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A/C for a 1948 Commander

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  • Cool/Heat: A/C for a 1948 Commander

    I would like to know what people think of putting air conditioning, like a Vintage Air unit, in a 1948 Commander stick shift. Would this installation be satisfactory? My wife wants this car but I don't want a car that I cannot have A/C in, in the Washington DC area. Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    It can certainly be done. I have seen a few Champions with air conditioning and the Commander engine should handle the load better. I don't know if you will find a kit for this application though.
    "In the heart of Arkansas."
    Searcy, Arkansas
    1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
    1952 2R pickup

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    • #3
      One of your main hurdles will be finding a unit to run on a six volt system (compressor clutch and blower motor). If you convert the car to 12 volts, that brings in a whole new set of issues/problems/expenses. Not that many years ago, people lived all over the country without air conditioned cars.
      Gary L.
      Wappinger, NY

      SDC member since 1968
      Studebaker enthusiast much longer

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      • #4
        Some manufacturers (NOT Studebaker) offered A/C in earlier 6-volt vehicles, so the required 6-volt hardware is out there to be had with a little bit of searching.
        Models of that vintage would probably have had the trunk mounted Novi units, rather than the under-dash evaporators we are familiar with; even Studebaker's first units were mounted in the trunk (1956?). These too can be found. Condenser and compressor would still be up front.
        As well, Vintage Air offers a new unit for the trunk. You might ask them if it's available as 6-volt.
        I think it's a worthwhile project with only a few hurdles to solve and, should you proceed, do post a progress report here. It would greatly assist others who might contemplate the same. It could also be an addition to the "Tech Tips" page of the SDC web site.

        Make certain your door weatherstrips seal and, when the occasion arises, also consider putting a thin layer of insulation behind your door panels, under carpet, and any place else you gain access to (if you ever replace the headliner ). It greatly reduces the load on the A/C unit. A tint film on the rear windows also helps.
        Last edited by rockne10; 04-22-2018, 10:03 AM.
        "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

        Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
        Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
        sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rockne10 View Post
          Some manufacturers (NOT Studebaker) offered A/C in earlier 6-volt vehicles, so the required 6-volt hardware is out there to be had with a little bit of searching.
          Models of that vintage would probably have had the trunk mounted Novi units, rather than the under-dash evaporators we are familiar with; even Studebaker's first units were mounted in the trunk (1956?). These too can be found. Condenser and compressor would still be up front.
          As well, Vintage Air offers a new unit for the trunk. You might ask them if it's available as 6-volt.
          I think it's a worthwhile project with only a few hurdles to solve and, should you proceed, do post a progress report here. It would greatly assist others who might contemplate the same. It could also be an addition to the "Tech Tips" page of the SDC web site.

          Make certain your door weatherstrips seal and, when the occasion arises, also consider putting a thin layer of insulation behind your door panels, under carpet, and any place else you gain access to (if you ever replace the headliner ). It greatly reduces the load on the A/C unit. A tint film on the rear windows also helps.
          Studebaker offered factory A/C in mid-1955 model year. This was on six volt cars. On the early systems, the compressor was either on (when the A/C was on) or off. It did not cycle as newer A/C units do. The factory A/C in a 1960 Lark VIII that I had still had the old style system, but it also had a large underdash box for the evaporator.
          Gary L.
          Wappinger, NY

          SDC member since 1968
          Studebaker enthusiast much longer

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you for the input, gentlemen. I see there are several issues to consider and I should have been clear on what I wanted special comment on. I was mostly interested in whether folks thought the Champion 6 cylinder motor would have the poop to perform adequately while the A/C compressor was engaged. And, yes, I am aware that maybe 60 years ago a lot of people ran around in the summer time without air conditioning in their vehicles. Although I enjoy the feeling of a by gone era, lack of A/C is not something I wish to re-live. (Born in 1943, so I was there and did that.)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by paulbearson View Post
              Thank you for the input, gentlemen. I see there are several issues to consider and I should have been clear on what I wanted special comment on. I was mostly interested in whether folks thought the Champion 6 cylinder motor would have the poop to perform adequately while the A/C compressor was engaged. And, yes, I am aware that maybe 60 years ago a lot of people ran around in the summer time without air conditioning in their vehicles. Although I enjoy the feeling of a by gone era, lack of A/C is not something I wish to re-live. (Born in 1943, so I was there and did that.)
              The first post said Commander and this post says Champion. Which one do you you have?
              RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

              17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
              10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
              10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
              4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
              5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
              56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
              60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible

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              • #8
                Well, my thoughts are that you have three basic options. One...leave it as is and only drive it when the weather is suitable. Two...try to re-create the rare, cumbersome, and primitive early 6-volt contraptions with performance issues in need of improvement. Three...Buy Randy Rundles 6-Volt to 12-volt conversion booklet, install an alternator, and buy the newest efficient rotary AC compressor you can find. Build your own system, using as many off-shelf components you can, and fabricate brackets/components and make modifications to fit it in.

                If you are concerned about power for acceleration you can install a manual switch (like a dimmer switch) to cut the compressor off until the car is underway and then cut it back on at speed. Commander or Champion, these cars were built to carry their own weight and passengers. I doubt that few people ever worried if the car would still move with a couple of additional passengers whose weight could total up to over three hundred pounds. So, too...I don't think a modern AC compressor would cause as much power drain as a cabin full of passengers.

                There are many ways to skin a cat, and the car is YOUR cat! Make it comfortable to suit you and apologize to no one.
                John Clary
                Greer, SC

                SDC member since 1975

                Comment


                • #9
                  The 12 volt clutch on a modern Sanden compressor can be modified to operate on 6 volts. It's been done at least twice.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by paulbearson View Post
                    ... interested in whether folks thought the Champion 6 cylinder motor would have the poop to perform adequately while the A/C compressor was engaged.
                    '48 Commander didn't have a Champion 6 cylinder. The Commander Six was 245 cubic inches, 75 cid more than the Champion Six. The Commander will have no trouble turning the compressor; especially if it is a modern 5-cylinder Sanden rather than the vintage York one would expect in that era.
                    "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                    Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                    Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                    sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rockne10 View Post
                      '48 Commander didn't have a Champion 6 cylinder. The Commander Six was 245 cubic inches, 75 cid more than the Champion Six. The Commander will have no trouble turning the compressor; especially if it is a modern 5-cylinder Sanden rather than the vintage York one would expect in that era.
                      I believe that a 1948 Commander would be 226 cid (vs. 170 cid for a Champion). I think that the 245 cid came out with the 1949 model. Besides displacement differences between the Champion and Commander inline sixes, the engines are different designs.
                      Gary L.
                      Wappinger, NY

                      SDC member since 1968
                      Studebaker enthusiast much longer

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by studegary View Post
                        ... a 1948 Commander would be 226 cid (vs. 170 cid for a Champion). I think that the 245 cid came out with the 1949 model.
                        Right you are, Gary. They say the first thing that goes when one gets to be of a certain age is...a...
                        I'm finding it a good idea lately to check every memory I have against a written document.
                        "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                        Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                        Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                        sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"

                        Comment

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