Air Conditioning for a 1950 F-1 Flathead

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This web page is about restoring/resto-rodding a 1950 Ford F-1 pickup, and is one of a series of articles documenting the project. I am providing this in the hope that it is helpful to fellow Ford truck owners, but beware that there are many ways to accomplish the same goals... I have only shown one way. Also, keep in mind, that my comments are specific to this year, make and model, and should not be generalized. Feel free to drop me a line if you see mistakes or need more information, but please understand if it takes me a while to respond. To go back to the main project page click here.

Our Plan

Our plan was to install a basic air conditioner with heat and defrost.

Selecting an A/C Unit

Several places make A/C units for 48-52 Ford trucks.  After looking around and comparing features and prices, we decided to use the Nostalgic Air unit for 49-52 Ford trucks.  This kit includes Air, Heat and Defrost, a Sanden 508 compressor, and all the assorted hoses and fittings.


Here is our parts list. 


The F-1 had no factory A/C option, so there are no existing ducts to re-use (however there are defroster slits in the dash, which currently do nothing).  This kit is an under dash unit.  Mounting it is straightforward using the supplied hangers.  

Air Conditioning for a F-1    Air Conditioning for a F-1   

Nostalgic makes a compressor mount for the flathead, but we ended up making our own. We used the compressor mounting plate but made our own brackets. Although the pictures below show the back pulley groove on the compressor aligned with the front groove on the crankshaft pulley, in the end we moved the compressor back and used the front pulley. We made a simple jack bolt for the belt tensioner, and, in our case, a NAPA 25-9525 belt was the right length.

Air Conditioning for a F-1    Air Conditioning for a F-1    Air Conditioning for a F-1    AC for a F-1    AC for a F-1

There is not a lot of room between the A/C unit and the firewall, so the heater hoses need to have a straight shot through the firewall to the heater core. There is also not enough room for the heater control valve between the firewall and heater hose hookups on the heater core, so it goes in the engine compartment. The heater control valve is electrically controlled on this unit, so we passed the wiring through the same grommet as the heater hose. The kit comes with the grommets; they require a 1-1/8" hole to be drilled in the firewall.

AC for a F-1   

In order to keep the engine compartment "clean", we decided to route the A/C hoses around the front of the radiator. The hoses come off the compressor, go forward and around the radiator to the drier (which is mounted on the passenger side inner fender, in front of the radiator), through the inner fender, then back to the passenger side kick panel, where they go through a bulkhead fitting, then to the evaporator core. The #10 hose going from the bulkhead fitting (on the passenger kick panel) to the compressor ends up being about 8 feet long, so we had to buy additional hose from a local supplier (Hose Power on Rojas). A friend had the tool to crimp the A/C fitting onto the hoses, so we were able to make our own hoses, but if you don't have access to the proper crimping tool, its probably cheaper to have a local shop crimp the fittings for you. Cut the hoses to length, and if both ends of the hose have fittings with bends, be sure to mark the orientation of the fitting to the hose - A/C hoses are stiff and should never be twisted. In our case, every hose had 90° bends at the fittings.

A/C in a F-1    A/C in a F-1    A/C in a F-1    A/C hoses coming off the drier, through inner fender. View looking inside passenger wheel well, looking forward.    Bulkhead fitting and drain tube on passenger kick panel. View looking inside passenger wheel well, looking aft.    Bulkhead fitting on passenger kick panel. View inside cab.    A/C in a F-1   

In the pictures, the clear tube is the evaporator drain tube, which attaches to a 3/8" copper tube which goes through a grommet in the kick panel, near the bulkhead fitting.

Wiring the A/C unit is straight forward, but in order to keep the load off of the ignition switch, we used a relay. The ignition switch now only closes the relay, and the main power feed to the A/C is connected to the Master Fuse.

When the A/C clutch is engaged, the cooling fan must kick on in order to draw air over the condenser. The Hayden controller has a A/C lead (green wire) which is connected to the A/C clutch wire.

Additionally, we ordered a Holley throttle solenoid, which kicks up the idle speed when the A/C compressor is engaged. This also connects to the A/C clutch wire. The Holley part numbers are: Solenoid #46-74 ($73), bracket 20-9 ($10), and lock nut 26-57 ($7), available from Summit Racing. Some people have complained that the Holley solenoid does not kick up the throttle on its own... you have to depress the throttle and then will it "hold up" the throttle. I agree that the solenoid does not push the throttle up with much force (but once its at full stroke its quite strong). In our case, the solenoid is able to kick up the throttle on its own. I suppose if you have a stiff throttle return spring, this could be an issue. One thing that was strange, is the screws included with the bracket kit do not fit the 390 carb - they're too big and too long. And one of the mounting holes in the carb base plate is blind and not tapped. I used a #8 machine screw in the tapped hole to attach the bracket to the carb, and a pin in the blind untapped hole to "anti-rotate" it. It seems to work and was a simple fix, but Holley should make a kit that really fits the 4160 carb (as it advertised).

Holley Throttle Solenoid   

Affordable Automotive (Doniphan Street) pulled a vacuum, leak checked, and charged the A/C system for less than $60. It takes a mere 1.5 lbs (nominal) of R-134A.

Hits & Misses

The Nostaglic Air kit was easy to install, but some fabrication was required (a/c mount), but they also have a kit for that if you are interested. Route your hoses and drill the required holes before body and paint work.

Time Line

Last Updated: Sunday January 16, 2011 Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional Powered by Powered by Sun