Growing up in the Midwest and then relocating to the beaches of Southern California, I find myself taking the little things for granted. But after a recent trip to Phoenix, my eyes were once again opened to the creature comforts of modern-day automobiles. You see out here by the ocean, the weather doesn't drastically change with the seasons. Granted some days are hotter or colder than others, but for the most part the weather is comfortable. We can simply roll the windows down and cruise comfortably. Move inland a few miles and the temps begin to rise, leaving the ocean breeze behind. No doubt about it, it's much cooler (in more ways than one) to cruise with the A/C turned on than it is to sweat the heat from both Mother Nature and that powerful small-block under the hood.
When I was driving the streets of Phoenix and went to roll the windows down, comfortable was the last thing on my mind. More than anything it felt as if I were standing behind a jet engine. I had completely forgotten what summers were like away from the beach. Needless to say I immediately thanked whoever invented that lifesaver known as air conditioning. Then I started thinking beyond that, "What would I do if I were driving my hot rod with no A/C?" I couldn't go a whole summer without the beast, but yet I don't wanna be hooked up to an IV while driving to keep hydrated? I would have to modernize.
Although many hot rods don't have A/C (and probably never did), it doesn't mean they're doomed forever. With a simple call, a classic can be transformed into a modern-day driver with all the comforts of climate control. Companies such as Southern Air even make specialized kits for certain makes and models. One such kit they make is for the granddaddy of all hot rods, the legendary '55 Bel Air. The kit is a complete replacement that not only includes the components to keep the cabin cool, but also controls the heat and defrost functions, as well. The state-of-the-art unit mounts in the location of the stock heater assembly, and uses all-new custom ducting. The Southern Air package comes complete with everything needed to make the swap complete. Worried that the kit won't be compatible with your machine's engine? No concerns here. The kit is made to work with stock applications, Ram Jet 502s, 383 strokers, virtually any kind of combination you can imagine. Here's the best part about it: The finished result blows ice-cold air--key word here is cold. I'm sold!
Installation requires a little time, but if you are mechanically adept and have basic tools, Southern Air has the directions down pat to where they are clear and understandable. Of course, you do have to drill a few holes and mount some brackets, so do yourself a favor, make the time to do it and do it correctly, because the results are well worth the effort. And if you can get a friend to help, the easier it will be. Remember the old saying, two heads are better than one. And we're sure that two cool heads are better still.