When Chevelles rolled off the assembly lines back in the middle of the muscle car wars, most were built for one main purpose: To deliver on-demand power to whoever was tappin' the throttle. Big-blocks, four-speeds, and four-eleven gears were the basic ingredients for getting' the job done on the track... or on the street. But things have certainly changed, some forty-odd years later.
The same guys who wanted monster power and eyeball-flattening acceleration are no longer satisfied with those simple parameters of performance. In the time since classic Chevelles ruled the earth, evolutionary changes have dramatically changed their descendents. Today's musclecars can start, stop, and turn in ways unimaginable back then, and do it all while keeping the occupants comfortably ensconced in climate controlled, plush interiors with their favorite jams played back through concert hall-quality sound systems. Not surprisingly, those same improvements are now being integrated into many Chevelles to give the owners classic muscle car looks and modern-day performance and conveniences. Fuel injection? Yes sir! Bigger brakes? You betcha! Tenacious suspension? Uh Huh! Deeply-bolstered seats? Gotta have 'em!
And while all the aforementioned items are most definitely aimed at enhancing performance, air conditioning is another cool addition that more and more builders are incorporating into their plans.
One of the most notable names in the automotive aftermarket air conditioning game is Vintage Air, in San Antonio, Texas. They've been building retrofit A/C setups for hot rods, street cars, and trucks for over 30 years, so when it came time to choose a system for our '70 Malibu, the decision was a no-brainer. We were especially impressed with their Gen IV Sure Fit series that was engineered specifically for our application. Not only is the entire system comprised of matched components to ensure maximum efficiency, but the kit also includes fully electronic controls, separate heating and cooling coils, plus all the internal air control doors are servo-operated for infinite temperature control and blending of the floor, dash and defrost outlets.
One of the things that we noticed during the installation was that the Sure Fit series is designed to bolt up with minimal modifications to the original firewall and existing hardware. This is important because it doesn't compromise the factory design and makes it easy to return everything back to stock in the future, helping retain the value of your investment. This is a very important consideration if selling your Chevelle is a possibility somewhere down the road.
While we were upgrading our '70 Chevelle with air conditioning, we also decided to include Vintage Air's FrontRunner accessory drive system into the buildup. This kit converts the archaic factory v-belt configuration into a compact, reliable and attractive serpentine setup that utilizes a spring-loaded tensioning system for trouble free operation. It comes with a new, compact Sanden compressor, a new Delphi-Saginaw power steering pump, and a 140-amp, one-wire alternator, plus a Stewart aluminum, reverse rotation water pump. It also includes ARP hardware. The entire system is supported completely by four stainless studs that install in place of the water pump mounting bolts, and a billet aluminum truss that mounts the accessories.
We also tapped Detroit Speed Inc. for their power steering pump hard line and flexible stainless line kits that allowed us to complete the connection between the pump and our steering box. Sure, you could probably cobble something together and make it work, but with ready-to-go hardware at your disposal, why even spend the time and trouble?