Can I install electric air conditioning?

September 1, 2017 | By Staff


I am building a 1948 Austin A40 as a gasser from the ’60s era. There is not enough room to have a conventional A/C under the hood. My question is: Are some of the Durango’s or Tahoe’s rear A/C units self-contained and run off a 12-volt system where I could install one in the rear trunk area?


I have never seen a totally self-contained air conditioning unit for a car. There are a number of systems that use 12-volt electric compressors instead of the belt-driven types. Small electric compressors are available, but you will still need a condenser coil, a receiver/dryer, an expansion valve and an evaporator with a blower motor. I understand your wanting to go electric to save space under the hood, but the problem with that is, mounting the compressor in the rear may require long hoses and tricky plumbing for the other components.

Also, you will need a heavyduty alternator because an electric compressor combined with a blower motor will be power-hungry. You will also need to make sure the radiator is still adequate with a condenser coil hanging in front of it. The other possibility is to have a separate condenser and fan blowing through it somewhere else in the car but that adds up to demanding even more amps from the charging system.

Apart from the electrical aspects of the problem you will need to keep in mind that the more power you pump out of a super-tuned engine the more heat will be generated, and the bigger and more efficient the cooling system must be as a result. Partially blocking the radiator with a condenser coil will just add to that challenge.

I must admit the idea of an airconditioned 1960s gasser is unusual. In the old days such cars often didn’t even have windows, and the driver’s face shield was his only protection. Such machines were wickedly cramped, hot, noisy, uncomfortable and squirrelly and dangerous to drive due to their short wheelbases. It would take very good air conditioning indeed to cool you down with all of that engine heat while attired in a driver’s flameproof suit.