After market A/C options for '68 GS400 w/factory air

Discussion in 'The Big Chill' started by cardave, May 31, 2019.

  1. cardave

    cardave Active Member

    Would love to get people opinions here. I have a '68 GS400 with factory air. All of the parts are in place, but it blows hot. It does appear to have a newer receiver dryer installed but I'm not certain if the compressor is original or not.

    My question is, has anyone replaced their factory air set up with one from Vintage Air or Classic Auto air and if so which kit did you use, and what challenges did you face.

    A local car talk show host here who also coincidentally owns a '68 GS400 said to just bite the bullet and buy R-12, charge the system up and see where you stand.

    Everyone's thoughts and opinions are appreciated.

    Thanks much,
  2. flynbuick

    flynbuick Guest

    At one time there was no Buick dedicated Vintage Air kit. Members seem to be buying Olds kits and trying to adapt them.
  3. 12lives

    12lives Gravity is matter warping space-time - Einstein

    my 2 cents: The original system works as good as the new ones. Replace all the O-rings, evacuate, and charge it up. The new kits will fit except for the compressor bracket and controls. Many folks have adapted the small compressor to the BBB. The controls are tougher. If you can live with the aftermarket look then you can use the use the controls from the kit. If you live in the south there are many shops that can help you out.
  4. 1969BSGS

    1969BSGS Active Member

    Dave, a buddy of mine , his member name is 1100kaw is doing the Vintage air setup on a 69 Skylark Custom , should have it sometime this coming week, He did the Olds setup , We had a friend measure his Olds control unit & it should be the same width as the Buick but not as tall, so a short strip filler piece will probably need to be made, I will PM you his e-mail, His name is Darrell Dean.... Thanks....
  5. cardave

    cardave Active Member

    @flynbuick - Yes, that is what I found in my research, no dedicated kits for Buicks at all.

    @12lives - Would I be using the green o-rings as opposed to just regular black rubber o-rings? Replacing o-rings and recharging with R-12 would be the most cost feasible to start with for sure. I have certainly spent enough time replacing old/broken vacuums lines so that the mode doors all work. It's amazing to me that after 50 years how everything now works with just new vacuum lines. The quality of the parts back then is amazing even if technology was primitive compared to now. I live in Denver so no humidity, but since we're a mile above sea level, the heat from the sun is intense.

    @1969BSGS - I would love to contact your friend to monitor his progress. I looked at the Olds kit and it looks like it would work, but wondering about
    1) extra/different pulleys
    2) It appears all of the control panel cables + control panel + heater box itself all get removed along with the engine compartment box as well.
    3) Where he will source his compressor mounting bracket from. I'm assuming he has a Buick 350 if its a Skylark.

    Thank you all for your time and interest.
  6. 436'd Skylark

    436'd Skylark Sweet Fancy Moses!!!!!

    Don't be scared of the factory system. You can fix it for a fraction of what the vintage air kit will cost and it will save you lots of time. Your factory system probably needs a cheap part. No reason not to convert to 134a either.
  7. 12lives

    12lives Gravity is matter warping space-time - Einstein

    Sorry - you got me there! If converting to 134 use....?
  8. My3Buicks

    My3Buicks Buick Guru

    If I had a car with factory a/c I would not even consider an aftermarket setup, put the money into getting your system fixed properly. Aftermarket systems in my mind are for cars with no a/c to begin with.
  9. 436'd Skylark

    436'd Skylark Sweet Fancy Moses!!!!!

    I'm not sure what your asking here. 134 retrofit kits are available at any parts store and less than 20 bucks... they have been around for decades.......
  10. Daves69

    Daves69 Too many cars too work on


    The factory air can be made to work. The systems are reliable. One of the biggest problems was the compressor is prone to leaking. Old Air Products makes an aluminum case A6 replacement. Has better seals and is lighter weight.

    Pro6TEN Compressor, A6 Upgrade, High Pressure, Single Groove Clutch. Plain Finish.

    The Pro6TEN is an all aluminum replacement for the GM A6 compressor, which offers smoother and quieter operation, for less vibration and engine drag. Designed to bolt in using our compressor bracket assembly and comes pre-oiled for easy installation.

    Replaces High Pressure and Plain Head Applications
  11. 436'd Skylark

    436'd Skylark Sweet Fancy Moses!!!!!

    Yeah he likely needs a hose or condenser that is readily available and can be replaced in an hour.
  12. philbquick

    philbquick Founders Club Member

    Fix the system you have. If you convert to R134 you'll need to convert to an expansion valve and POA valve that is calibrated for R134. A cheaper way to go would be to gut you expansion valve and replace it with a variable orifice tube which is less than $20, it will lower you vent temp 10 degrees compared to the stock expansion valve. There's several tricke to increasing the efficiency of R134 conversions.

    Vintage Air systems are the easiest was to add AC to cars that don't already have AC.
  13. Redmanf1

    Redmanf1 Gold Level Contributor

    Good info...

  14. 12lives

    12lives Gravity is matter warping space-time - Einstein

    Joe - OP was asking what color o-rings to use - I have no idea. Like you say - just use a kit.
  15. Daves69

    Daves69 Too many cars too work on

    Green "O" rings
  16. 436'd Skylark

    436'd Skylark Sweet Fancy Moses!!!!!

    Sorry, I misread your post..
  17. 12lives

    12lives Gravity is matter warping space-time - Einstein

    No problem :D I was being obtuse!
  18. cardave

    cardave Active Member

    All, thanks again for chiming in. I'm really on the fence. Here's my thoughts:

    Plan A -
    @My3Buicks @436'd Skylark @philbquick First thing I think I should do is to have vacuum pulled and see where I'm at with what I have. The system is empty, however it does have a newer dryer on it. The car was "restored" and completed in 1995, and based on the other items I've had to either fix/correct, I don't trust that it has seen freon in over 20 years. The car came with an album showing the restoration work that took place from 1989-1995, so am thinking the A/C parts just sat open in the corner of the shop. If the system holds pressure, a friend with gauges wants to change out the dryer, convert to R134 fittings, recharge and see what I have. I had a 1989 F-150 in which the compressor went south, was replaced, converted to R134, and worked fine for the following 2 years that I kept the truck. I was an Acura Service Adviser back in the '90's and when R134 came out, we would convert customers car over with just the fittings, and never change anything else.

    Plan B -
    Ordering ala carte - Spoke with Vintage Air yesterday and if you replace the compressor, evaporator, condenser, dryer, hoses (are barrier hoses really necessary based on my past experience as a Service Adviser) blower resistor (I don't have all fan speeds and even on high speed, the blower is not very powerful) and potentially a blower motor, you're north more than half way the price of buying the Olds Cutlass kit.

    Plan C -
    Bite the bullet and just buy the VA kit.

    @philbquick - Regarding gutting of my expansion valve and installing an orifice tube. Can you point me in the direction of where you read this? Or where I could purchase an orifice tube?

    In summary, installing a kit would be the easy way (and most expensive way) out. Bolt the kit in, have the system charged, away we go. On the other hand, this car is 99% original and I feel guilty for removing good quality stock parts that were built to last. I was so impressed with the quality of parts that all I had to do to get the mode doors to function properly was replace 50 year old vacuum hose. I didn't need to replace any actuators. They still all worked! "When better cars are built, Buick will build them"

    Thanks for listening........Dave
  19. My3Buicks

    My3Buicks Buick Guru

    Another thing to consider, and it depends greatly on the originality of your car overall, if you ever sell the car and it is overall still rather original (stock) a buyer will find the factory a/c far more desirable than an aftermarket one. I would venture to say someone looking for an original car would bypass one that was converted to aftermarket air. When spending big money on a certain item/project you need to look at the overall picture not just for the moment.
  20. philbquick

    philbquick Founders Club Member

    This is an example of a variable orifice tube. Not sure if it's the diameter you need. This method is actually my own invention. Remove the expansion valve, use an allen wrench to remove the brass cup spring and valve, use a drill to enlarge the hole of the valve seat to 3/16". About an inch down the evaporator inlet tube, put some dimples in the side of the tube to prevent the orifice tube from falling too far into the tube. Put the shell off the original expansion valve back on the and connect the hose.

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