My Vintage Air Install Notes - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 8th, 11, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
 
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My Vintage Air Install Notes

I'm sure my installation will differ from other people's but I thought I'd throw what I learned up on the forum for posterity.

This was my first Vintage Air install so I'm a novice. The car is a 1967 non-AC convertible. The front clip was off for engine swap, etc. I took the dash all apart so that I could repaint it after cutting vents in, install new firewall pad, and other things.

A one-line summary: of each of my findings is provided below. A full discussion of each follows.
  • Can get parts for inner fender well install with factory A/C balls, etc. directly from VA
  • Factory control panel pots are great
  • ECU is different for non-AC and AC-cars
  • Control panel sticker is lame
  • Need to re calibrate levers after every battery disconnect
  • Need to do something to tighten up OEM center vent
  • Buy new A/C center dash panel for OEM look
  • Astroball vents come with reducers to fit VA duct hose
  • Hard to cut A/C vent holes well and vents don't' sit entirely flush
  • Photocopy templates
  • Don't use template for upper mounting holes in cowl
  • Used studs for upper cowl mount
  • Welded firewall mounting bolt to bracket for easier install
  • Careful not to break drain hose fitting
  • Paint forward facing silver bolts/riviets black
  • Heater box can be installed over "blanking plate" for better look
  • Stick-on foam on defroster vents needs to be moved so not seen
  • Heater hose pipes must be cut or replaced
  • Used a straight fitting for large A/C hose
  • Comes with way more fittings than you need
  • Made my own kickpanel vent "hat" to house hoses and speaker
  • Can cover hoses with factory A/C kick panel
  • Heater flow control valve solenoid gets hot when energized
  • Replaced A/C head and charge fittings to clear Hotchkiss Chassis Max Handlebars
  • Trimmed extra ears off compressor in order to clear valve covers and handlebars
  • Had to elongate a hole in bracket that mounts to water pump
  • Powdercoated mounting brackets
  • Binary switch not sufficient if using an electric fan
  • Glovebox is small
  • Paint on condensor/drier brackets is lame

I had a few goals for my installation (and my restoration in general). This was to be a resto-mod whereby new technology had to look stock. Therefore, I was adamant that I wanted no aftermarket controls or vents and I wanted to make the underhood installation look as tidy as possible.

There are other threads on the forum that helped me realize that others had already figured out how to install a VA system by routing the houses through the kickpanel, cowl, blower motor hole, and inner fender well instead of directly out the firewall bulkhead. This info helped me and pointed me to Frank at Prodigy Customs. He was familiar with what I wanted to do and was knowledgeable so I ordered my system from him. At the time I was under the impression that he had some custom bits that he'd provide in order to make this all work. I subsequently found out that everything is available directly from VA. As a side note, I'm not going to bash Frank (he seems popular and he did help me early on and I don't know what his situation is - he might be really busy or something) but I will say that he went completely dark on me a little bit after purchase. No return of e-mails or calls after one post-purchase exchange (more details later). It might just be that he didn't like me but that was my experience, for what it's worth.

Back to the parts... Here is what I purchased:
  • 961167 67-68 Camaro w/o AC Comp kit
  • 561167 67-68 Camaro w/o AC gen IV evap kit
  • 62566-VCE Plastic fresh air cap
  • 62565-VCE 64-72 Chevy/GTO kp fresh cap
  • 33137-VUI Grommet large
  • 493067-LCA 67-68 Camaro center louver asm
  • 49306-VCL Louver kit 67-68 Camaro wo AC OEM
  • 04808-VUA Compressor A/C SD-508 134
  • 15126-SCA SBC SP PS Comp brkt
  • 547001 Extended length hose kit wo drier
  • 021067 67-68 Camaro w/wo AC cond w/dr

Truth be told there are a few parts there that I didn't end up using, such as the fresh air caps. And I probably could've ordered the compressor with the proper head and fittings for my installation but more on that later. The key to that list is that it includes the OEM-style center vent and astroball vents, as well as the extra hose and fittings necessary to run the install through the fender.

Another thing to point out is that the Gen IV Evap Kit includes the VA OEM Control Panel Conversion Kit (p/n 475168 for non-AC cars), which is a set of slide pots and wiring that allow the mechanical factory heater control levers to control the new electronic VA ECU for fan, temperature, and diverter. This is a great idea and it works wonderfully. The old levers move like butter compared to when they were attached to rusty old cables and it looks 100% stock. The conversion isn't difficult but it is worth pointing out that your existing controls need to be in operating order. The factory control assembly is made from cheap pot metal and breaks easily. When I pulled mine out of the dash I discovered that a previous owner had fashioned a make-shift repair where mine had broken. This discovery prompted me to consider purchasing a repro AC-style control panel to really complete the OEM look and I called Frank at Prodigy to discuss this. At this point in our relationship, Frank returned my call and, after some difficulty dealing with VA, he was able to convince VA to approve exchange of my non-AC ECU for an AC ECU. It turns out that they are different so order accordingly. If you plan to install the system into a non-AC car but use an OEM AC control panel then you probably need to tell them so you get the proper ECU. In the end, however, I was able to source an intact used non-AC heater control from a friend for very little money so I didn't end up doing the ECU exchange. For what it's worth, I tried to notify Frank of this (as well as ask further questions later) but was never able to reach him again.



The only lame thing about the VA control conversion kit is how they attempt to re label the panel. They give you a sticker that you're supposed to apply over the OEM panel. This requires additional disassembly (bending pot metal tabs that break and then require screws to reattach) and IMHO looks like crap. It isn't transparent for proper nighttime illumination and it has a "VintageAir" logo in the center. I didn't deem it worthwhile since it ruins the OEM look and the only benefit it provides is renaming the lowest "Off/Defroster/De-Ice" lever to "DASH/FLR/DEF" (the Fan and Temp levers don't change functionality) so I left mine alone. One other thing to point out about the OEM control conversion setup is that the potentiometers need to be re calibrated every time the battery is disconnected (or power to the VA evap ECU is lost). This is easy enough (levers to off, key on, levers to full, ground a little "programming lead" on the evap unit, wait a couple secs, key off) but you need to keep access to the programming lead handy and remember to do it.



Next on the OEM front is the vents. The gen IV kit comes with two round vents and a rectangular center vent and they expect you to drill your dash for the round ones and cut the dash and decorative center dash panel for their aftermarket vents, This is simple and economical but not the look I was striving for. IMHO, the outer round vents aren't horrible but the center vent looks like crap. It's too small for the space and just looks aftermarket. There is no way that I would ever consider not using the OEM center vent. It is available and, when used with a new AC-style center dash decorative panel, looks very factory installed. The only caveat to the OEM center vent is that it comes in two pieces that aren't held together in any way. It also includes two notched rubber pieces that are necessary to tighten up the rotating vent portion and prevent rattling. The trick is to figure out how to get it all assembled into one tight unit. The piece that a factory installation uses behind the vent is not a part of the VA kit. It just includes a plastic vent adaptor that allows connection of the round duct to the rectangular vent. I ended up using 3M weatherstrip adhesive to glue the rubber pieces to the side of the OEM vent assembly and fashioned two brackets out of aluminum that forced them down and to the sides to hold the rotating portion in place. This worked well on the workbench and allowed the adhesive to bound really well but I later discovered that they interfered with proper installation of the vent assy into the dash so I eventually had to remove my brackets. Fortunately, by then the notched rubber bits where securely attached and the vent rotates with perfect friction and no rattles. While the OEM center vent is a no brainer to me, the outer "astro ball" vents are a lot harder to install than the simpler aftermarket vents supplied by VA. You can install the aftermarket vents by just using a holesaw but the OEM vents require cutting more complex-shaped holes in the dash. And there is very little margin for error. Very little. The OEM dash bezels have very small (maybe a sixteenth of an inch) lip around the sides where they sit on the dash. Add that precision to the fact that the dash is curved, the hole is oval, and the bezel only fits flush if positioned absolutely perfectly on the dash and you have a real challenge on your hands. I can't profess to knowing the best approach. I used a drill, a nibbler, a pneumatic jigsaw, a Dremel, files, etc. and didn't get it perfect. While I didn't cut too big (thank goodness), I find that the vent bezels don't fit perfectly flush with the dash. This was exacerbated by the fact that the plastic chrome finish extends to the portion of the vent that is behind the dash and reflected any light visible in the gap. Therefore I painted the behind-the-dash portion of the vent flat black and the result is acceptable. By the way, the astroballs provided by VA have reducers that adapt them to the hose size used by the VA unit. One other tip: don't cut the templates out of the manual directly. Photocopy the pages first (making sure that you get a 100% size copy) and cut the copies. You might need to use more than one because they are tough to position properly on the dash the first time.







Speaking of templates, let's move on to mounting the evaporator under the dash. The unit is held by one bolt through the firewall where one of the heater box bolts used to be and a bracket that screws into the cowl near the right-side wiper arm area. They provide a template for where to drill the holes for the cowl bracket. This template indexes off the radio support bracket. Don't use it. I did and the holes ended up being half an inch offset from where I needed them and I felt like an idiot with two new holes in my cowl. Instead of using the template, just attach the bracket to the evap, install it under the dash with the bolt through the firewall, level the unit and hold it place while you mark where the cowl bracket actually meets the cowl. In other words, use the actual unit and bracket as the template. While mentioning this, let me point out that I had the evap in and out many, many times for test fittings, hose routings, firewall
pad replacement, etc. When moving the evap unit around, be careful of the drain elbow on the bottom of the unit. It is only glued on and breaks off easily. I had to epoxy mine back on. Also, note that some of the hardware (bolts/rivets/washers) on the front side of the evap unit is silver. You end up seeing a pretty good portion of the front of the evap under the dash. Take the time to mask and spray those bits satin black. Back to the cowl mount... because I now had two unwanted holes, and had already painted my exterior cowl so didn't want to weld them up, I welded two 10-28 button head bolts to a small strip of metal and dropped in into the properly drilled holes from the outside of the cowl, with some body gap caulk underneath. This solved two issues. First, the strip of metal covered and sealed the extra holes. Second, it allowed me to more easily and repeatedly secure the evap in place using two nuts instead of screws. Speaking of making it easier to secure the evap unit, I also tack welded the firewall bolt to the bracket on the evap unit so that I didn't have to hold a wrench to it under the dash. This made mounting the evap a one-man job.



To complete my OEM look, I filled in the holes where the heater core hose fittings came through the firewall and then reinstalled the heater box over the hole in the dash. You can only do this if you're routing the hoses through the kickpanel and cowl because the "normal" VA install uses a bulkhead mounted to the heater core area block-off plate. Speaking of which, if you are routing through the kick panel, you might want to weld a plate over the large hole in the block off plate since you won't be routing anything through it. I also mounted my MSD DIgital 6 Plus onto that plate and covered it with the (vented) heater box but that's an extra customization unique to my installation.





One small issue, the factory defroster vent piece gets replaced by two small, fairly cheap, defroster vent ducts that are mounted via a single screw to the cowl. I found that no matter how I placed them, the stick-on foam that seals them to the dash was visible on one end or the other of each so I had to replace it with new foam that was stuck on a bit further out on each edge.

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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 8th, 11, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Part 2. Back to the evap unit and house routing. Let me first say that the bulkhead install that VA recommends is easier, more serviceable, and probably better in every way except aesthetically. Routing the hoses through the kick panel is a huge pain in the butt and makes everything harder to reach later. That said, let's press on... The pipes and fittings provided in the kit bend at 90 degrees so that they come out the firewall where the heater core used to be, To get them through the kick panel you need to send the straight to the right. This means that you either need new pipes for the heater hoses or you need to modify the ones in the kit. The pipes are aluminum with o-ringed fittings where they attach to the evap's heater core. I ended up just cutting my pipes down so that they came straight out to the right of the car. This meant losing the hump flare at the end of the pipe but the heater hoses fit snug enough that they don't leak, especially when clamped. For the A/C hoses, I was able to use some of the many extra fittings in the kit to route them. The smaller, low pressure hose used a 90 degree elbow to get it pointing to the right side of the car and the larger high pressure hose used a straight fitting because it was already pointing that way. This meant ditching the complex insulated pipe that was provided to get the high pressure hose out to the firewall and meant using some of the provided insulating tape around the straight fitting to prevent sweating.



With the hoses pointed towards the kick panel, the next challenge is to get them into the cowl, while still sealing the interior of the car off from water. The kit comes with a plastic cap that fits into the oval vent hole in the body behind the kick panel. This cap has four holes for the four hoses and grommets to seal them. This would've worked fine but I wanted to get fancy and mount a kick panel speaker also so I made my own cap out of that was deeper (to allow the speaker to fit) and mounted the hoses higher up (above the speaker). I made a mold core out of shapable foam and made the cap out of fiberglass over that. I also made one for the left side to protect that speaker from the elements and seal the vent hole off. This was a lot of work and isn't ideal because everything gets pretty cramped and the speaker doesn't get a clear sonic shot into the interior when covered by the factory A/C bulge panel but it was a reasonable compromise for my efforts at a stock look. From the kick panel area, the hoses turn up and forward out the blower motor hole. The kit includes a round plastic cap with four more holes and grommets to install over the blower motor hole in the firewall. You can use it if you want but I didn't. There's no point in sealing that hole because the cowl is open to water from the wiper area anyway. I don't think the plastic cap would offer much in the way of heat barrier and I was installing the heater box (sans blower) over the whole area anyway. I protected the edge of both the firewall hole and the heater box hole with windlace trim and let the holes open. I also ran my wiring through that area, into the inner fender liner. Also in that area is the heater flow control valve. It will be a bitch to service if it ever fails and I noticed that it gets really hot when the solenoid is energized, which is when the temp lever is pulled to full cold. I called VA about this and they agreed that it gets hot but said it wasn't an issue and you shouldn't be on full cold that often anyway. I didn't love that answer but it was useful to know, because now I don't leave the temp lever fully to the left anymore, even with the fan is off.

Once everything was routed, I covered it with the factory AC style kick panel and factory AC bulge panel to hide the hoses and speaker and provide a stock look. Both panels had to be modified to allow installation and clear the evap unit.



Under the hood, I had some issues mounting the compressor. I have headers and the bracket kit comes with spacers for 1/4" and 3/8" flange headers, as well as exhaust manifolds but I found that needed to relieve the hole in one bracket where it mounts to the water pump in order to get everything to fit. I also powdercoated the brackets because they come in bare steel. My installation was further complicated by the fact that I have roller rockers with taller valve covers and Hotchkiss Chassis Max Handlebars. The ears on the compressor hit both the valve covers and the handlebars and the fittings on the back of the compressor came up right where the handlebar crossbar is. There was no possible way to turn the compressor to get clearance so I had to buy a new compressor head and fittings from Nostalgic Air Parts in order to run the hoses straight back. This worked like a charm and the parts were very reasonably priced. They even have install videos. I probably could've order the compressor with the proper head and fittings had I known. To complete my installation, I cut the unnecessary ears off the compressor and cleaned them up with a file, grinder, etc.



Installation of the condenser and drier was straight-forward enough but I repainted all the brackets and bolts because the flat black paint they ship with scratches easily. I also found that it was better to mount the drier with some bolts and nuts instead of the provided sheet metal screws.



When everything was done I had to pay an A/C shop to crimp the final hose fittings while on the car (some of the fittings I was able to do at the local parts hop with the hoses off the car). They also evacuated and charged the system. Note that the parts (evap, cond, drier) all come sealed and charged with dry nitrogen. You're going to have to open them up in order to install the parts and you're probably not going to finish everything in a day or two, unless this is all you're doing, so you need to make sure that you plug any fittings or hoses to prevent moisture from getting into the system. It takes 1.8 pounds of 134a and we found one last issue after charging. The system ships with a binary pressure switch on the drier that prevents the compressor from working if there isn't enough pressure in the system or is too much pressure (more than 406psi) but if you use an electric fan like I do then you need to use a trinary switch instead. Without this, the pressure builds excessively when the A/C is on but the engine temp is below the electric fan switch's threshold. The trinary switch is wired into the fan relay circuit and turns the fan on whenever the A/C compressor is on (in addition to providing the same compressor pressure safety).



Final observations are that the system is quite nice and modern. I'd say that some of the parts provided, such as the binary switch and some brackets are a bit on the economical side but with a little fabrication you can make the system work and look quite good. It's nice to get heat out of the dash in the convertible right now (temps here in SoCal are down into the high 50s) but I haven't had a need to really test the effectiveness of the A/C yet. It sure blows cold in this weather though. The controls work great. The system looks pretty tidy under the dash and under the hood. Now that it's installed, the only downside is a loss of glovebox capacity.
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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old Nov 8th, 11, 01:31 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Thanks for the write-up!

Ed

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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 12, 02:00 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Great write up. I am a firebird owner, but most everything is the same. I have one question and have a request for most pics. I am doing mine the same way as you running lines through the fender. Did you receive long enough hoses from VA or did you get those some where else? I purchased my kit through matt at classic bowties. Mine didn't come with hoses that were long enough so I will have to either talk to VA to get things squared away or come up with them on my own.

Secondly, can you post some pictures of the hoses in your engine compartment? I am looking for suggestions on how to route them. It looks like you might have went straight from the opening to the water pump for the heater hoses. Did the other two come out near the battery? Thanks for the input. It is always great getting someone elses perspective rather then the good old trial and error method.
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old Jan 7th, 12, 07:21 AM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Great job on the write-up!

Is that the original radio? Did you face any troubles getting the radio in place after installing the new A/C?

-1968 Camaro RS-
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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 6th, 13, 05:42 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Hey guys, I'm running my AC lines through the blower motor hole like Jeff did. To get it to work with the Screamin' Performance kick panels I needed to use a 2 single bulkheads. What do you think would be the best way to seal the bulkhead against the car sheet metal. 3M strip caullk, silicone, rubber washer, etc. The hole I drilled fits the bulkhead nice and tight but I still need to seal it with something that will last, since this is in a wet area of the cowl. Also, not sure how hot the number 10 and 6 lines get going the Vintage Air unit. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Last edited by tonyvol; Apr 7th, 13 at 01:01 PM.
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 6th, 13, 06:55 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

If you have a unit that does not allow for the bulk head routing like I did I used some brass 90's and routed the heater hose trough the bulk head and the A/C trough the stock heater box. I bought my vintage air unit about 5 years before it was actually installed, if I would have known I would have ordered one like you did. The plastic part that goes on the firewall is just complete junk and looks horrible!!

These pics are how I did mine. I post these for people that might be stuck.....Like I was.










I had to split the gromment a valve cover oil fill grommet, after it was installed all the way I just used some dum dum around the hose and the grommet

"If you can leave black marks on a straight from the time you exit a corner till the time you brake for the next turn.......
Then, you have enough horsepower."
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 13, 01:59 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Thanks writing this up. I am planning on adding VA to my 69 someday.

-Chuck
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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 13, 05:54 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Thanks Joe for the pictures. I'm doing basically the same set up you have except I'm putting the heater hoses where they would come out for a factory big block car and running the AC lines through the blower motor hole. I wounder what is the best way to seal the bulk head I'm installing? Sure would hate for this to leak once the car is back together. It would be a real pain in the #&% to fix.

Thanks,
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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 13, 10:44 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyvol View Post
Thanks Joe for the pictures. I'm doing basically the same set up you have except I'm putting the heater hoses where they would come out for a factory big block car and running the AC lines through the blower motor hole. I wounder what is the best way to seal the bulk head I'm installing? Sure would hate for this to leak once the car is back together. It would be a real pain in the #&% to fix.

Thanks,
Wish I could be some help. What sucks is there are a number of ways to mount a route hoses and for me the tech help at vintage air was totally useless. They told me about "extra" parts I could buy and extra mods I could make to the system but they would not tell me what to order for what I wanted to accomplish. In all fairness in the 2007 time frame when I ordered my set up (installed in 2011) the "other" AC guys/supplier could not tell me much eighter. I think the gen Iv stuff is much better not sure about customer service.

"If you can leave black marks on a straight from the time you exit a corner till the time you brake for the next turn.......
Then, you have enough horsepower."
-Mark Donahue
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post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 9th, 13, 03:04 AM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Harrison View Post
Wish I could be some help. What sucks is there are a number of ways to mount a route hoses and for me the tech help at vintage air was totally useless. They told me about "extra" parts I could buy and extra mods I could make to the system but they would not tell me what to order for what I wanted to accomplish. In all fairness in the 2007 time frame when I ordered my set up (installed in 2011) the "other" AC guys/supplier could not tell me much eighter. I think the gen Iv stuff is much better not sure about customer service.
I don't think their customer service has gotten any better. I've sent them several emails with questions, and gotten no response. By comparison, I sent an email to Classic Auto Air yesterday, and had a return phone call within an hour. I may go with their system instead of Vintage Air.
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post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 9th, 13, 08:52 AM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Thanks for the info,great ideas.
I am installing a VA kit in my 69 ls1 now.
I hada problem with the condensor hose going to the drivers side for a older style system. A call to VA answers my problem fast and I am running theh ose from the pump to the condensor all I need was a 90 fitting that should have cam extra with the kit or free but oh well.
the other problem is I asked for the firewall hoses to be routed inside the fender and they do not.. but after mock up and shaving the firewall I decided it would look just as clean to run the hoses straight along the fendewell and might be easy to do maintance later on if needed.
Off topic but did the kick panel speakers fit in the stock kick panels?
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post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 9th, 13, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobKovacs View Post
I don't think their customer service has gotten any better. I've sent them several emails with questions, and gotten no response. By comparison, I sent an email to Classic Auto Air yesterday, and had a return phone call within an hour. I may go with their system instead of Vintage Air.
No response was my experience with Vintage Air for several installs, and then I ordered a CLASSIC AUTO System
I can only say the difference in response, support and expertise was completely night-&-day
Classic has always responded within a very short time with and email or call depending on question and info needed.
The information was always spot-on and rarely was there a 'you need to buy this too' reply

I will always recommend Classic Auto Air to folks for both their superior product design and the tech savey to stand behind and support their customer

As always JMHO ...

1968 Convertible
Some trucks
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Other V8 things - some of which float
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Other V6 things - none of which float
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Oh yeah, and 1 "Straight-Six" ...
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If a man says something in the garage - and his wife can't hear him - is he still wrong !!!
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post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 10th, 13, 02:15 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevnut55 View Post
Thanks for the info,great ideas.
I am installing a VA kit in my 69 ls1 now.
I hada problem with the condensor hose going to the drivers side for a older style system. A call to VA answers my problem fast and I am running theh ose from the pump to the condensor all I need was a 90 fitting that should have cam extra with the kit or free but oh well.
the other problem is I asked for the firewall hoses to be routed inside the fender and they do not.. but after mock up and shaving the firewall I decided it would look just as clean to run the hoses straight along the fendewell and might be easy to do maintance later on if needed.
Off topic but did the kick panel speakers fit in the stock kick panels?

Steve, check out this link. These are the kick panels I'm using.

http://screaminperformance.com/galle...l#IMG_7810.JPG
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post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old Mar 10th, 13, 03:21 PM
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Re: My Vintage Air Install Notes

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyvol View Post
Steve, check out this link. These are the kick panels I'm using.

http://screaminperformance.com/galle...l#IMG_7810.JPG
Those are real nice parts and have had excellent reviews from other people here for the fit. Someday I will own some

"If you can leave black marks on a straight from the time you exit a corner till the time you brake for the next turn.......
Then, you have enough horsepower."
-Mark Donahue
My 67 Camaro Time Line
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Joe Harrison is offline  
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