Nigel Cools The Cat
Living in California’s Great Central Valley (so hot and dry the jack rabbits carry imported bottled water); air conditioning the old E-Type has been on my mind for some time. Jaguar started offering a dealer installed a/c on Series II E-Types. Those of us with Series I cars have been left to our own devices.
For the past fifteen years I have, off and on, gotten excited by the prospect of cool air in the E-Type cabin. Along with the excitement usually came intimidation and the usual questions: 1. Modifications must be made to get all of the bits and pieces under the bonnet. The car is a driver but how much do you want to modify it? 2. What kind of evaporator is available for the cabin? 3. Do I use R-12 or R-134? 4. Can a semi-skilled mechanic with the basic tools do this job? There were a hundred other considerations but the sixty four dollar question was: What if I do all this work and it doesn’t function properly?
It finally came down to: OK, either do it or don’t. I flipped a mental coin and it came up “do”. Over the next couple of years, various parts were purchased; a compressor here, a dryer there, I finally found an evaporator, etc, etc. (This is a great way to keep the missus in the dark as to the total cost of the project.) Finally, in November, the bonnet came off and work started in earnest. This is a brief dissertation on the steps required to get the job done. Would I do it again? Probably; but I’m a slow learner. One goal was to make the installation as close to that of a Series II E-Type as possible.
The first consideration comes with the placement of the a/c compressor and the alternator. The header tank on a Series I occupies the central area behind the radiator. This is where the alternator goes on a Series II car. The only alternative is to move the header tank. I fabricated a new tank and mounted it offset to the right of where the original resides. This makes room for the alternator.
The next step is to mount the a/c compressor in place of the alternator. I cut pieces of
2 inch strap steel and took it to a machine shop and had it welded up. The compressor mounted up.
Series I cars have “w” belts. The a/c unit had double “v” belt pulleys. I got a set of pulleys from a derelict XJ6 engine (Thank you Scott Penn.). Once the pulleys were in place; the next step is to shim the compressor front to back so that all the pulleys line up. Only the back pulley groove on the compressor is used to drive the compressor. The front “V” drives the alternator.
The coil should be relocated at this time. It gives more room and access to the alternator.
The alternator had to be mounted reversed like a Series II car. I found a 40 amp alternator that fits a John Deere lawn tractor. It is less than 4 inches in diameter and 5 inches long, including the pulley. An articulated mount was made from 5/16 inch plate and 7/16, grade 5, bolts. I made an adjustable mount so that I could move the alternator to clear the radiator hoses and the bonnet. This was attached to the a/c compressor. The alternator was then attached to the mount.
While all this was going on the radiator was rodded and cleaned. The condenser was soldered to the front of the radiator. A high volume electric cooling fan was mounted in place of the stock two blade unit.
A Series II heat shield that mounts the brake and clutch reservoirs was purchased. It has a spot for the a/c dryer.
The bonnet was reattached and lowered (carefully) to make sure that all things added and repositioned, fit. A little adjusting here and there and everything lined up and fit under the bonnet. Whew! The bonnet was again removed.
The drive belts were attached and the radiator was put back in the car. New top straps were fabricated for the radiator. Next, I spent three hours at the N.A.P.A. Auto Parts store finding hoses with just the right bends.
At this point the car went to a local hot rod shop where the under dash evaporator was installed. The shop also ran the hoses, hooked up the electrical and charged the unit. I could accomplish some of this work but the shop had tools that I didn’t and besides I’d had all the fun I could stand.
In my case the R-12/R-134 controversy was solved by sheer stupidity. Not realizing there was a difference; I bought an R-12 condenser. That means that R-134 would be very inefficient in the unit. To my way of thinking, R-12 is OK for this application. The unit is tight and doesn’t leak. As long as it is maintained, it should be OK. It also cools better than R-134. If you want to use R-134; make sure that you get a suitable condenser.
One important item that needs to be installed is a high/low pressure switch on the drier. This prevents excessive head pressure in the system.
The bonnet was re-installed and with a little “fettling”, the system works well. It keeps us fairly cool on 104 F degree days. The engine runs at about 90o C (195o F) on hot days. On the above mentioned day the coolant in the header tank did boil when the engine shut down. This required a coolant recovery tank to be installed. I rewired the fan so that current runs through the “otter” switch until the engine cools down.
An interesting sidelight is that I didn’t have to cut or drill very much. The only cutting was a small hole in the firewall to get the a/c hoses into the cabin for the evaporator. All other brackets were attached using existing mounting points. If I want to return the car to original, it won’t be difficult.
Ok; everything works. Would I change anything? Well yes and no. Perhaps the biggest change would be fabricate an evaporator box that goes under the bonnet in place of the stock engine air-cleaner. (I’d replace the air-cleaner with individual foam types.) I’d run ducting through the plates for right-hand steering and brake boxes. This eliminates the need to cut the firewall. Go through the larger plate with 2” duct and then use a plenum in the foot-well to distribute the cool air in 1 ½ inch ducting to vents under the dash. The smaller plate could accommodate the air return to the evaporator.
The reason for this change is that the evaporator is intrusive in the right hand foot-well and that while it cools Mrs. Nigel well, all of the vents are to the driver’s right and it struggles to cool the driver.
Should you be contemplating such a project; I am available. Please enter the confessional at email@example.com or 559 250 1264. You will immediately hear: “Bless you my son. You have an English car.”
Speaking of English cars, don’t forget the Clovis British Car Show Roundup!
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