Author Archives: sdcohe

Vintage License Plate Frames

My Mustang was originally sold at Academy Ford in Laurel, Maryland. I had manage to find a few dealer logos from the 1960’s, but never was able to locate any dealer license plate frames from that time period. Eventually I learned about Brad Barrie and Old School Automotive License Plate Frames. Brad is able to create vintage license plate frame replicas.

I contacted Brad about making me a pair of vintage license plate frames. Neither of us was able to locate an image of actual Academy Ford license plate frames from that era, but Brad had the knowledge to recreate a pair as they most likely would have appeared back in 1967. That included using a period correct font and the Academy logo with the mortar board over the letter A.

Here is one of the completed license plate frames.

And this is how it looks on the back of my car.

Vintage Air Wrapping Things Up

What I thought would be an easy buttoning up of the dash turned out to be more work than expected (just like everything else with this AC install). The first issue I ran into was that I couldn’t find the antenna connector on the back of the radio or the connector for the glove box light. I ended up removing the console once again to gain better access to the wiring. I eventually did manage to find the connectors and got them both hooked up. Believe it or not it took me about an hour to locate them both. Then I reinstalled the console, hopefully for the final time.

I returned to installing the ash tray and glove box. The duct hoses for the AC system managed to interfere with both the glove box and the ash tray liner. Moving the hoses around to make clearance caused them to interfere with the windshield wipers again. I spent some time repositioning hoses and everything is clear now, but opening and closing the glove box still rubs on one of the hoses a bit. I’ll revisit that sometime soon, but I just really needed to be able to button everything back up and drive the car some.

My previous mounting holes for the under dash lighting were now being used by the under dash AC vents. I found a suitable hole under the driver’s side dash and mounted the light there. On the passenger side I chose to use one of the glove box mounting screws. This worked, but the light bulb is exposed more than I like. I’m leaving it there for now, but I may have to either drill a new mounting hole or create a bracket that mounts the light in a less exposed location.

For now I’m declaring the job complete, even though I still have a few issues to iron out. This AC installation turned out to be more involved and time consuming than I expected based on just reading the instructions. The most difficult part for me was routing the “behind the dash” duct work. There isn’t much room back there to work with. The installation also turned out to be more expensive because I needed to purchase a bead lock crimping tool to make the hoses. That was unexpected as I thought the kit came with pre-made hoses rather than a make your own hose kit.

I’m now officially taking a break from working on the car for a while. I still have a few small (as in 1 hour or less) projects I might tackle. Since I have extra wiring loom I may clean up some non-AC related wiring in the engine compartment. I also purchased a Wagner adjustable PCV valve I can install and adjust. I had planned to rebuild the brake distribution block and residual pressure valve over the winter before I found the blown heater core. But if the brakes don’t give me any trouble I may save that for next winter.

I need to get the car cleaned up inside and outside so I can just enjoy driving it for a while. When the weather gets hotter outside I should now be able to stay nice and cool in the Mustang. If I feel comfortable with the pandemic situation I may even decide to attend some shows. I’m still undecided on large public gatherings at this point in time.

Vintage Air Charging the System

After sitting overnight, my gauges showed that the system had held vacuum with no issues. That meant I was finally ready to charge up the system. I made a trip to the local auto parts store and purchased an adapter so that I could use my piercing can tap on the newer style self sealing refrigerant cans.

After returning home with the adapter, I started the car up so I could start charging the system with refrigerant. I did notice that the electric choke was working now that I had replaced the fuse. At this point I connected the first can and started charging the system. After a couple of minutes the compressor engaged and continued to cycle on and off throughout the process. I considered that a very good sign. Once the first refrigerant can was emptied I connected up the second can and continued with the charging process. Once that can was empty I attached the third and final can. I only needed to use about 1/3 of that can to get the system up to 1.8 lbs. of refrigerant. Once that was completed the system was fully charged.

I placed a thermometer in the center vent to see what temperature the A/C was blowing. It was about 80 degrees F. outside and the A/C was blowing 45 degree F. air. That was inside a garage, with the car windows open, and no airflow through the condenser beyond what the engine fan was pulling through the radiator. The Vintage Air documentation recommends testing with the windows up, the engine at 2000 rpm, and a fan placed in front of the condenser moving air through it to simulate the car driving on the road. In theory the Vintage Air test should result in an even colder temperature at the vents. They say to look for a temperature of 46 to 36 degrees F. This all also depends on the ambient temperature and humidity, but at least I’m in the correct range.

At this point I’m considering this installation a success. I still have some cleanup to do in the engine compartment. I still need to reinstall the ash tray liner, console, and glove box. I also need to replace the fuse for the interior lighting that I managed to blow during the process. While I had quite a few fuses laying around, the fuse I needed for the interior lighting was not one of them. A quick check with a coupe of local auto parts stores failed to turn up the proper fuse. I ended up placing an order for fuses online and they should be arriving in the next few days.

It’s really a relief to be able to wrap up this A/C installation. Once the dash is back together and the interior lighting is fixed I can clean the car inside and out and get back to driving the car instead of spending time wrenching on it. I have to admit that I have a few more little things to do. But I plan to save any jobs until next winter that would put the car out of commission for more than a few hours.

Vintage Air Coolant and A/C Leak Test

I’m in the home stretch now as it’s time to leak test everything and then hopefully charge the A/C. I filled the radiator up with coolant and then started up the engine for the first time in months. It started right up and ran at a very fast idle. I spotted some coolant leaks so I shut things down, tightened some clamps. and then started it back up again. I let it warm up until coolant flowed from the engine through the radiator. My IR temperature gun said the temperature at the thermostat was about 165. The choke refused to open so I manually moved the fast idle cam so that the engine could idle. It ran fine and there were no coolant leaks. I shut the engine off and proceeded to diagnose the electric choke not working.

I checked the electric choke wiring and found that the wire connected to the choke was disconnected. I plugged it back in and started the car back up but the choke still wouldn’t open. I checked for voltage at the connector and there wasn’t any. I checked at the stator connection at the alternator and there was voltage. Next I checked the fuse and it was blown. While I was getting a new fuse out of my toolbox I heard a loud pop and saw a geyser of coolant spraying around the garage. One of the radiator hoses had come loose and was spewing burning hot coolant all over. I placed a catch can under the hose and waited for everything to cool down some. Then I fixed the hose and poured the coolant from the catch can back into the radiator. Now the choke and cooling system were both working again.

Next I turned my attention to the A/C system. I connected up my gauges and vacuum pump and pulled a vacuum for 45 minutes. When I turned off the pump to see if the system would hold vacuum it was obvious that it had a really bad leak. I tightened up all the fittings I could get to and vacuumed the system down again. The leak was still there. I removed the hose ends one at a time to make sure I didn’t lose any O-rings. I found that one of the fittings had the nice new shiny O-ring I had installed along with an older one that had come out of the hose end cap that Vintage Air used for shipping the system. I removed the extra O-ring, tightened down all the fittings again, and pulled another vacuum. It was much better this time but still had a slow leak.

At this point I decided to call it a day. I removed my gauges and noticed that several of the gauge hoses had a lot of excess material hanging off of the O-rings for the gauges. I cleaned up the gauge hose ends and tried one last time. Amazingly the system held vacuum. I would have charged it after an hour or two of holding vacuum, but I discovered that the refrigerant can tap I had was the piercing type of tap and my cans of refrigerant were all the self sealing type. I needed to get either a new tap or an adapter, but at this point all the stores were closed. So I was forced to let it sit overnight. While it is a good test, I hope it is OK to leave the system under vacuum for that long of a time.

My next entry should be about charging the system once I have the correct can tap.

Vintage Air Finish Duct Work and Refrigerant Hoses

Now that I had a technique for attaching the duct hose ends it was time to finish up routing and installing the duct hoses. The driver’s side vent hose was pretty close to a position I was happy with, but I did spend a bit more time attempting to get it to where it was fairly straight and didn’t interfere with the windshield wiper mechanism. While no routes were perfect, I did eventually find a route where I could use some wire ties to hold the hose out of the way of the wiper mechanism. The only remaining issue with that particular hose is that I I routed it through the location for my under dash lighting. Now I will need to find a new place for both of my under dash lighting sockets. But that won’t hold me up at this point as I can temporarily remove the lighting. I plan to find a good place for both sockets later on when I put the rest of the dash back together.

The remaining duct hoses went on fairly smoothly and were much less difficult to route compared to the driver’s side vent hose. There was some interference between the passenger side hoses where they connected to the evaporator. But I was able to work them around each other with some tight bends that crimped the hoses a bit but didn’t restrict the flow that much. I tested the controls and fan again after I finished installing the duct hoses and air blew out of all of the vents with the controls in their appropriate settings.

Next I started laying out the refrigerant hoses in the engine compartment. The first issue I found was while test fitting the refrigerant hose ends on the compressor. I noticed that there wasn’t enough clearance to shut the hood with the fittings installed. The instructions say that it is OK to rotate the compressor no farther than 90 degrees on its’ side. So I removed the compressor and reinstalled it rotated 90 degrees with the fittings facing the driver’s side fender. That gave me the hood clearance I needed without exceeding the compressor mounting specifications.

Routing the hoses was relatively simple. I made sure they didn’t interfere with the throttle linkage. I would have preferred to have a bit more space around the valve covers but there wasn’t much room to work with so I did the best that I could. Once I had a configuration that I liked I cut the hoses to length and marked their positions on the fittings and hoses so I could orient everything correctly when I crimped on the ends. It is important to make nice clean cuts on the hoses so that the ends will crimp on correctly. I used this tool from Gates to make the cuts. I wish I had waited and used this tool on the heater hoses as it made much nicer cuts than my knife did.

Gates 91153 Hand Held Hose Cutter

I used the bead lock crimping tool I purchased to crimp on the refrigerant hose ends. Using it was fairly straightforward, but required clamping the tool tightly in a vise and quite a bit of strength to get the ends crimped on tightly. Once the hoses were crimped on I installed the hoses and secured them with wire ties. Here’s what I ended up with.

I’m getting to the home stretch now. I plan to do a little work on my instrument cluster before I reinstall it. After reinstalling the instrument cluster I will check the A/C system for leaks, refill the cooling system, start the car, and charge the A/C. My greatest fear right now is that I will discover and need to fix an A/C system leak. Wish me luck!

Vintage Air Wiring, Hoses, and Ducting

Lately I’ve been putting in an hour here and an hour there, mostly just attempting to decide how I want to route hoses and wiring so that the installation doesn’t look like a total mess. I’ve been taking it really slow so that I won’t mess up or have to do anything over. I know that if I do mess up I won’t have a huge problem extending wires that I accidentally cut too short and I can always buy more heater hose if I have to. My bigger concerns at this point are the in dash ducting and the AC hoses.

The Vintage Air A/C kit comes with the hoses and ends need to attach to the evaporator, compressor and condenser. When installing the kit you have measure the hoses for length and then you have the the option of sending the hoses back to Vintage Air for crimping or having the ends crimped onto the hoses locally. I elected to have the crimping done locally. I posted a call for help on the social media site for the local Mustang club. I received back several responses naming shops that would be able to handle crimping the ends on the hoses for me. I spent several hours calling a number of shops but was unable to find one that would be willing to crimp the ends on the hoses for me. Several would make new hoses from scratch for me, but not using the hoses and ends I already had from the kit.

In the I decided to order the crimping tool and make the hoses myself. The tool is rather expensive, but wasn’t much more than the shipping to send back the hoses or the cost of having custom hoses made. Maybe somebody else in the Mustang club can use if they install A/C on their car. I’ll post some pictures and the results of my crimping once I have actually made the hoses.

The tool I ordered is this one on Amazon.

I did manage to finish routing and installing the heater hoses. Some of the original style Witek clamps I ordered didn’t fit very well so I made a trip to the auto parts store and bought several worm gear and screw hose clamps. For the more visible clamps on the engine I kept the Witek clamps. I used some zip ties to secure the heater hoses out of the way.

I had already worked some on the wiring, but I spent a bit more time laying it out. I cut everything to length and crimped on the ends. Then I bought some split loom to cover the wires and some tie downs to hold it all in place. That required drilling a few more holes for the tie downs. My wiring isn’t up to show car standards but it looks neat enough for now.

Since the crimping tool was still in transit I moved to some under dash work. I finished up the wiring to the ignition switch and used some zip ties to secure the A/C wiring harness out of the way. That just left running the duct hoses and calibrating the heater controls.

I chose to start running the duct hoses. I knew it would be challenging, and it turned out to be even more difficult than I anticipated. I started with the hose that runs to the driver’s side vent because I thought it would be the most difficult to route. I had to make sure it cleared the windshield wiper linkage, the clutch linkage, the steering column, the parking brake, and probably some other stuff I forgot about. Once I had determined the routing I attempted to put the end of the hose onto the fitting on the evaporator. If everything had been on a workbench it would have been easy to install. But working under the dash made it very challenging.

What worked best for me was to start with just the end loop of wire embedded in the hose and work it around the fitting on the evaporator. Even knowing this it was still a challenge to install. I put hoses on the two most difficult to reach evaporator fittings and stopped to catch my breath before proceeding.

At this point I was sore and tired from reaching up through the dash, and I decided I was ready to hear something actually work. I switched to calibrating the converted control panel. This is a very simple process to teach the A/C ECU the range of motion of the converted controls. This involves connecting the programming wire on the harness to ground, putting all of the controls to the full down position and turning on the ignition key. After a few seconds the evaporator fan changes speed. Then you move the controls to the full up position and remove the ground connection from the programming wire. The fan should change speed again and everything is now programmed. I tested the fan speed and mode controls and confirmed that they were now working. It was really nice to hear some noise rather than just looking at a bunch of parts.

Tomorrow I hope to finish installing the hoses for the duct work. I also have a few jobs that are unrelated to the A/C install that I would like to work on while I have the dash apart. This should keep me busy while I wait for the crimping tool to arrive. Once I receive the tool I can make the hoses and charge the system. After that I will confirm everything is working and then I can button everything back up. The end is actually in sight. I was beginning to feel like I would never get there.

Vintage Air Heater Control Valve and Wiring

I finally got to work on the parts of the install that I find more challenging, running the hoses, duct work, and wiring. The reason I find these jobs more difficult is that I need to choose how to route everything and then cut everything to fit. It always takes me several times longer than I anticipate to get the routing correct, and then I feel that I must measure everything multiple times since once I cut I’m either committed or I screwed up and need to purchase more hose and/or wiring to try again.

To start I carefully laid out the wiring harnesses and identified where each wire connected. Getting the harness to pass through the grommet in the firewall was a bit of a challenge. I ended up passing some extra wire I had from another project through the grommet from the engine side, attached the A/C wiring harness to it using some electrical tape, and then pulled it back through into the engine compartment. I made all the connections to the evaporator ECU and wired up the ground in the engine compartment to the existing engine to firewall ground connector. I used the same technique to get the wire through the radiator support for the binary safety switch and the wire from the safety switch to the compressor. I decided I wanted to get some tie downs for the wiring that goes to the battery and the binary safety switch so I left final routing and connecting of the engine compartment wiring for later.

Next I turned my attention to the heater hoses and heater control valve. The instructions had conflicting information on whether the heater hose with the heater control valve connected from the intake manifold to the top or bottom heater core connection. It looked like connecting it to the bottom connection would make routing the hoses extremely difficult but would help prevent air bubbles in the heater core. Using the upper connection would really help out the hose routing. I contacted Vintage Air tech support and they confirmed that I should be using the upper connection to make routing the hoses easier.

I expected the rest of the heater hose installation to go very quickly. I was wrong. Trying to neatly route everything without rubbing on the engine or interfering with the PCV setup on my intake proved to be quite a chore and took me a lot longer than I ever thought it would. One thing that I didn’t originally see in the installation instructions is that the hoses fit better if the heater control valve is turned on its’ side. Once I turned the heater control valve things went a lot more smoothly,

I have the heater hoses and control valve in place at this point but not tightened down because I want to test fit the A/C hoses before I finish with the heater hoses. Here is what I have so far. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a bit neater than what I had prior to installing the air conditioner. I still need to trim the ends, attach them to the engine, and optionally tie down the hoses to the export brace.

At my next opportunity I will test fit the A/C hoses. Once I am happy with the A/C hose fit and routing I will finish up the heater hoses. Then I will take the A/C hoses to a shop with a bead lock crimper to have the ends installed on the A/C hoses.

Vintage Air Passenger and Driver’s Side Vents

Today I could only find a little bit of free time to attempt to get some work done. The vents for the driver’s side and passenger’s side looked easy enough to install. I thought I could complete them in the time I had. They weren’t terribly difficult, but was not as easy as I thought it would be.

I started with the passenger side since I felt it would be easier. The first issue I ran into was when the instructions said to reuse the old trim attachment hardware to attach the A/C vent. For my existing hardware the screws were too short. That involved a trip to the hardware store to purchase longer screws.

The next issue was that I was also using one of the trim attachment screws to attach my under dash lighting socket. In this new configuration the socket and bulb would interfere with the A/C vent hose. So I removed the socket, and in so doing managed to blow the fuse for the interior lights. I have some spare fuses laying around and will eventually replace it, but for now the interior lighting doesn’t work.

Now that I had the correct screws and had made some clearance I installed the vent housing. That required some uncomfortable contortions, but I managed to get it installed. When I went to install the louver into the housing I was confused as the parts list showed a housing and louver, but the installation guide showed a housing, louver, and adapter. After scratching my head I realized that the louver consists of two parts that unscrewed from each other. After I separated the louver and adapter I was able to install the passenger side louver.

Here’s a picture of how it looks installed. As you can see I ran out of time for tool clean up. I still need to decide where to mount the under dash light socket.

Installing the driver’s side louver required that I also install the control panel. That was not a problem as I had already done the control panel conversion that Vintage Air requires. I also already had the longer screws I needed to install the vent housing and louver. So this side’s installation was pretty much uneventful.

Here’s a picture, again with no time for clean up.

Most of my remaining work consists of routing hoses and wiring. When I’m satisfied everything is installed correctly and sealing like it should I will reinstall the instrument cluster, console, and glove box. I might actually manage to finish this some day.

Vintage Air Center A/C Vent Install

Today I decided to tackle one of the more intimidating jobs, enlarging the opening in the dash for the center vent. This modification involves trimming the side edges of the opening to make some additional room for the vent provided by Vintage Air. The amount to be trimmed is about 5/8″ on each side of the opening.

I started out by carefully measuring the opening and marking the edge where I needed to cut using painters tape. Then I got out my Dremel tool with a cutoff disc and started cutting. I quickly discovered that I couldn’t always get the Dremel at good angle. So some portions were cut with an old fashioned hacksaw. A bit of trimming and some touch up and the vent was able to slide into the opening. That’s the good part of the story.

The bad part of the story is that while attempting to position the Dremel I wore a groove in the dash knee pad. It was an original part and was in excellent condition. I was pretty upset with myself for ruining the pad, but I knew replacements are available. I brought up the NPD website and proceeded to order a new reproduction pad. That’s when the wheels fell off the wagon. The description for the part mentioned that it was poor quality, had fitment and finish issues, and was the only reproduction available. I went ahead and ordered a replacement anyway as I doubt I will be able to find an original in good condition.

Here’s a picture of the center vent. The gouge in the pad is pretty obvious. It hurts every time I look at this picture, but maybe I can help somebody else prevent making the same mistake.

Vintage Air Evaporator Install

I had finally reached the point where I could install the evaporator under the dash. I set the evaporator on the passenger floorboard and looked to make sure all the wiring was out of the way of the evaporator. Then I slowly attempted to work it up into place on the firewall. That’s when I found I was unable to fit the evaporator past the dashboard, as the front bracket interfered. No amount of twisting and turning would get the evaporator past the front edge of the dash.

The fix for this was fairly obvious. I needed to remove the front bracket, position the evaporator on the firewall, and then reinstall the front bracket in the evaporator. Once I removed the bracket everything went into place. When I pushed the evaporator hoses through the firewall one of the grommets popped out. I knew I could reinstall it later so I continued with the evaporator installation.

Once I had all of the evaporator hoses and the mounting studs through their respective firewall openings, I propped the evaporator box up from beneath to hold it into place. Then I started the mounting nuts from the engine side. I went back and forth a few times with moving the evaporator and tightening the nuts until the evaporator was all the way up against the firewall. Then I reinstalled the front bracket, drilled the required mounting holes in the cowl, and tightened down all the mounting screws and nuts.

I checked the evaporator for level. From left to right it looked good. Front to back it tilted to the front a bit. I loosened up the bolts and attempted to change the angle of the evaporator. I don’t think this made very much of a difference. I may come back and attempt to level it out some more but for now I moved on.

For the grommet that popped off I attempted to push it back over the evaporator pipe. The fit was too tight, so I made an X cut in the grommet using a razor blade. That gave me enough room to push the grommet over the pipe and secure it on the firewall mounting plate where it belonged.

The last step in the evaporator install was the drain hose. I measured and drilled the hole for the drain. Then I measured and cut the supplied hose, installed the right angle elbow, and added the left over hose the the end of the elbow. Then I inserted the hose through the new hole from the engine compartment side and attached it to the evaporator drain.

That was about all I had the time and energy for. I did spend some time organizing and gathering parts for installing the rest of the vents and their associated hoses. I plan to install them, as well as the control panel and some wiring next time.