Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 Special/Skylark - any clever dash ideas?

Discussion in 'The Big Chill' started by elagache, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Dear V-8 Buick summertime heat sufferers . . . . [​IMG]

    The current problem on my trusty wagon drivetrain makeover queue is getting a Vintage Air system into the car. After pouring over the Vintage Air documentation, I think that the Vintage air kit for the 64-67 GTO is a closer match to our Buicks than the 65 Chevelle kit. The GTO controls are almost identical to the Buick and the Vintage Air GTO conversion looks like it would work with a Buick control levers up to the point where one would need to fashion one's own brackets to hold the actuators.

    So that leaves one obvious problem. My car doesn't have the original A/C ducting. So the Vintage Air non-A/C version of the kit provides under-dash vents that look something like this (here on a GTO as you'll find on the Vintage Air catalog)


    I have seen this arrangement in Buicks sold on Craig's list and eBay and the effect is just as good on a Skylark. This looks clean and discreet, but it isn't exactly cool looking and for the 65 Special/Skylark the location isn't ideal in terms of cooling because the dash slopes away from the front seats at a pronounced 50˚ from the vertical (see the photo further below.) As a result, the vents end up far away from the passengers. I've been exchanging some emails with Michael (64 Skylark Mike) and he suggested trying to use the following Vintage Air ducts designed for a 55-57 Chevy (model number: 492056):


    He proposed putting them underneath the dash as shown here by ellipses of aluminum foil on his car:


    Now these vents are beautiful chrome plated units and while it wouldn't look OEM it sure would look like a classy job. Also, because of their angle, they compensate somewhat for the slope of the dash so that you can direct the air up as well as down. Alas, Vintage Air just isn't every helpful to someone trying to shoehorn vents into an existing dash. There are no engineering drawings anywhere on their website and not even all the dimensions on their product listings. So how can you tell if they will fit? These vents are expensive as the chrome plating would imply. You don't want to buy them just to try. So I did what I could and tried to make myself a template based on the photos and the dimensions given:


    When I try to do this, I can't find locations in that lower dash where I could cut a 2 1/2" hole for the ducting. There doesn't appear to be enough room between the ignition switch and the brace supporting the A/C-heater controls and the same problem comes up around the glove compartment. I've tried to imagine what using some of their other vents might look like but I don't find anything that looks particularly promising. Given that receding slope of the dash, putting flat vents I think will force the air mostly at your legs.

    I'm sorry because this is one of those sort of mission impossible questions . . . but does anybody have another scheme that is more clever that I should think about? Is there some alternative source of vents that might be better suited for the unusual shape of the 64-65 Special/Skylark?

    I have a feeling that there simply isn't that much selection of products for classic car A/C and I'd better just settle for the under-dash GTO vents and move on. However, thought I would give you'all a chance to scratch your heads a bit for me before giving up. [​IMG]

    Thanks as always for all the clever ideas that pop up on this board!! :idea2:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  2. 12lives

    12lives Gravity is matter warping space-time - Einstein

    Hi Edouard - Where did the factory put them? On my 67 they are at the left and right ends of the dash near the bottom. The swivel heads and vent come off in one piece too.

    - Bill
  3. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    64 OEM setup (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 - clever dash ideas?)

    Hi Bill and V-8 Buick A/C cool-cats . . . . :cool:

    On the 64-65 the factory A/C vents are higher up on the dash. There is one vent above the radio and two on each end of the dashboard. These vents are one piece and they do show up from time to time, but they most definitely are speciality fit for the 64-65 dash. The end vents specially actually fit over something of a pyramid shape in the corner of the dash. Here is a photo of another board member's 64 Skylark that does have factory A/C.

    64 Skylark Interior with A:C.jpg

    Unfortunately, if you start looking at the original factory configuration - you've really got to get all the original components otherwise you'll have trouble getting things to fit behind the dash. While the ducts to the end vents are flexable the duct to the central vent is actually an old-fashioned metal duct. As far as I can tell, it might not be the most effective either because there are only 3 vents. The central vent louvers aren't split so for the typical two passenger configuration - either one person gets the effect of 2 vents or you devote the central vent to cooling the rear of the car. For the 64-65 Skylark/Specials, a clever custom vent installation would be arguably better than OEM . . . . if it just was practical!!
    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  4. dsags

    dsags Well-Known Member


    That is not a 64 Skylark, that's my 65 Gran Sport. :laugh: Here's a picture of a 65 Skylark GS with aftermarket A/C. He did a custom install in the center of the dash. No idea whose products were used.

    Attached Files:

  5. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Sorry Dan! (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 - clever dash ideas?)

    Hi Dan and V-8 Buick A/C tickerers,

    Oops!! :Dou: Sorry about that!! I got the picture from Michael and to be honest, I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off lately. :confused: I forgot to go back and check exactly where the picture came from or even which model it was. :error:

    Thanks for the pic. The under-dash vents are clearly the Vintage Air round vents that are used in the 65 Chevelle kit. The picture is helpful to me simply for seeing how those round vents look in that location. You know, . . . they just don't look good to me. So that's another argument for the GTO kit.

    The problem with trying to get a vent over the radio is that there isn't enough clearance (I think) to get conventional 2 1/2" ducting to both the defogger vent and that vent above the radio. The way Buick did it back in 1965 was to make a rectangular vent that provided enough airflow. I assume this could be reproduced in aftermarket parts. That panel above the speaker can be removed and then you could fabricate another panel to hold the vents and connect to the "home brew" rectangular duct.

    Okay, that's an interesting idea. What's nice about it is that I could have the Orinda Motors fellows install the GTO kit since that should be fast. Then I could do the fabrication of those parts later on if I wanted to move two of the vents further up in the car.

    Thanks for the picture Dan! :kodak: That's why I asked this question!!

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  6. dsags

    dsags Well-Known Member

    Not a problem. Just like the center A/C vent up higher for better air flow. Understand its all personal preference. Best of luck with the project.
  7. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Actually complicated plot . (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 - clever dash ideas?)

    Hello Dan and V-8 Buick A/C tinkerers,

    Well actually, there is some scheming behind the scenes that complicates my choices. So I may well eventually move the vents up as suggest - but this is the sort of work best done by your's truly.

    However, I'm actually planning to add the Vintage Air installation to the installation of something else . . . the JW Super-deluxe 448 engine that will be hopefully shipping soon. When the new engine goes in, they have to replace the radiator, install all the brackets, hook the engine to whatever HVAC system is in the car. It just isn't much more work to swap the Vintage Air parts at this time. So I won't get it installed for free, but it won't be so bad and I won't have to try to do stuff that feels over my head. The only thing that could really cost me if is I ask the crew at Orinda Motors to put in a lot of hours modifying the dashboard. So for phase-I of the A/C system, just bolting on the GTO styled vents will be good enough and will allow me evaluate how that works. The under-dash vents come with the kit anyway - might as well try them out.

    Once I get the car back after all the many changes that will be necessary, now I can go back to tinkering on my own and then I won't care if it takes a few weekends and lots of fiddling. So at that point I might fashion my own center vent scheme, or even get more greedy and try to locate some original outer vents and replace those at the same time. Fiddling with A/C ducting - I can handle. Fussing around with refrigerant . . . . I dunno!!

    So thanks for da' idears . . . They may get used . . . eventually!! :idea2:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  8. 64 skylark mike

    64 skylark mike Well-Known Member


    I sent Edouard your dash pic to show him a factory a/c set up. It was the only one I could find at the time, and I knew it was a nice example. I suppose I should have asked you first, my bad.

  9. D-Con

    D-Con Kills Rats and Mice

    Why not put out a request for the stock dash vents in the parts wanted section? They aren't that hard to install and it will look factory stock on the inside.

    I went the length of finding and installing the whole factory A/C system although I haven't yet installed the compressor. I suspect that you will be hard pressed to get the cooling capacity of a stocker from a vintage Air, but I have no personal experience to draw from, only hear-say. I had planned on putting a lighter more efficient Sanden compressor on it but am now tempted to install an original style Frigidaire so I won't have to build any special brackets or hoses.

    If anyone has a Sanden compressor installed on their 455 it might be helpful to both Eduard and myself if you will post some pics of your bracketry.
  10. Mister T

    Mister T Just truckin' around

    How about using a Pro6ten compressor?? It's a direct bolt in replacement for the A6.
  11. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Looking like a 2-phase project (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 Special/Skylark)

    Hi Adam, Tom and V-8 Buick cool-cats, . . . . :cool:

    I'm thinking more and more that I'll eventually junk the under-dash vents and go with a more factory look. However, it is easy enough to bolt the under-dash vent system and have the air conditioner working just in time for . . . . Autumn!! :Dou:

    Actually in California the Santa Ana's could give the A/C some quick business . . .

    As long as you mention this . . . . how hard was it to cut the metal on the corners of the dashboard to make the holes for the the outer two vents?

    Actually, I was hoping to buy the Vintage Air system from Then & Now Auto as Frank (gobuick) had done. Then & Now fabricated a custom compressor bracket so that would cover that problem. I haven't managed to get in touch with them though. About to try again.

    That's another solution to the mounting the compressor problem. As long as I'm asking . . . has anyone used the Pro6ten compressor with a Vintage Air Sure Fit system? I would prefer to stick to all Vintage Air stuff, but . . . . always good to have a plan-B!!

    Thanks for all your help everyone!! :TU:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  12. Brad Conley

    Brad Conley Super Moderator Staff Member

    Mark is adding AC to my newly acquired 72 Estate Wagon with 455. Here's some photos of his brackets with the Sanden compressor. Note that the alternator is moved to the drivers side.

    Attached Files:

  13. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Sniff, does Mark make house calls? (Re: Vintage Air into a 65 Special/Skylark)

    Howdy Brad and V-8 Buick cool cats :cool:

    *Sniff*, looks like great work!! :TU: I suppose it would be asking a little to much to hope that Mark would come to California to make a "house call" . . . . :grin:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  14. D-Con

    D-Con Kills Rats and Mice

    Re: Looking like a 2-phase project (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 Special/Skylark

    It wasn't too bad, I think I made a template from the donor car and transferred it to my dash then using a plasma cutter to cut the hole. Or was it a jig-saw I don't remember but since I had to cover some scratches I think it must have been the latter.

    If you get the brackets, please share a photo or two. I was hoping to maintain most of the stock pullies and brackets and was a bit surprised to see that Brad's had the alternator moved to be fitted. There's more than one way to skin a cat!

    ---------- Post added at 03:21 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:18 PM ----------

    I'm thinking Brad will ship you his engine with brackets installed and ready to go. He can then just use your engine in his EW since it will be closer for him to pick it up from JW than it would be for you. EVERYBODY WINS!
  15. Brad Conley

    Brad Conley Super Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Looking like a 2-phase project (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 Special/Skylark

  16. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Things one never swaps . . . (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 Special/Skylark)

    Dear Adam, Brad, and V-8 Buick lovers . . . .

    Ditto!! [​IMG]

    After over a year of waiting for this engine and all the wonderful goodies on this JW Super-Deluxe engine customized specifically for my car - I ain't surrendering it for nuthin'!! :rant:

    [​IMG] What are you anyway!?! . . . . some kind of a sicko wife swapper or something!! :laugh:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer

    P.S. There was an old saying: a gentlemen has three things he will never lend to anyone else: his pen, his pipe, and his wife . . . . in that order!! :grin: Of course this saying predates automobiles so today we would put at the front of the list . . . his big-block Buick engine!! :3gears:

    P.P.S. Of course today, . . . . most of us don't have a fine fountain pen, don't smoke -nevermind have a fine pipe, and . . . . with women these days - I count myself lucky to have never been married!! :rolleyes:
  17. custum65GS

    custum65GS Well-Known Member

    I'll try posting a few pics of the cut outs I did for AC vents,,,don't think I have any pics with the actual vents installed,,,but what I did was similar to what you where thinking of doing initially!!!


  18. D-Con

    D-Con Kills Rats and Mice

    Re: Looking like a 2-phase project (Re: Vintage Air into a non-A/C 65 Special/Skylark

    Sorry Brad, just thought you'd like to "help" Eduard out with some logistics and the A/C bracket. :) Not knowing what you did to the EW engine, I figured his new engine would be great in that Big-Mama wagon. Guess my sarcastic humor just doesn't make it through sometimes.

    That is one nice install with the vents on that dash, but it looks like a lot of effort too. But, judging from the cramped place where you like to lift weights the vent install was likely a breeze!
  19. Brad Conley

    Brad Conley Super Moderator Staff Member

    I knew you were kidding around. My sarcasm is the thing that failed. I was laughing, believe me. :laugh:
  20. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Dear custum65GS, Adam, Brad, and V-8 Buick cool-cats, :cool:

    Hmm, very interesting . . . but, looks shall we say . . . . rather involved!! :shock:

    How did you reshape the metal around the vents?

    What did you do for center vents? Did you do something like factory setup there?

    If you have any chance to either dig up or take pictures of the final result I would be very interested!! :kodak:

    Curious minds want to know! :idea2:

    Cheers, Edouard :beer

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