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TECH: Fordors Can Be Cool

Installing Vintage Air in a Cool Deuce Fordor

By Rotten Rodney ‘n’ Randy Clark



Southern California summers can be pretty toasty. In fact, you really can fry an egg on the sidewalk. It works even better on an asphalt parkin’ lot—and with a little hot sauce, that’s good eatin’. So, y’all get the picture, right? Summertime ‘round these parts is warm. Given that; if you’re goin’ to cram grandkids into an ol’ hot rod sedan, it’d best be cool inside. With a little help from Vintage Air, Randy ‘n’ Peaches Clark’s own Deuce Fordor will indeed be cool.


At Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, we install what we sell, and Vintage Air products are often built-into our projects. When Randy asked yours truly to document the Vintage Air installation procedures to follow, I thought, sure, piece o’ cake—sounds like pretty straightforward tech to me. Still, I sort o’ smelled a story beyond the basic nuts ‘n’ bolts. This ol’ Fordor Ford wasn’t talkin’, so I asked Randy for some input instead. And this—is what—he said. 


“This ‘32 was a barn find that was located and purchased in Minnesota, and last licensed in the early-‘50s. It had been previously hot-rodded with a dropped axle and some other minor stuff. I found the car sitting on a trailer at the Pomona Swap Meet ten-to-twelve years ago. A fella from Arizona had it there to sell and since it was a Fordor I thought it might be affordable! Hoping to get a good deal I approached the owner and upon a little closer inspection found the motor and transmission were gone. The roof insert was also gone but weather-beaten interior was there. It had a good frame, solid body, original paint and all the glass and garnish—everything you looked for in a ’32, plus two extra doors.


My wife, Peaches and I at the time had four or five grandchildren always around, and in my mind I had just found the car that could be driven by G-Ma with a back seat full of G-kids. I thought to myself: I will buy this car! However, the owner and I were not on the same wavelength when it came to making a deal. We talked for a day and a half, and I did not get it bought. Before leaving that swap meet, the last thing I mentioned to the owner was that I’d still be interested when he decided to sell it at a more reasonable price. It left the next day, back to the owner’s home in Arizona. A few months later I get this call and he delivers it the following week—on the same trailer I'd first seen it on.


So now I have the G-kid hauler! But with a busy shop I have no way to build it quickly, so I put it away for a few years. Meanwhile the G-kids are becoming G-adults! Peaches is wondering when the car would, if ever, be completed. While the car was in storage, I sold the frame, which helped to offset the purchase, but I kept all the great sheet metal, straightened up a few dings and prepped it for paint.


Time to get the car rolling came a couple of years back when we installed one of our Deuce Steel frames under the body that we had painted black a while ago. A 327 crate motor that I had in a T-bucket (which I’d wrecked back in ’77) was sitting on an engine stand the entire time—with less than 4000 miles. That motor got new seals, gaskets and some paint, and since Peaches loves shifting (that’s what she’s always told me so it must be true), we put in a 5-speed.


We are very happy with the car and with a few more weeks of effort we hope to have it at Goodguys Fall Del Mar Nationals—this coming November, and Peaches hopes to have three adult grandchildren in the sedan this Thanksgiving. Hope some of them can find time to ride with Grandma, while Grandpa’s out looking for a ’32 Ford school bus—‘cause we now have ten G-kids and G-adults! The search continues!”


See? I knew I smelled a story—and there y’all have it, straight from Randy Clark. Now what was that we were sayin’ earlier? Oh yeah, “if you’re goin’ to cram grandkids into an ol’ hot rod sedan, it’d best be cool inside.” With that as our goal, let’s open-up some boxes and get started.


Caption coming sooon...


Just in from Vintage Air, here’s what we get—less the special-order, custom-dimension condenser we’ll be needin’. That’ll be here in a day or three.


As an ounce o’ prevention at this stage, a little cardboard goes a long way toward protectin’ vulnerable copper fins ‘n’ tubes.


Are we really anticipating damage? No, but our what-if factor will be covered by covering this core for as long as possible.


Down below the Auburn-inspired Deuce dash is a HR&CS-style sub-dash. This is a Randy Clark trademark, as it’s been done from time-to-time over a long period o’ time. The sub-dash mimics the lines o’ the Deuce dash, and it’s placed just forward and below. This’ll serve as a within-reach hiding place for miscellaneous switches, as well as Vintage Air’s AC control panel and louvers.


Here’s a rare insider view of the square-tubular structure which stiffens the dash and provides mounting points for other necessities—like a steering column and so on.


This is HR&CS fabricator, Eric’s initial test-fit for the AC suitcase. The compact unit will be tucked-in completely out o’ sight within the dark shadows of the dead space ‘tween firewall and dash—with “no visible means of support.”


Here with a 3-inch 3M Roloc disc-equipped angle die grinder, Eric strips away paint where hidden weld nuts will be.


A quick tack-zap with the ol’ Millermatic 135 MIG welder will hold weld nuts in-place for the next step.


Even though his work won’t show, Eric has elected to finalize the fusion with the shop’s Miller Syncrowave 200 TIG welder. You’ll have to take our word for it, but these are very pretty little welds.


With the suitcase mounted in its final location, it’s time to pay some attention to other aspects of the system’s installation.


Here we have a decision to make. Vintage Air control panels come in various styles. Here on the bench we have two to choose from.


With the final selection made, a dull Sharpie outline is transferred from a Vintage Air-supplied template to the sub-dash. These markings will be thoroughly scrutinized on the bench before any cutting takes place.


Even though the control panel will be out-of-view, eyeball engineering isn’t good enough. Here Eric figures out a formula for dialing-out any unwanted tilt.


At this stage, we’re committed as a cut-off disc-equipped die grinder makes the first cut.


With the very same tool, the oval opening is now gettin’ close to the desired dimension.


To finesse the opening a little closer, a rotary bit-equipped angle die grinder comes in handy. Final finessing, however, will be done in a more-manual manner, using a half-round bastard’.


Before it disappears into its discrete final location, take a last gander at our control panel. It’s now time to locate our Vintage Air thru-dash standard louvers.


This is where we discover that this particular sub-dash is two tads short for our 2-and-a-half-inch louvers. Although there are smaller vents available, Vintage Air advises against restricting the airflow. Here, one way or another, the standard louvers will be used.


Here’s a sneak peek at a very crafty save. In order to accommodate the full-size louvers, Eric has fabricated relief tunnels at the top of the sub-dash. It’s almost a shame this work won’t show.


Vintage Air offers bulkhead fittings in different styles, shapes ‘n’ sizes. The template used here was also provided in the installation instructions.


Once the desired position is determined, Eric establishes the bull’s-eyes with a center punch and an average-size ball-peener.


Next, a step drill quickly reams each hole to the proper size.


Here once again, a 3-inch 3M Roloc disc-equipped angle die grinder comes into play. This time it’s the ticket for deburring the holes.


With the installation of the bulkhead fitting now completed, it’s time again to move along to the next phase.


Elderly Fords don’t offer much for hiding places, and the system’s less-attractive components would certainly detract from the engine bay’s overall appeal. So, the AC dryer tank is now cleverly concealed within the cavity of the passenger-side cowl.


Upon arrival of this custom-order condenser, Eric spies a surprise—a hitch—an unexpected glitch.


The previously painted radiator shell will require a bit o’ relief to avoid interference from the condenser’s existing plumbing.


Nobody likes cuttin’ after parts are painted, but Eric has pulled it off successfully in the past. Here we go again.


With the masking tape gingerly removed, we now have the needed clearance. A bit of epoxy primer will be applied by brush to the bare metal edges. When the grille insert goes in, we can forget all about it.


Before the hood goes on for good, here’s our finished Vintage Air installation (in this instance, bolted to Bill’s bracketry), all charged-up ‘n’ ready to go.


According to plan, the control panel and louvers are easily accessible, yet barely visible. Soon the dryer tank will vanish beneath the passenger-side kick panel.   


So, how cool can a Fordor really be? Ask the Clark Clan as they rumble by this summer—with all four doors’-worth o’ windows in their up-positions.