As Project Snowball is inspired by the legendary Firehawk and 1LE Firebirds, and since nothing says serious track car like the 1LE’s air conditioning (A/C) delete option, we had always intended to ditch the A/C and cover up the firewall with a delete plate saving weight and simplifying maintenance. We even went so far as sourcing the A/C delete cover before we gave some thought to our plan to drive the car to track events, and that once we got to the track the only shade we might have would be in the car, without A/C and a black interior—suddenly the A/C delete seemed very un-cool. Given our original system was going to need a complete overhaul, and how nobody at GMHTP likes to put stock parts back in a car, we called Vintage Air to see if they had any idea how we might upgrade in lieu of restoring the Firebird’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).
Vintage Air was quick to suggest its Gen IV Magnum, which shares some of the same technology that was used on the system it developed for the Ford GT supercar. As far as Vintage Air was aware, nobody has installed a Gen IV system in a third-gen F-body—so we’d have to start with one of its universal kits and see if it would even fit under our Firebird’s dash. Vintage Air made the fit check easy, by sending us a hollow plastic mock-up and brackets for the GEN IV Magnum Evaporator. These Mock-Up Units are available on a “loaner” basis, and can be returned for credit on the actual evaporator unit. The third-gen’s HVAC system normally resides under the dash and pokes through the firewall with the heater core on the passenger side of the firewall and the A/C’s evaporator core under the hood. Vintage Air’s unit packages both the evaporator and heater cores into one very compact unit that allows it to be fully installed behind the firewall, dramatically cleaning up the engine compartment and at the same time removing wiring, cable, and vacuum hose clutter from under the dash.
Since we were diving under the dash we took the opportunity to upgrade the stock instrument cluster to a STACK 8100 multi-function display. Neither the STACK 8100 nor the GEN IV Magnum is a direct fit for a third-gen, so we had to get creative in how we installed them. In our case, “creative” meant breaking out a welder and making parts from sheetmetal, but any project like this is a series of small challenges that can be solved in any one of a number of ways. While ditching the factory A/C and gauges isn’t for everyone, there are real benefits to adapting modern technology to a 22-year-old car that was designed 30-plus years ago.