The Corvette has long been known as a very “kool” car that’s also very hot, and you can take that both figuratively and literally. On a more literal level, these fiberglass beauties are also known for soaring cockpit temperatures and the only way to beat that heat is to add air conditioning. This is particularly true with the coupes.
The introduction of the C2 Sting Ray in 1963 brought the Corvette to a whole new level. Leather upholstery and independent four-wheel suspension, along with hidden headlights in a sleek new body style are just some of the new offerings from Chevrolet in 1963. Sales in 1963 were almost equally split between the infamous split-window coupe and the convertible. The first factory air conditioning for the Corvette came late in 1963 and a mere 1.3 percent of Corvettes had factory A/C installed, which makes them high on the collector list. While factory A/C is high on the collector list, the current offering from Vintage Air is a much more efficient package, one that will make driving your C2 Corvette a real pleasure.
This particular car is a highly modified 1963 Corvette split-window owned by Bill Verboon, and since Bill lives in Arizona he knows a thing or two about driving a hot Corvette. His car is running an ever-popular LS conversion under the hood. The Z06 engine is a nod to the first ever Z06 package that appeared in 1963, making this a modern take on an iconic package. When it came time for the installation of Vintage Air A/C on his car Bill knew exactly where to go, and so one hot Arizona afternoon this bright-yellow coupe rolled into Hot Rods by Dean in Phoenix.
Any retrofit air-conditioning project can generally be separated into two parts. The first part is mounting the required air compressor, condenser and hoses under the hood. Fitting A/C hardware under the hood of any Corvette can be a challenge but, happily, Vintage Air has the solution in the form of their Front Runner brackets. They have a Front Runner system designed for the traditional small-block, big-block and yes, they even have a Front Runner system for the LS series of engines, so regardless of your choice of power, Vintage Air has a compressor/alternator and power steering pump mounting system designed specifically for your application.
Hot Rods by Dean is more than familiar with all of these Bow Tie powerplants so when it came time to swap this LS engine into Bill Verboon’s ’63 Vette they began by ordering up an LS Front Runner system and installing it on the LS6 engine while it was in the car.
We were there to follow along as team Hot Rods by Dean installed the Front Runner kit on this high-tech engine. Armed with reasonable mechanical skills, a couple of specialty tools and the ability to read instructions, a Front Runner kit can be installed at home by most real gearheads. Follow along and you will see exactly what it takes to complete the Vintage Air LS Front Runner installation. Next month we’ll complete the Vintage Air install with work inside the car, mounting the evaporator, fan controls and ductwork, so stay tuned, this is going to be really cool.
01. This modern version of a 1963 Z06 consists of LS power and precise mounting of the engine accessories like the A/C compressor, alternator and power steering pump. The Vintage Air Front Runner system handles it in fine style.
02. We began our Front Runner installation by disconnecting the negative battery cable, draining the radiator and removing the fan and belts. The OEM alternator, A/C compressor and water pump were also removed. Finally, the OEM crankshaft damper was removed and we then spent time carefully cleaning all the mating surfaces.
03. With all the OEM stuff off the front of the engine it is time to install the new ATI Super Damper. Some assembly is required; clear instructions walk you through the process.
04. You will note there is one offset hole in the damper; this ensures proper alignment of the two pieces, and the hole is clearly marked.
05. A drop of blue thread locker on each bolt ensures the damper fasteners will not come loose.
06. As per the directions, the bolts are torqued to the specified values. A strap wrench holds the outer diameter of the damper while the torque wrench tightens the bolts.
07. Now it is time to install the assembled Super Damper, but first we must measure the crankshaft to ensure it is in spec for a press fit.
08. We also measured the inside diameter of the damper. Once certain that our interference fit was correct, we can now install the damper.
09. After carefully checking the crankshaft and key are free of any dirt, nicks or other flaws a coating of antiseize is applied to the shaft.
10. LS crankshaft bolts (along with many other bolts in the LS engine) are one-time use bolts as they stretch when torqued. It is recommended that you use the old bolt to pull the Super Damper onto the crankshaft. There are several variations of LS crankshafts so read the directions very carefully.
11. To prevent the crankshaft from spinning during the torqueing process this simple plate was fabricated as an engine stop. A large center hole allows the socket to access the crank bolt, while three bolts hold the plate to the damper. A block of wood protects the chassis paint.
12. Using the old crankshaft bolt, the Super Damper is torqued to a whopping 240 ft-lb so a long torque wrench (or torque multiplier) and a strong back are in order. After torqueing the bolt to 240 ft-lb, the damper is effectively pressed into place. Now remove the old bolt.
13. Next, we will apply a drop of blue thread locker and install the new bolt and torque to just 37 ft-lb. Then, using the same engine stop plate we marked off 140 degrees and rotated the bolt to that line, so the actual torque is 37 ft-lb plus rotation to 140 degrees.
14. High-end digital torque wrenches may also read out in degrees. If you are using this style wrench the marks on the plate are not required, you can simply let the torque wrench do the math.
15. With the heavy lifting out of the way it is time to thread the appropriate studs into the block. Follow the directions for use of thread sealer and/or thread locker on each specific stud.
16. Carefully slide the supplied gaskets over the studs to contact the front of the block. Be sure all mating surfaces are clean.
17. A new water pump is supplied with the Vintage Air Front Runner kit. The thermostat housing from the OEM pump can be reused or new housings are available.
18. With the water pump in position we slide the alternator bracket into position. Notice how the bracket positions the alternator low and in front of the head, making the Front Runner perfect for many LS engine swaps.
19. Next, the main front bracket is installed over the studs. All of the Front Runner pieces are precisely machined and they fit like a glove, making this kit a real pleasure to assemble.
20. There are several spacers that fit between the water pump and the main bracket. Once again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to read the instructions. They really do save time and ensure everything is installed properly. Even if you’re “really smart” you should read the instructions.
21. The high-quality fasteners supplied with the kit are installed next. Follow the directions for thread locker and/or sealant requirements and torque to the bolts to the specified torque value.
22. The Vintage Air Front Runner kit comes with this beautifully polished Pro-Line 170-amp alternator. Good looks and lots of power all wrapped up in a very compact alternator made especially for Vintage Air.
23. With the main bracket torqued in place, the highly polished Vintage Air alternator is bolted up.
24. Moving to the passenger side of the engine, the hardware is torqued down in preparation for installing the A/C condenser. Once again, precise components like the Front Runner are designed to be installed to the proper torque values to ensure a leak-free and trouble-free installation.
25. The Vintage Air compressor is also polished to a high luster and makes a very attractive addition to the engine bay. More supplied hardware holds the compressor in place.
26. Power steering is no problem with the Front Runner system. Installing the serpentine pulley on the Detroit Speed pump is a two-wrench affair, holding back with one wrench, while tightening with the torque wrench.
27. The power steering pump mounts below the alternator and is virtually hidden from view with the exception of the billet aluminum pulley.
28. Installing the power steering pump is simple enough; simply use a socket through one of the holes in the pulley.
29. When running a serpentine belt system you must engineer the system so the belt contacts each pulley correctly. Here we are installing the water pump pulley on the Vintage Air water pump.
30. While the pulleys guide the belt over, under and around other pulleys, the automatic tensioner is spring-loaded and maintains the proper tension on the serpentine belt. This is just one of the many things to love about a serpentine belt system.
31. The tensioner mounts through this spacer. Note the spacer is indexed with one large and one small pin, ensuring the piece is properly installed.
32. This dowel pin in the main bracket locates the tensioner spacer while a single bolt holds it in place. There is no adjustment involved as the spring-loaded arm provides the proper belt tension.
33. The single mounting bolt is installed through the center hole, which goes through the spacer.
34. Here’s the tensioner installed and we have now installed the lower radiator hose, too. The upper radiator hose neck is visible in the top right corner.
35. We’re coming down the home stretch now. Finishing touches like the compressor clutch cover add an extra level of detail to the Vintage Air Front Runner system.
36. We have basically installed all the hardware, pumps, alternator and compressor on the Front Runner. While this particular installation is a sea of polished aluminum the system is also available in black powdercoat.
37. The serpentine belt can now be wrapped around the pulleys in the proper direction. Once you release the automatic tensioner you will never have to adjust belt tension again. That sure beats a bunch of V-belts.
38. Next, we moved forward a bit and installed the condenser in front of our aluminum radiator. Once again, this is a kit specifically designed to fit the C2 Corvette.
39. The condenser bolts to the front of the radiator core support with the supplied brackets. Deans installed the “pusher” electric fan to force air through the condenser and the radiator.
40. Vintage Air supplies the brackets, drier, and hard lines to mount the drier in front of the condenser. Hard lines are C2 specific and route the lines into the engine bay. With this much completed we will pick up installing the lines, wiring and all interior pieces inside our 1963 Corvette in the next installment. It is all designed to fit the C2 perfectly so we’re looking forward to completing our heat and A/C next time.