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HomeTech Articles > History of Porsche A/C for the 911/912/356

Guest Technical Article:

A Brief History of Air
Conditioning in the 911/912/356


First I believe that I should start with a short history of air in the Porsche car.

To begin with, way back about 1962 or so there were a couple of units made for the 356. One being 'Arctic Kar', another was 'Delanair' a company out of Texas.

This Delanair was the one that was designated as 'Factory' air back then. It was called 'Porschair' and was described in a handsome little brochure. The 'Evaporator' part of the ac was installed in the front trunk, in what could best be described as a suit case. It drew air from behind the glove box and returned it through two round eyeballs on either side of the radio with the controls being under the radio. The compressor was a 6 cu. in. York mounted behind and facing the engine. It had three condensers, one in the engine grill and one under each of the front fenders behind the little brake vent holes, these were connected by a series of hoses that seemed to run all over the place. The unit was largely unchanged through the '65 model year. But with only 6 volts to move the air, these units were mostly ineffective.

The Arctic Kar ac had a similar comp. mount but the condenser was mounted behind the spare tire with a fan to cool it. Not nearly as well made as the Delanair it didn't last very long, thank goodness !

It was a big help to the car in '65 when 12 volts became available, now all the motors would run faster and take less amperage, causing less havoc on the generator. The only problem was, all the '65's didn't get 12 volts.

When the 911 and 912 was introduced Delanair was still the biggest choice by the dealers to be installed and could almost be considered Factory A/C since the dealer bought the unit directly from the Porsche Warehouse and all parts for the ac were sold through the parts department. The ac was a slim looking affair that mount under the dash with the blower sticking through the floor of the trunk. It had 5 or 6 louvers and the two switches were on the far left of these. It utilized a small black Italian made compressor by Tecumseh that was only 5 cu, in. displacement. Real small and only one cylinder, so it was kind of lumpy to put it kindly. This ac had one condenser mounted over the engine and another standing up in the left front fender. Actually a good location for this condenser but in 1969 the battery moved out into the way of the air so this condenser had to move. Nearly 20 years later it would return to this same spot.

In 1968 Delanair changed to a belt they called 'Polyflex' . It was different in several ways : The composition of the belt went from the normal rubber and cord to a plastic mix. The angle of the wall of the belt was changed from 37 degrees to 60 degrees, making for a smaller but flatter belt. This belt was only successful if it was kept bowstring tight, once it got a little bit loose it would slip, get hot and MELT !! It was a couple of tough years before they finally changed back to a fabric composition but they retained that same 60 degree angle.

Along about 1966 or 67 a company named Coolaire from Florida introduced an ac for the Porsche, both the 911 and 912. The 912 was fitted with a Giant condenser over the engine and it took up most all the deck lid. It weighed about 20 lbs., so the first thing that happened was the hood shock gave out !!

The 911 couldn't take the same size condenser because the engine came so much closer to the lid, so a smaller one was used as large as the air grille and this was the only one on the car. But since the 911 would draw so much more air than the 912 the problem of too little condenser seemed to take of itself.

The Evaporator, mounted under the dash, was in several parts. The one larger part in the center had the switches and two louvers, then an eyeball louver mounted on the far left and right of the dash, the instructions saying to drill on through the glove box door!! Coolaire figured that the flex hose coming through the glove box would simply accordion as the door opened and closed.

The compressor was also a 6 cu. in. York and it was mounted with the head of the comp. towards the center of the engine with the hoses passing between the carbs or injectors. The bracket attached to four 6mm bolts at the chain cover and a support went from the compressor down to the cam cover to special longer studs. There were two idler pulleys one on an eccentric to adjust the belt.

Sometime before the launch of the 'new' longer wheelbase model, the company known as 'Delanair' was swallowed up by Volkswagen and it now became Volkswagen Products Corp. or V.P.C. for short and their logo said 'CCCCOOL.'

This logo is often confused with Coolaire but is not the same.

With the new body style in 1969 the ac's had to change too. For the first time the cavity that was designed for the gasoline heater ( seldom used, at least in the southwest ) was utilized for the Evaporator. The Plenum under the dash was used simply to carry the cold air to the dash louvers.

There were now three major ac's available for the Porsche because in '69 the Factory began using an ac from Germany as TRUE Factory AIR. The company was (is) Behr. They (Behr) sort of copied the best of what was available at the time and incorporated it all into one unit. They still used the one cylinder Tecumseh compressor and after a year or so cleaned up the mounting brackets to fit better. Behr used only a single Condenser over the engine, which was enough as long as they used the small compressor. The Delanair evap. made for the '66-7-8 will not fit the later cars.

Then in 1971, Behr changed to a 10 cu. in. York Compressor !! Big change, and a big mistake too, I believe. There was a 9 in. York and a 6 in. too but no they had to step up all the way to a Truck Compressor and now they had to add another Condenser to the car to handle the extra load. They chose to add a Small one under the chin off the car, under and behind the front bumper, with a small electric motor inside the hood and in front of the spare tire to cool it off.

This Factory ac could be installed when the car was built or it could also be installed here after the car was sold. This gave the dealer actually two cars in stock, one with air and one without. All the dealer had to was call us, and we would install his 'Factory Air' !!

Meanwhile Coolaire, remember them, was still putting out a lot of ac's. With the '69 car they had changed to an Evaporator. in the heater well also but they utilized three large paper tubes to carry the air back to the dashboard and went through the carpet one the right side in the process.

Passengers were forever stepping on these hoses and shutting off the flow of air so a couple of years later we devised a rigid plastic duct to bring the air up and serve as a foot rest too !! The trunk area was invaded also with a huge plastic bubble jutting up from the floor to cover the blower.

The dash was one long plastic strip, replacing the vinyl knee pads, with three sets of louvers and the two controls just below the steering wheel. The ash tray would now attach below this bezel. After a few years exposure to the sun this dash would harden and crack into little pieces. We have a replacement for this too !!

Along about 1971, VPC (formerly Delanair) launched it's 911 ac. It turned out to be a copy of the Coolaire unit but with two large hoses rather than three and two separate Knee pad replacements that carried two louvers each. The two switches were mounted on the right side of the ash tray and in a year or so they also had a rigid plastic duct for the air.

VPC started off with just one condenser over the engine but then in 1972 they added one under the left rear fender that was to be the primary condenser with it's own fan, and this was to relieve some of the heat load of the condenser. over the engine since the 911 engines were getting more powerful and producing more heat and running hotter. Well that little condenser didn't last but a year. The idea was good but the execution left a little to be desired.

VPC's compressor mount even copied Coolaire even down to the brace to the cam cover. In 1974 the compressor bracket got much more refined.

It still mounted to the four 6mm bolts on the chain cover it always had, but now the compressor laid down flat, head out towards the fender and the hoses were routed along side the injection instead of through the center of the engine.

The biggest problem I can remember back in those days was that the condenser would contact the engine somehow, usually the air hose for the heater, and wear a hole in it and of course leak all the freon out.

There was one constant source of headache and that was the call from the dealership saying "My guy was just adding some frees-own to this guy's 911 and suddenly a big POP and all the frees-own came out." I would ask " did your guy have the deck lid open while he was adding this frees-own ??"

After the inevitable pause.........."duh, yeah, I guess so."

We installed an awful lot of ac's in the '74's through '79's, mostly the VPC and some DPD's as these two units were a lot cheaper for the dealer to buy. And that was the bottom line after all.

The DPD had a much more substantial bracket than did the VPC, which mounted only to the four tiny 6mm bolts on the chain cover and one 8mm stud on the intake stand. Those 6mm bolts were a real source of aggravation, they would work loose and then break and let the bracket beat the chain cover to a pulp.

The DPD mounted to the motor mount in two places and to the intake manifold in two places also, so we rarely had any problems with these.

Both mounted the Evaporator in the heater well and each had a large air plenum under the dash. The easiest way to tell them apart was the way they set the two controls into the dash, the VPC had both controls to the right side of the ashtray. The DPD had one on either side of the ashtray, with the Thermostat to the right, which was just opposite of the Factory unit, at least the factory ac up until 1977.

In 1977 the dash changed in the 911 for the first time in 8 years and we were hoping that some accommodations would be made for the ac but instead they put a single outlet, far offset away from the driver and a year later would add another small one under the dash, more for your feet than anything. The two controls were now installed in the console. So for a year or two the factory ac, made by Behr, who one would have thought, would have the inside track with the designers, did have an ac, that didn't take any leg room and was, at least in theory, finally a BUILT IN unit like a Pinto or a Chevy II.

In 1979 both VPC and DPD came out with an in dash ac, but they too were hampered by the placement of that center vent. No longer did the full force of the air hit right up against you, but had to reach you via a round about way.

Incidentally, if you own a 1977-8 or 9 with ac and want to increase the amount of air you can get on you, Two Things, Purchase a center vent from a 1980 911 and get a kit from me to add a vent low down under the dash just over the console.

Cold air being dense, can travel only a short distance and since heat overcomes cold at the rate of 6 to 1 , That's Right 6 to 1 , so it behooves a designer to put the ac outlet as close to the customer as possible.

In 1980 the Factory decided to install air in every 911 that was to be imported to the U.S. At that point we decided that all of our business was over, but to our dismay, there was just starting up a black market and most of these were coming in without air. Both VPC and DPD folded up their 911 tents and concentrated on the 924 and VW's. Volkswagen called us and offered us their remaining stock and we bought it !! When the stock of ac's that we could buy as kits dried up, we decided to put together our own, using the best of what was available and fabricating the rest. We chose a True Rotary Vane Compressor made by Seiko-Seiki which is truly a smooth running, hard working wonder. Even when Porsche went to the Nippondenso Compressor in 1984 it was still a piston compressor. That design is known as a Swash-plate Compressor and is the same as the Sanden (or Sankyo ).

The latest change That Porsche made was really the first time that Air Conditioning was given a high priority in the design of the dash and the cooling system of the car. Now if we could only update all the older cars.............

A brief! word about me, Roger Eaton, if you don't mind. I moved to So Cal from Bay City, Michigan in 1961 to escape the harsh winters of which I had suffered through 18 at the time. I went to National Trade School for a year and then set out to conquer the world. One of the first jobs I had was for a transmission shop that built racing hydros and raced at the local drag strips in the area (all of which are gone now). Behind this shop was a little sundries shop that sold cigarettes and that is where I met the beautiful young lady who was to become my wife one day. The next job was for a little shop in L.A. that installed Air Conditioners all summer and did mechanical work all winter. Well, that guy Don spent many an hour teaching me all that he knew about the workings of an a/c system. Soon I was working at a place called Al & Ed's that installed a/c by the hundreds for every kind of dealer there was at the time. One spring they came to me and asked if I would like to be the one to install all of the units on all the VW's and Porsche's that came in, and I said sure! Well, that summer I install 1500 a/c's in mostly VW's but some Porsches too. The next year another guy from there and I started a shop of our own and did all the dealer work in the area.

Along about 1970 or so we began to restrict ourselves to only Porsche and Audi work and this still kept us as busy as we wanted to be. We even had a complete a/c for the Audi 100 and Super 90 but we didn't anticipate how much vibration one car engine could have and we lost our shirts replacing compressor brackets on those Turkeys.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Joe Comments: I'm buying a 74 911. Are you still supplying kits? I live in SoCal and it's getting hotter every year! Hopefully upgraded by now.

Thanks, Joe

July 11, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Pretty sure Pelican can get it for you. Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Einspritz Comments: This comment is for Roger Eaton. I am the second owner of a 1970 911e. At 16,000 miles the previous owner installed the Coolair A/C. I have removed all remnants of that. Any suggestions to putting it close to back to stock? The wooden kick board for the passenger side is missing. The smugglers hatch door and hinges are gone too. I still have the coolair knee pad remaining and of course the huge hole into the smugglers box. 77,000 on it now. I have babied this for 39 years. I just replaced the ignition switch. That top screw made me scream twice!!! Thanks... Cliff Morris
November 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Bill Comments: Do you know where I can find a picture of the front condenser "protector" P/Ns 911-505-141/142-00 either on or off a car? I have a 1972 911S with factory air but am missing the "protector" and have no idea what they look like.
September 3, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mike Comments: looking to replace the a/c condenser in my 68 912, the one mounted to the engine deck lid/cover. I'm in Michigan so a working a/c unit would be nice, but not mandatory. If Pelican has this part please let me know. I already tried with one of your competitors but they sent me the wrong one too big. Mine has the dimensions of approx 27" long by 6.5" side.
April 29, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
fletch Comments: Has the efficiency of automotive ac units improved to the point where a porsche 912 small 4 cyl. can be air conditioned without overloading/overheating the engine? If so, who manufactures the best unit? Thanks.
February 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
April 28, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is the cooling fan operating normally? I would also check that the condenser if free of debris. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bob Comments: Where can I find louvres for the ac in my 1975 911?
September 19, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The vents are replaceable. If this is what you're referring to. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Quest V Comments: I am restoring a 66 911. The car has the original Porscheair A/C that was installed in 1966 by the dealer. I have owned the car since 1975. The A/C did operate 77-91. The car has been stored since '91 so I don't know the condition of the A/C units. I will be driving the car in the Atlanta Ga area. I am not trying to restore the car to "all original" but as close a possible so I would like to keep the original knee vent below the dash unit. Two questions: 1 How efficient cooling was the 66 Porscheair A/C and is it worth having the evaporator, condensors, compressor, evaporator, dryer, and hoses checked out to see if they are still usable? Does this make sense or should I just junk, and retrofit? 2. What retrofit kits are available that I can install in my 1966 to ensure I have an acceptable cooling A/C system? What would be the range of cost for a total retrofit, parts and hoses? Thanks for your help.
September 8, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hi there. I'll have someone in sales contact you with answers to these questions. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
paude Comments: great info, highly appreciated. i am running around like a headless chicken trying to buy a 1960s 912. as i live in houston, texas an A/C is mandatory. have never asked the question whether i can retrofit one, as i dread the usual answer of being crazy and ruining a gem. if i understood correctly, it can be done, it can work properly, but it is a delicate matter. anyone you can guide me towards in case i make the dream purchase? many, many thanks
February 22, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Find the vehicle you want. Then have a prepurchase inspection performed. You'll know if the vehicle is worth buying at this point. Then ask your local Porsche club chapter for a shop recommendation. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
rudy Comments: Can you install air in my 912?
August 11, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sure, we sell A/C retrofit kits for the 911 (and 912 I believe). These are retrofit kits made by Rennair. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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