Installing a Vintage Air Sure-Fit system into a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.

Discussion in 'The Big Chill' started by elagache, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Dear V-8 Buick cool-cat wannabes [​IMG]

    Sure, having a big-block Buick engine is real cool . . . . . . :cool: However, that big-block will probably stay stuck in the garage when the temperature is above 90˚ F . . . . unless you have A/C: [​IMG]

    Subscribers to the trusty wagon soap opera know that late in game I decided to add a Vintage Air Sure-Fit kit to the list of modifications to my 1965 Buick Special wagon. There are many modifications needed. Here is a list of the modifications covered specifically in this thread:

    Vintage Air Sure-Fit kit choice and preliminaries:
    Basically, you have two choices: the 1964-67 Chevelle/El Camino kit or the 1964-67 GTO kit. After comparing the two, I decided the GTO kit was closer to the Buick because the GTO controls are almost identical to the Buick.

    This thread is to document all the modifications necessary to get the Vintage Air system to fit into a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special/SportWagon. There are many of then and I've already accomplished quite a bit. It is partially documented and I'll try to add them to this thread as I have a chance. I won't document what is part of the standard installation. If you are interested in doing this upgrade definitely get your hands on all the Vintage Air documentation. You can download at this somewhat obscure webpage:

    One modification that I can only offer you limited information on is coming up with the compressor bracket on the engine. Jim Weise made this bracket for me in a desperate panic the weekend before his masterpiece assertive engine shipped. However, if anyone needs detailed pictures, dimensions, or anything else let me know. In general, do ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

    Routing A/C and heater hoses:
    The tale begins with the work being done at Orinda Motors by their master mechanic Greg. Problem #1 was routing the refrigerant and heater hoses out into the engine bay. The Vintage Air installation plan is to route the hoses through the passenger side kick-panel. This means losing the vent and a potential speaker location. Since the Custom Autosound kick-panel speakers provide a "fish-gill" vent, it is highly desirable to find another way to route the hoses, especially since the Vintage Air system is a purely recirculation system. Without the vents the only way to bring fresh air into the car is the windows.

    Based on the schemes used by other V-8 Buick board members and "cousins" over on the Team Chevelle board, Greg created a conduit to route the hoses through the firewall from a Detroit Speed heater delete plate, the original heater housing, and the metal from an old skillet! Who sez classic car nuts aren't into recycling!! :grin:

    Here is the Detroit Speed plate with the first hole cut in it:


    These photos and a few others can be found on this online photo album:

    I will try to provide high-resolution photos whenever possible.

    You can probably fashion your own "heater delete plate" out of a steel plate and save yourself some dough. I had bought the Detroit Speed plate many months ago before I got greedy about the kick-panel, so it was easier to use that. It certainly is cleaner and easier to go that route.

    On top of the delete plate the old heater housing fits:


    Finally comes the part where you can cook your pancakes!! :grin:


    With the plan in place, the next order of business was to install the Vintage Air "evaporator" unit. This is really a misnomer. This unit contains the evaporator core, heater core, blowers, micro-processors, etc. This is the real core of the system. Greg was able to do this yesterday. The one key modification he made was to not use the shim that is provided by Vintage Air that tips the evaporator unit toward the glove compartment. While it might be needed to route the hoses through the kick-panel, it don't work with the hose routing through the old heater housing. Here are some photos. Here is a view from the driver's side door:


    Here is a view through the glove compartment door:


    Here is a view from the driver's side looking under the original dash to see the evaporator unit protruding some beyond the bottom of the metal. You can also see the passenger-side kick-panel and Pioneer speaker:


    Here is another view of general area taken from the rear bench.


    Now to routing those hoses. Greg purchased some angle fittings to deflect the hoses into the cavity created by the old heater housing:


    Here is what the completed heater housing modification looks like just before being bolted on:


    Here are two views of the completed hose conduit modification. Here is the view from the top of the grill:


    Here is a view from underneath since the inner wheel well has been removed:


    The plan is to now route the hoses between the inner and outer fender to the front of the engine.

    Obviously, the evaporator unit needs to be secured somewhere. Greg secured it on the cowling just behind the firewall. You can see the mounting point at the top center of this picture:


    Greg applied a general amount of black silicone to make sure it remained watertight.

    That's the first installment of photos on this Vintage Air installation. If you've got questions :confused: - post'em!!

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  2. 12lives

    12lives Gravity is matter warping space-time - Einstein

    :TU: :gp: Thanks! This is a mod that I (and I am sure others) would like to do one day and your posts are very helpful

    - Bill
  3. BuickGS65

    BuickGS65 '65 Skylark/GS Enthusiast

    Subscribed. Great thread.
  4. sriley531

    sriley531 M.M.O.G.

    X2. Subscribed as well, I see this project in my future as well (eventually)
  5. knucklebusted

    knucklebusted Well-Known Member

    As I continue to upgrade my car, this is one of the things I plan to do. Though the dash and controls may be different, I suspect most of the underhood and bracketry will be quite similar and well worth the time to view.

    Good luck and I hope you don't need it.
  6. ss4825

    ss4825 Well-Known Member

    In on this one.
  7. freddiezee65

    freddiezee65 freddiezee65

    Great write up. I'll be interested to see how the controls work with the GTO unit.

  8. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Buick controller mods (Re: Vintage Air Sure-Fit -> 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.)

    Dear mid-60s V-8 Buick cool-cat wantabees, :cool:

    The epic struggle has been met and . . . . . Greg has pulled another rabbit out of this hat!

    This time the one many of you have been curious about - how to modify the 1964-65 Buick A/C controller to work with the Vintage Air cable converters from the 1964-67 GTO Sure-Fit kit.

    I thought it wouldn't be difficult but I was wrong. This photo illustrates the problem:


    One of the levers that controls the air conditioning is long enough to give the Vintage Air cable converters another of a reach to provide a valid range of values. The way Vintage Air deals with old car controls is to substitute a long tube that you can see below with sensors that allow the electronics to detect where the cables would have been on the original car. This photo shows the back of the installation with the cable converters plainly visible:


    The lever for controlling the temperature of the car was just fine for working with the Vintage Air system. However, the amount of travel for defogger, heater, and A/C was too short. After a while Greg realized that the best solution was abandon the locking mechanism that Buick had come up with to hold the lever in one of the three positions. This change meant he could remove these parts:


    Having removed these parts, Greg then found a leftover piece from the Vintage Air kit that he then welded to the existing lever to give it enough length to operate the cable converter correctly. Here is a bottom view:


    Here is the front view with a clearer angle on the welds:


    Here is a view of the passenger side and the support for the cable converter that didn't require a lot of fuss.


    Greg then was able to wire up the fan control switch as Vintage Air proposes for the GTO without difficulties.

    Here is one last photos of the installation:


    I have a few additional photos, but unfortunately this part is now installed so there is no way for me to get another look at it (unless it has to be taken out which hopefully will not happen.)

    Greg has a few more problems with alignment and clearance. I've noted these on the photos as best as remember them.

    Sorry, that's about as much info as I'll be able to give you'all. However, if you have any questions - ask now while Greg's memory is fresh!! I won't know about the electrical side of things, but according to Greg programming the Vintage Air computer to accept these cable converters should be straightforward now that the mechanics are correct.

    So you wanted to know - here is at least one way to go about this!

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  9. luke7575

    luke7575 New Member

    I understand this is for mid 60s do you happen to know anyone thats done it to late 60s early 70 skylark.
    I cant seem to find anyone on the net.

    BTW great build
  10. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Check Team Chevelle? (Re: Vintage Air Sure-Fit into a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.)

    Dear Luke and V-8 Buick cool-cats, :bglasses:

    Unfortunately, no I don't. As the 1960s rolled on, more and more Buicks had factory air, so there is probably less interest. You might take a look at the Team Chevelle forums to see if what has been done for Chevelles of that epoch would be similar:

    Obviously there were more Chebbys without factory air at that time.

    Thanks, it has been a long hard road. Sure hope I approaching the end!

    Cheers, Edouard
  11. LonghornSS

    LonghornSS Well-Known Member

    This is an older post I know but the 70-72 Buick conversion can be done with a factory heater control, a Chevelle Vintage air evaporator and their 72 Oldsmobile condenser kit....... and of course a little ingenuity.
  12. ClarkDarkSr

    ClarkDarkSr Member

    I have a non-air 66 Buick Skylark and want to add vintage air with heat, air, and defrost. I also want to put the vent in their original spots. I have a lead on the dash with the center vent and plan on purchasing the vent pods for the corners. I already have the correct pulleys and brackets from a savage car that had air. I also have the dash controls. I contacted vintage air who told me that I would need to measure under the dash for the evaporator because none of their kits will work in my car. So I measured it but still not sure which evaporator to go with. I think the Gen II Compac with the 3 outlets will fit but not sure. Which evaporator unit did you use? Also, which compressor do I choose?
  13. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Used GTO kit. (Re: Vintage Air Sure-Fit system into a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.)

    Dear ClarkDarkSr and V-8 Buick cool-cat wannabees :cool:

    I think you are going about the da' hard way.

    Instead of trying to mix and match parts, I went with one of the Vintage Air Sure-Fit kits. These are complete kits that include compressor, evaporator unit, condenser, hoses, ducts, etc. They are based on Vintage Air's Generation IV system. As noted at the top of this thread, I choose the 1964-67 GTO Vintage Air kit because I believed the 1964 GTO controls most closely resembled the Buick 1964-65 controls. I'm not familiar with the 1966 dash, so you would have to look and compare.

    The Sure-Fit evaporator unit does fit behind the 1965 dash, but it is a very tight fit. You can check the picture in the thread for more details. Be prepared to make a custom glove compartment liner because the Vintage Air system takes up much of the space where the old glove compartment fit. I have a thread on how I fabricated a new glove compartment but I think you would need to start from a new design since there may be differences in the glove box design between 1965 and 1966.

    One more thing to consider, there are 3 manufacturers of these "custom fit" kits for 1964-67 GM A-body cars. In addition of Vintage Air, there is Classic Auto Air:

    And Old Air Products:

    I have a feeling that Vintage Air is resting a bit on their laurels, so you should give their competitors at least the once over.

    Hope that is of some help.

    Cheers, Edouard
  14. Blk69GS

    Blk69GS Active Member

    Great thread and install!

    How'd you get Vintage Air to respond to you? I've emailed and contacted them multiple times about a kit for my 69 GS and have yet to recieve any answers... :Do No:
  15. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    On your own. (Re: Vintage Air Sure-Fit system into a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.)

    Dear Blk69GS and V-8 Buick cool-cat wannabees . . . . :cool:

    Short answer - I didn't ask Vintage Air - anything!!

    Seriously, I assume Vintage Air has done its market research and had ruled out Buicks. Jim Weise explained it best: Buick was a luxury car line. So Buick's were likely to have factory air early on. Vintage Air won't find much of market share compared to economy cars which would not get factory air conditioning for decades.

    You'll have to do your own research as I did and buy stock Vintage air kits as I did. I had a problem in getting the wrong condenser and I had to exchange it through Vintage Air. But that is about all the communications I had with that outfit. Every other issue was worked out locally.

    I don't know what's involved with the 69 GS. You'll need a bracket for the compressor, there is a guy on the forum trying to make those. You shouldn't have as much trouble with the vents as I did. Hopefully you can find a Sure-Fit kit that is close to your Buick. Keep in mind you need to decide on the configuration of vents and also you need to deal with the control. I was lucky that the 1964-67 GTO was similar to the 1965 Buick control for HVAC. If you can't find a Chevy or Pontiac that is comparable to your 69 Buick, you might have think about using a generic Vintage Air control and trying to graft it into your dash.

    Beyond that you have all the miseries of routing the plumbing and electrical. Once more this and other forums are your best guide. Be prepared to look at what your GM brethren have done. I've been told that anyone who can turn a wrench can do this install, but I think that's optimistic. It takes some imagination to pull this stunt off. I supplied some of the imagination and Greg at Orinda Motors performed some small miracles. Definitely take plenty of time to plan the install. It won't take away all the surprises by a long shot, but it will make the surprises a whole lot more manageable.

    Cheers, Edouard
  16. Blk69GS

    Blk69GS Active Member

    Thanks! I've been researching this thing for a few months now and have come to a lot of the same conclusions. My GS is a factory air car and I have everything except the original A6 Compressor (I have the brackets/dryer/condenser/POA valve/etc..). I just don't want to buy an A6 and refurb the factory air only to figure out that for the same price I couldve done a modern AC system in its place. I do want to use the dash vents and hopefully the same controller... I've found that the GTO controller will work close as well... theres also a kit to "wire" the stock controller to run the VA system.

    I appreciate the advice! I was an auto tech before I went in the military so I can turn a wrench, but like you said theres going to be more to it than just that!
  17. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Haven't tested modern features (Re: Vintage Air in a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.)

    Dear Blk69GS and V-8 Buick cool-cat wannabees . . . . :cool:

    You might want to ask the board specifically if there are significant advantages going with Vintage Air over the factory system. I have a friend with an A/C equipped 1957 Bel Air who nonetheless upgraded to Vintage Air, but there is a specific kit for the Bel Air and that makes it much more practical. Even so, he lost a lot of glove compartment space. So there are downsides to switching to Vintage Air. The system appears to work well for him, but he hasn't really done much driving in hot weather because of a cooling system problem.

    Unfortunately, the assertive engine in my trusty wagon suffered from some sort of bearing failure, disabling the car long before any serious heatwaves. I never got a chance to see if the modern electronics of the Vintage Air system really do give you the ability to set the air conditioner and have it do the adjusting for your personal comfort. So I don't know if the Vintage Air system really gives you the modern A/C convenience of today's cars. Considering the complexity and downsides of Vintage Air, my impression is that guys on this board prefer to repair their factory A/C system if the car came with one.

    So some more food for thought.

    Cheers, Edouard
  18. ClarkDarkSr

    ClarkDarkSr Member


    I took a look at the 64-67 GTO Sure Fit kit and it appears to use the Gen IV Evaporator which is the largest evaporator offered by Vintage Air. I've measured under the dash of my 66 Buick Skylark and I'm still not sure if it will fit but I'm thinking it should because it's basically the same body as the 66 Chevelle and GTO which also use the Gen IV Evaporator in their kits.

    On your install does your evaporator extend out over the trans tunnel or is it completely underdash on the passenger side?

    I have a shop doing the install but they want me to purchase the parts.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance.

  19. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Photo of mounted evaporator. (Re: Vintage Air into a 1964-67 Buick Skylark/Special.)

    Dear Boyd and V-8 Buick cool-cat wannabees . . . . :cool:

    The evaporator is indeed mostly under the dash on the passenger side. If it intrudes on the transmission hump, it doesn't go very far. I don't have a particularly good picture, but here is one that you can probably make sense of if you click on it to enlarge it:


    There are more photos that might help on this online gallery:

    I have a lot of photos covering the A/C install process online in associated galleries that you can hop to from there.

    I also had a shop to the heavy lifting, but I tried to do anything that I could handle like modifying some of the dashboard parts for the vents. Looks like you are trying to strike out the same balance.

    Best of luck getting Vintage Air installed on your Buick! :TU:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  20. GSBuick65

    GSBuick65 Well-Known Member

    Ordered my gto kit yesterday, so guess I'll be asking questions ☺

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