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1955,56,57 & 58 Studebaker Sedan Air Conditioning

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  • 1955,56,57 & 58 Studebaker Sedan Air Conditioning

    My family's first air conditioned car was a 1955 Studebaker President Ultra Vista. The system was manufactured by NOVI and ducted from the clear tubes behind the back seat like most early 50's systems. In addition, this President had power front windows only with the rears being manual, a power seat, power steering, brakes, automatic transmission, fog lights and dealer installed wire wheels. This car was the personal car and a demonstrator of a Mr. Nance who operated Nance Studebaker on Tryon Street in Charlotte, NC for many years. Father purchased it as a leftover in 1956 as it never sold due to the higher price it commanded for it being a "loaded" model. Mr. Nance replaced it with a black and white 56 President Classic equipped the same way with air conditioning and power windows all the way around. My question is this, does anyone have any idea as to how many big Studebakers came with air conditioning these years and does anyone have one now or know of one. I have the opportunity to purchase a 57 President Classic with factory power windows and I would like to install an original factory air system in it. I still have the original Studebaker Car Air Conditioning Manual from the 55 and I'm aware its a 6 volt system as opposed to 12 volt for 1956 forward.
    Also, was both a trunk mounted system and an underdash system available for 1958? I have seen one 58 Packard 2 door hardtop with the trunk system and then a 58 President with an underdash system.
    Also, I have seen my second 64 Avanti with a tilt steering column. Was this an Avanti only option or did it extend to the other Studebakers? Was this a GM system or did Studebaker manage to design and manufacture their own tilt column? It reminds me of the tilt columns in the GM intermediates those years and that is why I ask. If one was available, what are the thoughts of installing it in a 63 R-1?
    Bill Sapp

  • #2
    Regarding the Avanti tilt wheel:
    It's probably mostly GM intermediate parts. The turn signal switch, located near the floor, has been found to be the same as a mid 60's Olds, anyway.
    My '64 came with one. I think it's well made. I've had no problems with it. Most of the adjustment range is too low to be usable, though.
    There seem to be a lot of them out there. Some have been added by owners. Parts are shown in detail, in the Dec. 1963 parts book. I don't think it's in the earlier edition.
    Mike M.


    • #3
      There's no way to discern how many 55s had AC in them. It probably wasn't a great number. Given that it was VERY expensive for it's day and given that most Studebaker customers were (ARE) very cost conscious, that probably kept sales of this option low. It was introduced in mid-year by the way.
      I had a 55 Commander 4dr come my way about 15 years ago. It had come with the trunk-mounted A/C in it. It was bought be a farmer who had been a long-time devotee of Studebaker. Being as gets really hot here in the summer (central California valley), I'm sure that factory A/C must have seemed like a miracle.[:0]
      I've also had a couple of 56 - 57 sedans that had this A/C setup in them. They work great. While they initially were available only in the sedans, eventually, they were adapted to the coupe/hardtop cars as well. By rights, 58s should have had the blower unit under the dash. But since the trunk-mounted units were plentiful then, I'm sure some got installed in 58 cars.[^]
      I've got a trunk unit that came from a '57 Packard. Eventually, it'll find it's way into my '57 2dr sedan!

      Miscreant at large.
      No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.


      • #4

        I just purchased a nice '55 Speedster and I'm exploring my options for installing AC. Did any '55 Speedsters come from the factory with AC? Will the under hood and under dash parts from another year fit in the '55 Speedster? What are my options (if any) for upgrading the internal environment?

        Thanks in advance,

        Jim W

        James D. Wilkerson


        • #5
          I don't recall that any A/C was offered in the Speedsters or any other C & K bodied cars for that year. I do know that some enterprizing dealers adapted the trunk-mounted sedan units to work in C-K cars. You can use later Stude underdash units in your Speedster but you'll have to work to find 6volt blower motors and compressor clutch for the adaptation. Such things CAN be found but not readily.

          Miscreant at large.
          No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.


          • #6
            After market units were available also. Either dealer installed or non-dealer shop. My '54 Starliner had a Mark IV trunk mounted unit in it when I purchased it.

            Dick Steinkamp
            Bellingham, WA


            • #7
              I believe that, during the years you quoted, there weren't any Studes equipped with under the hood a/c. I believe that Nash was the first company to offer under hood a/c that later found its way into the Ramblers. It was part of their Weather-eye climate control system, which was later adopted by GM.
              Please let me know if I'm incorrect.
              '59 Lark VI Regal Hardtop
              Recording Secretary, Long Island Studebaker Club


              • #8
                Thanks for the info.

                I'm planning to convert the Speedster to 12v neg. ground. Does that expand the potential for available parts to add AC? For instance, could I use a later year's parts? My main concern is how/where to mount the compressor and what under-dash or in-trunk unit should I look for. I think I can figure out how to mount all of the other parts as I've done several restorations and resto-mods of other vehicles.


                James D. Wilkerson


                • #9
                  If you get ALL of the necessary parts from a Hawk underdash unit, it should be nearly a bolt in installation. The compressor brackets, pulleys, etc. will bolt to your Speedster's 259 V8. You will have to move the generator, but I am assuming that you will go to an alternator when you go to 12 volts. The best way to do this is to have a cheap/rusted/parts Hawk side by side with your car and make the swap. I will qualify my use of the term Hawk with the exclusion of '56 Golden Hawks and six cylinder Hawks. Since you have a modified car, perhaps the best solution is to go with a new Vintage Air, or similar unit, that is designed for your application.
                  Gary L.
                  Wappinger, NY

                  SDC member since 1968
                  Studebaker enthusiast much longer