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1955 Ford Part 18: Custom A/C, Brackets & Belts, and Wiring Harness

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

(Note: You are reading the progress from a project that began in August of 2014. This information in this post was originally dated from January to March of 2017.)

Custom A/C, Brackets & Belts, and Wiring Harness

Ever have one of those moments when what you thought you were going to do had to be changed because you really screwed up the measurements? The best laid plans of mice and men... anyway, on with our story here. So to introduce the idea of AC, which this car never had in its lifetime... a little background. The females say the car must have AC, so ok time to get to work looking at different kits, manufacturers, pricing, reviews, etc. Vintage Air and Classic Auto Air at the top of the list of course (see previous posts about the Vintage Air brackets for AC Compressor and Alternator for the Y Block). My thought - "Wouldn't it be great to put the round, chrome, louvered vents in the dash?" In my mind video of Jay Leno's 56 Buick came to mind when I recall watching a show years ago that told the story of how louvers were put into that dash. Knowing I have like 5 extra 55 Ford dashes that are in great shape, why not take the chance to customize one? We also wanted to keep the original controls for the heat with the matching duct work in the engine compartment. All of these things narrowed our options, so it looked like the custom route it was. A company named "Coldmaster" down in Florida, had good reviews from bus companies (basically people who run greenhouses on wheels) and people posting on 4x4 websites. And... what's this? they sell a kit to put louvers in your dash! So, I measured, measured again, looked at the specs, and I says to myself, "This will work just fine." And I ordered a custom kit that would give me an evaporator core under the dash with four exits for duct work and louvers! Here's the box:

And here's my son getting in on the act as we laid out all of the parts on mama's kitchen table.

Very good looking setup indeed. The kit came with full contents as listed, bagged, labeled, wrapped, protected, and secured. After the inventory was checked off, it was time to get to the install. First up, let's get that evaporator core in there so we can run the duct work. By the way, this is the front face of the core...

If you are looking at the photo and checking things out you can tell what's about to happen because there is regular vent face in the photo about to be installed! Yep - once I got that unit up under the dash the front plate where the ducting would begin was sticking out way too much. Seems I had not measured when the heater plenum was against the firewall... Once that was discovered a new face plate was ordered and quickly installed.

The way the evaporator core is put together gives you three attachment points to hang the unit under the dash.

The installation went reasonably well but my main concern was that shifter. As you follow along in the photos you can see it is pretty close up in second gear but there is plenty of room to spare. I did have to use my own bracket for the rear of the unit - what was supplied was way too short, but the other two were just fine.

While it certainly ain't the ductwork action we were planning to do, the unit fit pretty well even though offset, and the air handlers look pretty good. More on this install coming up..

Now that the evaporator core is hung, we will move on to the excitement in the engine bay. Vintage Air and their compressor/alternator bracketry that was expensive enough to be gold plated is up next. Very nice kit, bullet proof metal plate that will stop bullets and IED's ... I painted them with high heat engine paint and away we went.

First a photo of the formerly used setup on the alternator:

The plan is to add one crankshaft pulley before installing the bracketry though, so thankfully when I laid out the brackets and instructions I had an extra crankshaft dampener to help me mock things up. There was going to be interference if I was to use the old crank washer. Check this out:

That shiny washer was just the ticket.

I was glad I had an extra crank dampener to use on the bench! Ok, so we got the pulley installed, and things are looking good so far. According to the Vintage Air instructions, this will be the pulley that drives the compressor, so let's hope the alignment is ok with the bracketry and with the Sanden compressor from the kit I purchased. From here we will just say that the kit from Vintage Air includes quite a few spacers such as what is shown in these pictures:

With the variance in Y block timing covers, several different spacers are included in the Vintage Air kit so you can get things lined up. After you remove the original generator bracketry or other custom bracketry, you are really just going to use the hole under the passenger head, the two holes on the timing cover that seal one of the coolant passages, and then one hole on the lower side of the timing cover. The hole in question is towards the middle and upper portion of this photo:

The original hole used for the tightening arm for the generator mount is not used. The first bracket to install is the one that bolts to the timing cover AND the original boss on the head. The instructions pictured below indicate the spacers needed according to your timing cover variance.

After that I installed the flat plate that mounts a 10SI or 12SI alternator.

Of course, don't forget the spacers. And you will want to use thread sealant on that one bolt that goes into the timing cover hole that is open to the coolant passage.

Since I do not have the correct alternator, I could only install the compressor today. Vintage Air has a good reminder here about the oil cap and making sure your compressor is oriented correctly.

The compressor installation was pretty quick. Keep in mind that with the location of the compressor and the way these brackets are made, you are going to have to use a rear exit compressor as shown. (it's going to be tight enough as it is.)

Next up was the condenser. Hey, check this out, it doesn't fit lol!

Yep, the overall size of the condenser is great - lots of square area to cool the refrigerant down. But the horn brackets get in the way of mounting it near the radiator. So, we broke out the Dremel tool.

After notching the frame of the condenser, I fabricated/salvaged a couple of mounts that worked great but we still had a problem - we needed room to make sure we could tighten the fittings to the condenser. A couple of spacers helped with that issue. Using a few self-tapping hex head screws the condenser was put into place.

You can tell that I installed upright support that fits between the gravel pan and the hood latch panel. I thought that important to do since the electric fan was coming next.

he receiver-dryer came next and it proved to be a little difficult to find a place where it would be 1. not exposed to excessive heat, 2. installed upright, 3. good port access to the condenser/evaporator core, 4. not in the way of anything else. I really think that what I came up with is about the only place it would have gone. However, if I put it inside the engine bay maybe there would have been more options? At any rate, here are some photos:

As you can see, another spacer was needed. But, everything is now installed and the AC lines and wiring are all that needs to be put into place before we charge it up!

(a few weeks later...)

Well, well, well... I've got another story to tell about the new alternator and AC compressor mount that involves a lot of receipts, conversations at a parts counter, and chasing a scrap of part-numbered scrap of paper through a parking lot! Buckle up, time for the Ford Follies! Where do we start? Let's start with the front porch - after being out of town for a few days working with scores of people at a church hundreds of miles away I was looking forward to getting back into the garage to unwind and "rest" as it were. Thankfully, the new alternator had arrived, along with some other goodies, so in the afternoon we were all set to get a few things done. If you are working through a restoration for a car that will be as about as original as possible, usually things fit - FoMoCo saw to that years ago. For those types of cars and trucks it is just a matter of finding the right parts, or even period pieces, getting a hold of a good shop manual or Ford parts book with diagrams and away you go. If you are doing a restomod that will be a daily driver, then well, good luck. You guys that are experts know full well you have to plan, measure, research, plan some more, use some of your own sketches, think things through, etc. Ok, after thinking, "Yeh - it's a Vintage Air bracket, it cost quite a bit of money, they are bound to think through how this all fits together..." I went ahead and pulled the 10SI alternator out of the box. It looked pretty good since I went the chromed route and 120 amps no less. A 10SI or a 12SI is what the bracket calls for... so down we go.

"Wait, what's this?"

Yep - that long bolt cannot go into that hole in the bracket because it cannot clear the electric fan/radiator (that Vintage Air recommends). Ok so now what? Time to loosen up the bracket and slide that bolt ever so gingerly into the hole, twist the alternator just so, get that rinky dink 1/2" spacer into position and... and... wait a sec... there! she's in!

Looks good. Never knew there would be so much drama over getting an alternator into position. I purchased one that had the 2 wire socket at the 3 o'clock position, thinking that we would be ok on that side and thankfully it fits like it should - the position of that main battery hook up is close though!

If you know Y blocks, by now you can probably tell that the dipstick tube is backwards. In other words, the main bend is oriented towards the passenger side when it should be towards the driver's side. I am glad I did this. I really don't know how the alternator could have fit into position if the dipstick tube was in the stock position. Maybe a 12SI is smaller? Back to our story..... Now it was time to get some belts! Vintage Air had some suggested measurements in there instructions, but they did not seem to match what I was coming up with on the Y block. The instructions did say something about variances with pulleys and all of that so I decided it was time to take things into my own hands. I took some wire, placed it around the pulleys, twisted it together, and then cut it so I could measure it on the bench, adding a little bit of length to make up any difference in pulley groove depth.

What happens next is an exercise in futility. I ended up going through these pictured belts lol...

Let's just say I am glad that Autozone is literally 1.5 miles away from my house! What a fun time all of that was. You should have heard the wife when she found out I was going for the third time... "Are you kidding me? You gotta go back again? That don't sound like you at all, you usually nail this stuff..."

Oh my, if she only knew! One of the best parts was on my second trip the piece of paper with measurements and part numbers went flying out of my grip and across the entire parking lot. I waddled around trying to step on it, chasing it down. That was completely hysterical. I probably looked like I was chasing a $100 bill! Ok so, third time's a charm - these grooves look to be lined up really good, and the belts fit very nicely with good tension.

After assessing this alternator install a little bit however, I realized that the heater hose from the water pump is going to rest right smack dab on top of that alternator as it swings back to the heater core. Nope, can't have that.

What I plan to do is make a sheet metal bracket that will come off of the alternator, placing both the hose from the water pump and the hose from the intake manifold above the alternator a bit more as they travel back to a spot on the passenger side fender where the factory drilled two holes for a bracket.

And, after reinstalling the aftermarket battery tray what have we hear?

Looks like this tray barely rests against the Vintage Air bracket. It is a plastic tray, not a big deal, but I do wonder if I should not notch it or find something else. I would imagine that over time with any engine movement it will wear into the tray. If you want more Ford Follies, stay tuned. I happened to start looking at the RebelWire wiring harness tonight. Oh boy, we are in for some fun!

(a few weeks later...) Last night it was time to get the wiring harness going. If the weather is nice I try to get body work and paint completed. If it's raining then on with the things we can get done in the garage. What we have here is a RebelWire brand aftermarket harness. It is a Universal 14 circuit/Fuse Panel kit for just about any car running 12 volts.

I chose RebelWire after looking at reviews, reading other forums, and checking out what they had available. I did not want to go with an original harness - too expensive and there would not be a fuse panel, not enough circuits for what we are adding here, etc. RebelWire is made in the USA from what I am told, and from what I have read the customers who write on forums for other classic cars appreciate the customer service with RebelWire in case there are any problems. Each wire is laid out with its intended use/circuit labeled every 6" along the insulation. The kit comes with the main loom and panel, is zip tied (color coordinated in that regard) per bundled use, a separate bag for the alternator and other accessories, and of course instructions. There are no terminals with the kit. Ok so first up was to choose a location for that fuse panel. You can see in the photo below where I chose to place the panel. It seemed reasonable enough and will not be too hard to read/replace fuses when needed. The only hitch was that ALL wires exited to the right of the loom - headed straight for the main pedal bracket! (more on that later).

What a mess of wires coming out of that small panel! Time to take a break and get a Ford Follies story. Take a look at this photo and guess what happened...

Yep, dufus me - while drilling the third hole to mount the panel to the firewall my drill bit came loose from the keyless chuck in my cordless drill! Nice. I will have to say that while I like the location of the fuse panel it was a joke with all of the contortions and octopus-like positions I had to be in to secure everything under there. A real show. Me and the 55 playing a round of "Twister" Thankfully this is not a reality TV show but I would bet people would pay money to see the unplanned goofs and what have you! Take a look at the following photo to see how I solved the issue of the wires exiting to the right...

With that small piece of hardware, the wires were brought up and back to the left - especially those wires going to the ignition and headlight switches. Trust me, there was plenty of wire in there to reach to the steering wheel if needed, and the loom that ran to the steering wheel could reach the front seat easily. So what was it like at the firewall in the engine bay? Could we use the original rubber grommet and keep things pretty clean looking?

I had my doubts - there were a lot of wires coming out of there!

So, I started with one run of the loom and that fit pretty well. I looked at the other and noticed that there were splices to run through where the end of the run had two wires but that same line had one wire at the firewall.

And so it did! Nice and tight too so that it held pretty easily at the firewall. But now look at this mess!

Although it looks bad I really don't think there is going to be too much problem here. The instructions read pretty well and the lines are all marked every 6".

(next weekend...)

This afternoon was very nice outside so I finished removing all of the paint (and a little rust) from the hood outside, and I cleaned up the shop for some friends coming over later on this week. (Needed to put new gloves in the blast cabinet and a new lens as well)

With the good weather yesterday I spent some time outside removing all of the paint (and a little rust) from the hood. I have been waiting on the trunk lid for it's next coat of primer/surfacer just so I can get the guns out and paint at the same time since prep and cleanup takes a little bit to do. I did some sandblasting where needed, used some paint stripper, and then a plastic wheel that is made for removing paint. The pictures above show the underside before it was cleaned up. There were some small holes up under the lip, but there was not enough a problem to warrant breaking out a patch panel or what have you. The hood does has a few small dings here and there that I will have to smooth out. Some of the work I have already done with hammer and dolly - I didn't see much now but I am sure that once a guide coat goes down things will "pop up"! Towards evening I decided to stay in the garage. I don't know about you fellas, but the garage is like a place of peace and satisfaction to me. Nice to get in there, turn some wrenches, get a few things done, organize parts and plans, etc. My attention turned to the blast cabinet was already time to replace the lens. I guess I use that thing quite regularly to blast small parts and what have you. Hardware is especially easy to save and very quick to turn around. Would you believe I have owned this thing for 10 years and have never replaced the gloves? Check out these photos though:

I had bought new gloves at the Carlisle, PA, swap meet a couple years ago actually (man, has it been that long since I have been out there?) So, I quickly remembered where I had put them and replaced them without much fanfare. The SkatBlast cabinet I have is made pretty well and the accessories I got with the cabinet itself have held up nicely. Of course I use the cabinet quite a bit, and I have gone through a lot of media and several of the replacement lens. Nothing beats tearing off the old foggy lens, removing all of the old goo from the plexiglass, giving it all a good cleaning, and then installing a new lens!

After the move from a 40x24 shop I have a new appreciation for many of us that do not have much room. I am in a 19x18 garage that holds everything - tools, the car, parts, refrigerator, kids stuff, lawn equipment, etc. That may be larger than what some of you reading this blog may have, I don't know. But wow! trying to navigate the garage with body parts, stands, tools, other parts, benches, cabinets, and the like - just trying to keep a car door open can be chore! If anyone ever has space-saving tips or photos that show what you've got, let me know by all means.

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