Torino Project: Help Us Cool Off!

Mark IV Underdash AC

Look at what we found in the trunk of our new Torino project! It’s a Mark IV underdash A/C unit and from what I have read, they were a common add-on at Ford dealers in the sixties. The John E. Mitchell Co. produced them and apparently they worked pretty good. It’s sure getting hot  in our neck of the woods, so I’m thinking that this might be a nice addition to our Ford. We have an idea of what it would take to get going again, but I thought it would be more fun to let you guys do a scavenger hunt. Can you find all the parts we would need to make this air conditioner run cold again? Remember, for this to make sense the total cost has to be less than a new kit. There’s also the option of selling this and buying a used factory in-dash setup or even one of those nifty window swamp coolers! I’ll let you guys come up with the best solution though. Good luck!

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Comments

  1. e55
  2. Dan h

    Great a/c system ! Simple and reliable.Have a client with a ’65 Mustang who’s Micthell a/c blew cold for 60 years!!! The compressor finally pooped out last year. The compressor cost $500, though.

  3. joeinthousandoaks

    Swamp coolers do not cool like A/C. And they can only have the look in a car from the1930’s to 1950’s. Much better to go with a modern a/c unit than the old unit, but remember they still do not cool like your new car.

  4. Badnikl

    If I were doing it. I would contact Amos Minter
    https://www.amosminter.com/Minter_Home.php

    And ask them what would be best route to go.

    1) Because they make fantastic restorations, this would be an instant story in itself.

    Also you have the key piece already and you want to go with known reliable
    and available components, which they can steer you towards.

  5. Denny T

    I have a period correct (1960) dealer installed under dash a/c unit in my 1960 chevy Impala bubble top. The unit works well providing you’re in the front seat and the temps are not over 95 degress outside. The blower motor just does not put out enough volume of air to do any better. Also, here in Texas you get plenty of days in the summer with hundred degree or higher temps. I would recommend a brand new vintage a/c system that will do the job much better.

  6. Rick

    Were it I, I’d go with the factory look in dash unit. That big honker under dash makes it really hard to have your honey sit next to you at the drive in. :)

    As to the window evaporator, here in Arizona we call that a ‘swamp cooler’. Entire homes are cooled with this stuff, that is until the humidity hits 35% and the efficiency rapidly diminishes to the point where at 40% they don’t work at all. You have to be going at a prodigious speed and RAM AIR through them at a good clip.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah well it is pretty dry up here in this part of Idaho too. This reminded me of a swamp cooler I saw mounted on floor in the back of a Studebaker Hawk. I doubt it worked that well, but considering that we almost hit 100 yesterday, anything helps.

  7. Mark E

    For the period look I’d go with the unit you found in the trunk IF the compressor is present and works okay. Otherwise there are lots of sources for A/C units for vintage cars that hide under the dashboard so you don’t even see them! Also, vintage air has a repro Mark IV underdash unit you can buy brand new if you want that look.

    Besides classicautoair, mentioned earlier, there’s also:

    http://www.vintageair.com

    http://www.restomodair.com/ac-systems/

    http://nostalgicac.com

    http://autoacsolutions.com

    …just to name a few.

  8. David C

    I would see if you could source the compressor and bracket from a local junkyard for a good price, and if not go with a new unit and sell what you have.

  9. bowtiecarguy

    Just my 2 cents about Classic Auto Air. Can you see it in my ’59 Corvette?

    Difficult because the heater box is replaced by the unit and the present heater controls work the unit which is AC heat and defrost. AC blows from three vents one of which can be seen behind the grab bar. The other two are in the middle in place of the radio and under the steering column. I like it because it is almost invisible.

    I had a unit similar to your Torino’s in my 1966 Mustang. It worked fine but was very obvious and water condensate built up in the bottom of it so that at times it had a mildew smell and other times when I cornered too sharply the passenger floor got flooded with water that should have gone through the drainage tube

  10. bowtiecarguy

    Just my 2 cents about Classic Auto Air. Can you see it in my ’59 Corvette?
    Difficult because the heater box is replaced by the unit and the present heater controls work the unit which is AC heat and defrost. AC blows from three vents one of which can be seen behind the grab bar. The other two are in the middle in place of the radio and under the steering column. I like it because it is almost invisible.
    I had a unit similar to your Torino’s in my 1966 Mustang. It worked fine but was very obvious and water condensate built up in the bottom of it so that at times it had a mildew smell and other times when I cornered too sharply the passenger floor got flooded with water that should have gone through the drainage tube

  11. bowtiecarguy

    Sorry about the double post. I was just trying to add a picture and ended up posting the same comment. Doh!

  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    That’s a nice setup bowtiecarguy! I would like to do something like that, but the budget for something like this isn’t huge and honestly I’m going to have a hard time drilling the holes in the firewall. Maybe one of those floor mounted swamp coolers isn’t a bad idea…

  13. Jeff Staff

    I would rock a window-mount swamp cooler, but I’m weird like that.

  14. sir mike

    just roll all the windows down and deal with the heat….just a thought mind you…contact your local ac shop and see what ideas they might have.

  15. Chris

    Known as ‘hang on” or ‘underdash’ units in Aus. The local car makers didn’t have fully intergrated AC systems until the early ’70s,so these were quite common.
    I planned to fit on to a HQ Holden project,never did. They worked quite well, since the evaporator is only inches from the vent, not feet & feet of black underdash ducting away.
    A mate had one in his ute- smaller cab & it worked a treat, albiet with having your right knee frozen. I can see why AC would struggle in a bubble top Impala, with that glass area.
    And kudos to the installer of the Corvette system. An elegent solution.

  16. Larry Brown Member

    Jesse-If you would like to go original concerning the A/C, I believe I have the parts that you are looking for.

  17. Bill

    In 1965, as a 14 year old, I worked (part time) for the John E Mitchell company here in Canada. It was my first job and I earned $1 an hour. The company manufactured auto air conditioners, power washers and a variant of the power washer as coin operated car wash machines. In Canada there were 4 employees counting me, the kid. One was an installer.

    Air conditioners were the bulk of the business. The concept was that the units would be transferable from car to car. The reason is that then OEM car AC units were VERY expensive options or not available at all. The John E Mitchell units were slightly more expensive but had the huge advantage of portability. The way it worked is that there was a basic package as you have in your photo, and a kit unique to different cars. As I recall the kit had compressor mounting brackets, I thinks a clutch for the fan and mounting hardware for the unit itself. There were, I believe, three different models. One was the basic unit here, one was a full width under dash unit (about 4 or 5 inches wide full width). The most expensive and rarely sold was one that fit on the rear parcel shelf, full width. I think the price range was from low $400s to about $2000 for the rear window version, (At that time a good car was $2000 or so and a house about $15000).

    I vividly recall one going into a Citroen. To say it was complicated is an under statement.I learned new cursing phrases I still use!

    Here in Canada they were a tough sell by virtue of the climate and price.

    Your photo brought back lots of memories.

  18. fred

    I’m familiar with this unit, had one in my street rodded ’41 Ford Tudor that, mechanically, was a retrofitted ’69 Torino with 351 Windsor and AT. As I recall, we used the factory A/C compressor from the Torino (and the condensor coil in front of the radiator) with this unit under the dash instead of trying to retrofit the Torino unit. Most any A/C unit from back then would freeze you out compared to today’s units when working right. They used FREON 12, a now illegal refrigerant that was very efficient. The units were also oversized, meant to cool the car off in no time on a 100 degree day. Not sure how readily you can get freon these days to charge up an old A/C.

  19. Brad

    Awesome piece – has LOADS more style than the Vintage Air repro units. I would explore all options, up to and including gutting this unit and adapting the shell to the Vintage Air unit. A pain in the rear… but the result would be one of a kind, and awful neat.

  20. Boothboy

    It depends what you want to do. If you just want to install it as a functioning unit then your only problem will be finding all the Lincoln compressor brackets and pulleys. The rest can be outsourced from any A/C supply house. If you want to have it look like it was installed by a Ford dealership then you’ll have to source most of the components from companies specializing in repop parts and I’ll bet you’ll never match the original Receiver Dryer. Remember this was not a Factory installed unit to begin with it was installed at a dealership.as a after market part. Save for the Evaporator and hoses, all the rest of the components were very similar if not the same as a factory installed system.

  21. Bill McCoskey

    I have a NOS [never used] FOMOCO slimline A/C under dash unit for your Torino. Instead of having a large box like the MK4 unit, the slimline is wide, but only a couple of inches tall. Let me know if you want more info or pics. [This is only the complete under dash part.]

    • Bill McCoskey

      That’s an aftermarket version, the one I have is an actual FOMOCO unit, with fake woodgrain on the front. As I recall, it was not as bulky in the lower section as the one you pictured.

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