapter comes as unfinished aluminum, but I painted it back to look better against the short radiator hose. I also "hid" the adapter's hose clamps by - believe it or not - simply wrapping them in electrical tape. The edges of the tape fold under the edges of the clamp, so once tightened, the tape can't come off even if it doesn't stay sticky. I'm really happy with how clean this turned out. When I first did it - with a shiny aluminum adapter and shiny stainless hose clamps - it looked really goofy. Making it all black made it a lot more subtle and less intrusive in appearance.
The next cooling upgrade was to add an overflow tank. I got this polished stainless steel tank off eBay. Simple, but good looking and effective. I added an overflow tank simply to allow the radiator to always be 100% full of coolant, rather than having an inch or so of air gap inside to compensate for coolant expansion. More coolant means more cooling, so it seemed like a good idea, considering it was pretty easy to work out and didn't cost much. The mount bracket is just a piece of square aluminum tube that I got from Lowe's and polished up a bit. I cut
and shaped it so it would mount to the existing radiator mount bolts, and then the tank itself would mount to the bracket in between. If you do something like this, make sure you change your radiator cap to a cap that has the "suck back" feature in it. And not just any cap... be careful what you get, because the Healey radiator has a slightly taller neck than most caps you'd buy at your
local parts store. Get the cap I listed in the parts list above and you'll be good.
With all the big stuff in place, it was time to run the A/C lines to the compressor... which is what you see in the photos below. The #8 line from compressor to condenser worked out really well.
The next photos below show the
positioning of the drier, #10 A/C line, fan wiring,
and how I had to relocate the forward horn.
The Derale fan control box is mounted on studs that
pass through the existing holes where the blower
motor used to be. This way I didn't have to
make any new holes. It's got an adjustable set
point, so you can easily set the temperature at
which the fan turns on anywhere between 160°F and
240°F. I'm starting out set at about 190°F,
and will adjust from there once I get to driving the
Below was my solution for coil relocation, since it needed a new home. The CS130D alternator I bought conveniently had some threaded holes in the lower back of it... apparently for mounting various equipment in certain cars. So I used one of these holes as my mount point, modifying the coil bracket a bit, adding a spacer, and then attaching via a big screw. I had to tweak the angle and positioning quite a bit to 1) make sure the spark plug wires could route properly, 2) make sure I could still access the oil dipstick, and 3) make sure the coil wire could reach the distributor. I know I could have just gotten a new longer coil wire, but this one did make it, if only just, and seems to be working just fine.
Finally, below, is the finished engine bay! I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out.
|III. Finishing the Interior
The first photos below show the dash all back together... and what things look like behind the console. That duct you see running across the
underside, if you remember above, is the duct that connects up to the RH defrost connection. Those defrost connections... it wasn't very clear in any of the
previous photos... but I did actually utilize the original rubber elbows that mount into the holes in the underside of the dash, and then simply attached the new ducting onto those elbows via hose clamps (with some double-sided tape in between the rubber elbow and new ducting to make sure it didn't slip off).
Moving on the to the last piece of the system... below are the side vents I made out of some steel
sheet I had. I first tried just buying some universal underdash pods, but just couldn't find anything that would work out right. So I decided to
just make my own, so they'd be exactly how I wanted them. This also enabled me to cover them with the same vinyl I used to cover the console and center dash...
to help with that "it could have come that way" appearance.
Below is the passenger side vent. Came out awesome! The duct, as you see in the far-right photo, actually squeezes up behind the glove box, and follows the back glove box curve to the COMPAC box. Worked out great, and stayed tucked up and out of the way.
Below is the drivers side vent. The duct here simply runs over the steering column, and has a few zip ties to keep it from hanging down too much. The far-right photo shows my knee clearance with respect to the vent, which I was worried about (since I'm really
tall). No problems though!
And finally, here's the end of the project! Below are some photos of the finished interior. I'm extremely happy with the way things turned out.
|IV. Assembly, Testing & Charging Notes
I built/crimped all the A/C hoses myself using a really nice (and reasonably priced) crimping kit I found on eBay. It was really easy, and worked extremely well. The brand is Mastercool, and I bought from Citrus Tools.
I charged the system myself using a "starter" DIY kit I bought from
ackits.com several years back. It came with a gauge set, vacuum pump, UV light, A/C manual and a few other accessories. Great little kit! I've used it a few times now. I don't work in the HVAC industry, but I do work in the gas pressure control/regulation industry, so I'm quite familiar with this kind of stuff. I wouldn't recommend doing this yourself if you're not.
After fully closing the A/C system, I first purged the system with a low flow of nitrogen for about 10 minutes, and then pressurized the system with 150 psi of nitrogen for about 24 hours to check for system leaks. If you do this, make sure the ambient temperature is the SAME each time you check the pressure, because changing ambient temperature can cause a few psi variation in system pressure (so it could look like you have pressure drop from a leak when you actually don't).
Once I verified no high pressure leaks, I bled the pressure out, and then pulled vacuum for 45 minutes. I let it sit for about a half hour to verify no gauge
movement, and then repeated the 45 minute vacuum
(can't be too careful!). Ambient temperature was over 90°F while I was doing all this, which meets Vintage Air's charging recommendations. Now I was ready to charge.
I charged with 26 ounces of R134a - instead of the 28.8 ounces that Vintage Air recommends. The main reason for doing this is because that's what the cans I had totaled up to :) ...and the system seemed to work great at 26 ounces, with all
operating pressures in spec, so I didn't want to chance messing it up. I figure the Healey system is likely a bit smaller than average, so maybe this is a better amount to go with anyway.
With the test conditions per
Vintage Air's parameters for determining system operation, I found the high side and low side pressures fell nicely within spec, and I measured 41°F at the vent! That's fantastic, considering it was in the low 90s outside when I was doing this.
If anyone has any questions about any of this, feel free to send me an email!