By on June 28, 2018

Public domain

Try as I might, I can’t recall exactly which vehicle delivered air conditioned motoring to my family for the first time. Growing up, our vehicles were of the modest variety, and luxuries like ice-cold A/C didn’t find their way into our household until I has a teenager. Too hot? Jeez, maybe you should roll down a window. Too cold? Listen, this is what clothes are for. Bundle up.

It’s possible the first car I drove after receiving my learner’s permit (called a G1 up here in Canadia) was the vehicle in question, though it’s also possible the feature bit the dust somewhere between the time the ’83 Olds left the factory and when it turned up in our driveway in 1992. Come to think of it, I know it wasn’t operational, as I wouldn’t have cursed those fixed rear panes and little pop-out vent windows had I not been soaking through my shirt at the time.

That slider bar on the dash was just a tease, nothing else.

Anyway, you learn to live with it, but age and the proliferation of creature comforts have a way of turning any man or woman soft. Can you live without A/C in June of 2018?

I certainly can. I’m living it now. Only two of the eight vehicles I’ve owned came with functional A/C, and I only attempted busting out the chill in my beloved Camry once, on a particularly sweltering summer’s day in Montreal. A mildly cool breeze wafted from the vents, never to be replicated at a later date.

In my previous car, I can honestly say I used the A/C maybe four times in four years. Out of force of habit, I usually forgot it was there, reflexively taking the 4/60 approach to heat reduction (four windows down, 60 mph). But Steph, you say, you’re a Canadianite who has to break the ice in the toilet with an axe handle after lifting the lid! A/C is as useless as a life raft in the desert!

That’s only for half the year, wiseguy. Checking the weather forecast for this Sunday’s national fête shows a high of 97 degrees, or 117 with the humidity. Clearly, some front seat Scotchguarding is in order before the weekend rolls around, as I’ve committed myself to a number of driving duties. I’ll admit that a little black A/C button at the bottom of the center stack would be a godsend at times like this.

Many of you will see worse heat in the week(s) ahead, and still more have to suffer oppressive temps long past the time us northerners trade our tanks for tuques. Are any of you still driving a vehicle lacking this wonder of the modern age, or have you passed the point where A/C went from being a luxury to a necessity?

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101 Comments on “QOTD: Can You Take the Heat?...”


  • avatar
    RangerM

    In Raleigh, NC I can take the heat. But, sometimes I don’t want to. Sunday morning (with a tie on) is not a time to get sweaty

    The front quarter windows used to be my go to. Wish you could still get them in a truck.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    A/C is an absolute requirement, but I still start to tear up at the thought of how good the A/C was on the cars of the 70s and 80s.

    Modern A/C systems never seem to get half as cold as the old ones did. It was the perfect compliment to the vinyl seats and metal seatbelt buckles on a hot summer’s day.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      The A/C was colder on the NEW cars of the 70s and 80s, but it wasn’t reliable. It would work for 4 to 6 years, then warm up and conk out. A recharge would last about a year at most. I remember as a kid being shuttled everywhere by moms in cars that had A/C, but it didn’t work.

      Sometime in the 90s – maybe about the time they went to R134a? – A/C became reliable. My wife had a ’95 Saturn SL1 that succumbed to a frame-bending crash, and I drove it to the junkyard in July, steering wheel askew, crabbing down the road, A/C pumping cold air.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        I don’t know about that, Matt. I serviced a lot of 1960s and 1970s cars’ AC systems, and some of them were pretty darn good and lasted a long time. The system on my 1969 Cadillac was still working fine in the mid-1980s – I even removed the compressor, brought it to the dealer so they could change out the shaft seal and then put it back in.

        My dad’s 1977 Impala still had a good charge of R12 in 1990 when I pulled the system down due to engine overhaul.

        And the icing on the cake: my mom’s elderly friend had a 1967 Dodge Polara with the original A/C system working still in the 1990s! I put about a half can of R12 into it every spring.

        • 0 avatar
          zamoti

          I always get flamed for saying it, but I can’t help myself.
          Can always get a can of Duracool (basically refined butane) and fill ‘er up. Works with most current coolant products and cools like the old R12 products without the nasty CFCs. It’s an HC so it was billed as environmentally friendly, but everyone freaks out saying “OMG you turned your car into a bomb!”. Whatever. I put it in my old Volvo 960 wagon (it was brown too!) and it made it darn cold in there.
          None of the coolants are risk-free. R134a is linked to testicular cancer and Y1234 is, um, interesting.
          Butane doesn’t have any associated patents/royalties like the others, so without fail I almost ALWAYS see a shill pop up on forums to defend their products and scare everyone with tales of cars gone mushroom cloud with butane in the AC system. The common response to this is that the gas in the tank is a greater liability than a few oz of butane in the AC system.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Our 2014 Avenger will freeze you out in no time if you leave the fan on anything but low.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      my 2013 tundra blows air at 40 deg, I keep a thermometer in the vent to keep track.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      I’ve done the dry weather triple digits thing.

      It sucks just as much.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        One of my sisters lives in the high desert in AZ, 110 degrees Is easily manageable when I visit. Home in upstate NY, 95 degrees is brutal and prohibitive, you’ll die at a stoplight without a/c.

      • 0 avatar
        road_pizza

        Yep. Way back when I was young I was out in El Centro in my trusty ’80 Concord with its 2.5 liters of Iron Duke power and no A/C. And it was 112F in the shade. It sucked.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It’s the humidity, for sure. Where I grew up (St. Louis), a 100-day degree like the one we’re going to have here in Denver today will turn all those brick houses in the city into ovens. People die. I probably won’t even use the A/C in my car today.

      But would I give it up? Hell, no. If nothing else, it keeps the fog off your windows when it rains or snows.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        St. Louis had one of the craziest heat related incidents I’ve ever seen. I saw it on the History Channel, the Praxair facility stored compressed gas cylindars outside in the sun. In 2005 it hit 97 degrees and they started exploding. Many of them became missiles and flew into adjacent neighborhoods, it was like a mortar assault. One building received several hits. Incoming!

  • avatar
    threeer

    As a teen (starting driving in 1987), being able to drive ANY car was enough. My first several cars did not have A/C. Now that I’m, ahem, a little older…not so much. If I had the disposable income to park a pristine 2002 in my garage for those sunny, cool weekend morning drives, then I’d consider that without a/c. But for my daily driver? Call me a softie, but I like my a/c turned down as cold as it’ll go.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      I’m the same age as you are. My first car, a 1982 Parisienne wagon, had Arctic A/C. My next car, a 1988 Parisienne wagon ( wagons were the best ski cars back then. limited passengers and tons of room for gear and backpacks ) had adequate A/C that needed to be topped up periodically. The cooling ability of my cars bottomed-out with my ’84 944, then began returning to stasis, at least. My 2010 F-150 blows very cold on ‘Max A/C’ and my 2007 CTS-V blows cold enough to hurt – though not at a stop. Intrepid – not bad. Jeep – not good. ’84 F-150 – N/A. 1992 Suburban – damned good but only for the front seats. Hyundai Accent – N/A. Ford Tempo – excellent A/C but forget climbing a hill when it’s on!

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Gawd, I’m such a p*ssy now. I’ve had functioning A/C even in my beaters for years now.

    My folks, who were old enough to live through the Great Depression, never bought cars that were more than an engine and four wheels; until I met my wife did I ever consider buying a car with air.

    At the time, she had a 1975 Olds Toronado with all of the toys (we’re going back three+ decades) that we drove extensively while dating. I got used to that cool stream of air coming from and under the dash.

    Now, even the cheapest cars come with power everything and A/C standard… How could I go back?

  • avatar
    TR4

    My parents never had an air conditioned vehicle while I was living with them. The first vehicle I regularly drove with A/C was my GF’s ’76 Mustang. All the vehicles I’ve bought for my own family have had A/C. However my own DD wasn’t A/C’d until 2012. I am a stickler for maintaining A/C and have replaced two evaporators and several compressors and condensers to this end. I can’t imagine buying another vehicle without it, so I guess it has become a necessity. Here in SE Michigan I use it from May through September.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    A/C is a requirement for me, if for no other reason than wind buffetting at 80-90MPH sucks without a helmet, which I’m not taking on my commute. My first car didn’t have A/C, but I was making a lot of short trips at low speeds, so I always had the windows open anyway.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    I grew up without A/C in the car (or house, Long Island). I was happy to drive!

    I remember in the 70s and 80s, one thing American cars were better at, was A/C!

    My first car, an 86 VW GTI, had A/C, and it was great! VERY cold. Every car I’ve had since, new or used had A/C.

    I noticed though that 20 years later, my 2006 Cobalt was my first car with weak A/C. my 2011 Chevy Malibu A/C was almost as weak. With both cars, the weak A/C was my biggest complaint.

    I guess some one was paying attention, because my 2014 Buick Regal has good A/C. Not as good as the A/C I remember in the 1980s, but it’s good.

    Compared to 30 years ago, I find I drive more. Distances are farther, a much bigger percentage of those distances are on freeways. And the difference in noise level, windows up vs down, is much bigger in today’s cars than in my 1980 Fairmont or 86 GTI, so yes, A/C is huge!

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    AC became mandatory when I moved to Florida. I didn’t have it in CA or WA or Japan prior to that. But time has gone on, it’s already standard on every car anyway, so it’s less “can I do without” than “I can’t *get* a car without”.

  • avatar
    mikestuff

    I learned to drive on my parents 1960 Chrysler Windsor, pushbutton transmission but no air. They bought a new (first new car ever) 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88, with A/C and my mom was mad at dad for spending the extra $180 for the A/C although she was first to admit she loved it. I drove that all the way through high school and they drove it until about 1977.
    By 1973, I was married and my new wife had graduated from nursing school the year before; her parents gave her a 1972 Capri, cute little red thing, with stick shift and no A/C. (we’re no longer married but she’s retiring this year after working at the local children’s hospital for 44 years).
    I didn’t mind driving the manual but hated not having air. That was the last car I had any contact with that didn’t have it.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I hate having to use the AC. Makes me physically sick. My 3-series BMWs, with their “draft-free” systems were the only cars were I felt remotely comfortable using the AC. When we travel in the summer, we try to drive at night to avoid using the AC.

    When I autocrossed in my youth, AC was the first thing to be ripped out of my car. That was such a relief.

  • avatar
    Herb Abrams

    I can provide some historical background:

    The Goldberg Brothers – The Inventors of the Automobile Air Conditioner

    Here’s a little factoid for automotive buffs or just to dazzle your friends.

    The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner. On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees. The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford’s office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.

    Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car. They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately. The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent.

    The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, ‘The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,’ on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed. Now old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg’s name on two million Fords.

    They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown. And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show — Lo, Norm, Hi, and Max — on the controls.

    Thanks to:

    https://www.hoax-slayer.net/car-air-conditioning-story-goldberg-brothers/

  • avatar
    matador

    I own two trucks that I drive for work- a 1987 Chevrolet half ton, and a 1995 F-150. The Chevrolet has no air conditioning (Never did- it’s a base Custom Deluxe), while the F-150 has freezer-cold A/C. I’ve driven the Chevrolet the last four years through the heat, but not this year. It’s parked for a couple months, and I’m enjoying the ice-cold cab of the Ford. Come August, I drive a farm semi (1984 Ford LTL-9000) that has no A/C, so I’m enjoying every day with it that I can

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    I hardly ever use the A/C around town, but I doubt I’ll ever take another road trip without it. With the windows down, the wind and road noise start to wear on you after a couple of hours.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I’m another one who never had A/C in the house or car growing up. But, in the 1980’s, I moved from New Jersey to Florida. Whenever I arrived at work driving my original VW Beetle, I was always in a bad mood. I thought that I was simply an angry young man.

    When the floor pan in the Beetle rusted out (and the battery began falling through) I bought my first new car: a 1988 Ford Festiva. Laugh if you like, but it was a nicely appointed LX model and it was a blast to drive with the 5-speed manual. It averaged 37-42 mpg… and it also had air conditioning. It changed my life. From then on, I was always in a better mood and I no longer sweated through my clothes. For me (as for most Floridians) A/C was a necessity, not a luxury.

    I have sinced moved back North… but I still don’t take my air au natural — at least not during summer.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The Old Man could not afford a car with A/C until the Country Squire. The vehicles that my mother drove did not have A/C until 6 years later, in 1975.

    I can remember the first house that I ever visited with central air. It was in 1973.

    Not trolling, but weather patterns were different then. In Toronto we generally got 2 weeks of really ‘hot’ weather in late August. Otherwise the ‘need’ for A/C was limited. If things got hot, we used to go for a ‘drive in the country’ with the windows down. If things were really bad, went to the movies (on a tangent the movie theatres became popular because they were among the very first buildings with a cooling system). Toronto’s summer weather no is more like NYC’s in the mid-20th century.

    I personally dislike A/C. However it is a necessity when driving clients/business associates or driving to a business meeting with ‘business’ attire.

    And most of the younger generations seem to take A/C for granted, as something that is a basic requirement.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Here in Kentucky, it’s usually 90-95 with a humidity of 60-70% and a “real feel” of over 100. I’m hot-natured and I sweat a lot, so A/C is a must. My son is the same way, and he’s sixteen-months-old (so, still in a rear facing car seat). Therefore, the automatic climate control in my Mazda6 is a godsend, as are the rear HVAC vents.

    My ’95 S10 has a dying A/C compressor (it sounds like a small airplane) and leaks, so a charge lasts it about 6 months max. So, I charge it once a year with a $30 can of freon and that’s all I’m doing until the system completely conks out. Either way, I don’t drive it much in the summer regardless.

    Most of my driving is in stop-and-go traffic (very little highway). So, having the windows down makes no difference.

  • avatar
    slap

    I moved to the DC area right out of college. None of the cars I owned for the first 13 years had AC or working AC.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    what kept you cool in the 60″s was driving around in your 2 door hard top with all 4 windows hand cranked down, not so cool looking in a sedan with the B pillar showing! even cooler was having a convertible with the top down! today if you’ve got a convertible with the top down you’ve got a cool look at least in your own eyes, snob appeal to the ones viewing you.

  • avatar
    PM300

    My first car in 2005 was a 1996 Escort and the a/c didnt work. My Dad took pitty on me and had it re-charged as a birthday present about a month or so after I bought it. Heck, even my newly aquired home depot run beater truck, a 2001 F150 XL still have working A/C and it has more rust holes than I can count.

    That being said, I really only use the A/C in the car when it’s either a) humid or b) on the interstate (noise). I prefer to have the windows down and sunroof open whenever possible.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    In a word: no. Even in relatively temperate Minnesota I become miserable during the hotter days of summer. Right now I’m honestly waiting for winter to reemerge.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Air conditioning in buildings and automobiles is what made living in the modern south possible. It is absolutely a necessity in my neck of the woods.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I only use the heater in my car about 4 times a year, but I use the AC quite often.

    My family’s vehicles always had working AC growing up, and everything I’ve owned except for my Grand Am and TR7 had working AC. Even stuff like my Diplomat & late 80s H-bodies were converted to r134a and functional.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I use AC all the time with leather seats it is a most in metro NY for 6 months a year, just replaced a car for my daughter and it needed a AC recharge and the week until it was done was just a reminded of how much I miss a good AC system, my first car had great AC, I have had cars with out it but they were emergency I need a car now and I think the last car I had wo AC was in the 80’s. I want AC seats in my next car, yes I am spoiled.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    “Canadia?” I don’t understand the point of Canadians joining Americans’ silly schticks about making fun of our country. If it was actually funny, or talking about beavers, then ok, maybe.

    Also, I’m Canadian and have no idea what a G1 license is. Near as I can tell, it’s G5 away from being considered fly. Clearly, license classification systems vary from province to province.

    On topic: I’m 34 and have never owned a car with functional air conditioning, although one of them is a convertible. My Mk2 Jetta was still from a time when you didn’t take it for granted that economy cars came with it, my Concorde beater has it broken and is worth considerably less than the repair would cost, and my Miata is a bare-bones base model and old enough that I figured less options would leave me with fewer things to repair. I rarely drive it with the top up anyway.

    In the next weeks or months I plan on buying a newer daily driver. This will certainly have working A/C, and I’ll certainly appreciate it, although I didn’t die without it all these years in Montreal.

  • avatar
    CitizenK

    I never had A/C until I bought a new 1988 Civic Wagon. At that time, A/C was a dealer-installed option on the Civic. I remember leaving the car an extra day or two for them to install it. Today, it’s hard to imagine that an A/C system was once an aftermarket part.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    AC is a must, mostly due to the insistence on the manufacturers to put fake leather seats in everything. In the summer it is like getting into a frying pan. It landed in DEN yesterday afternoon it was 99 and the car had been baking since Monday and I was able to cool it down very quickly.

    I do not have a point of reference that others have in terms of the ‘old’ AC is better than what you get today. My first car with functioning AC was in 1998 when I purchased a VW TDI brand new. It was the greatest experience ever if I am being honest. I had never owned a car that had functioning AC so it was a real luxury for me.

    I have been known to run the ac and have the windows open, my way of being a snob or giving my old man the finger. He thought AC was a fad and smoking in the car with the windows up was a good idea with the family in it.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Haven’t been without a/c since I traded in my 83 Nissan Sentra with vinyl seats and no air.

    Rented a 2018 Cadillac XTS with ventilated/cooled black leather seats in Siesta Key recently…damn near froze to death, it was wonderful.

  • avatar
    slawinlaw

    In Memphis with 100 degrees and 95% humidity, A/C is a necessity. First car my father got with A/C was a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500. It was the old knee-knocker variety that hung below the dash. I assume it was factory installed but it could have been a dealer installation. It did have the Ford shield on the front.

    It would freeze over on hot days and you would have to turn it off, roll down the windows, and let it thaw out before turning it on again.

    The 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 was the first car we owned with an integrated A/C system with vents in the dash.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I have working AC in some of my cars, but I generally don’t use it since it gives me headaches after a while.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    One of my Dad’s used cars in the 80s was their first with A/C. In Northern MN you could do without. My ’89 Festiva didn’t have A/C and I was stationed in NC when I bought it, so I’ve experience Southern weather with only the breeze to cool off.

    These days, I love A/C. I open the windows & air out the car when I can, but at the slightest discomfort, let ‘er blow.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    No way. A/C in every car we own works, including the 26 year old winter rat. Far and away the best air conditioning in a car that I’ve experienced was the 72 Eldorado my parents owned. That huge Frigidare compressor moved what, 4 pounds of refrigerant around….that pup was a cold car. contrast that to any Mopar we owned in the 70s…they too kicked butt, but if you got stuck in traffic overheating was all but guaranteed.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    ” Too cold? Listen, this is what clothes are for. Bundle up.”

    You’re kidding, right? Every car I can recall growing up in the 60s had a reasonably adequate heater…except my friend’s VW bus. AC…not so much. Maybe the 68 Impala my folks bought from my uncle had it, but they didn’t keep that one long. Fortunately we didn’t need it often in coastal California, but those camping trips to the desert…phew! I wouldn’t buy a car without it now, too spoiled.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Just want to add the last car my parents bought without AC was 1980 Citation. It had no options (AM radio!!) except the V6, which made it feel like a rocket compared to the Pinto it replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      My father’s first new car was a 1951 Dodge Wayfarer Business Coupe (single bench seat). He got the base model and a heater was optional. He went through one NYC winter without the heater than installed one before the next winter. He didn’t buy an air conditioned car until he retired and got a 1987 Volvo 240. After that everything he bought had AC.

  • avatar
    BrickDad

    My parent’s first car with AC was a 55 Dodge with aftermarket AC under the dash. It tended to freeze up in hot weather. My first car ’67 VW bug, used vent wings effectively for the 4-40 type of cooling. My first new car ’76 Scirocco, had factory AC and used the same size York compressor as a Beechcraft King Air 200, I could loose up to 10 MPH when that baby kicked in. Compressor was about half the size of the engine.

  • avatar
    RSF

    Driving without AC in Houston in the summer is brutal (high 90’s-low 100’s and high humidity). Somehow growing up I managed without it because I was just happy to have a car. Won’t do it anymore though. We’re making our annual summer trip to the Colorado Rockies in a couple weeks. Just fine rolling the windows down there!

  • avatar
    Boff

    Living in Southwestern Ontario, I’d rather take the bus than drive a car with no A/C.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Here in Texas, a/c is practically a requirement, although I imagine you could survive without it in parts of West Texas, where it’s hot but dry, thanks to the elevation. Our first car that I remember, the ’52 Packard, didn’t have a/c, but after the Ultramatic bit the big one, we got a new ’66 Rambler American 440 4-door, with automatic and factory air. Although factory installed, it wasn’t integrated with the heater/defroster, so was of no help in defrosting the windshield. It used the ubiquitous Borg-Warner York compressor, seen on lots of cars sold in the US at the time, even some European makes.

    It had just three big round movable vents in the lower center of the dash, painted to match the interior, and a temperature knob that had “DESERT ONLY” as its highest setting, something that they used in all American Motors cars, no doubt dreamed up by some whiz in the marketing department. Ours was always set to “DESERT ONLY”, even though Dallas humidity sometimes brings to mind a swamp rather than a desert.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I never had a need for AC living in the California Bay Area. When I moved to SE Texas I knew it was going to be a necessisity, I also got a pickup truck, because, you know Texas. I still had a Lotus Elan with no AC. Most driving events were in the fall and spring, so drives in the summer were just to keep the car in tune.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    Living in Phoenix, I was unaware cars even came without AC. Learn something new every day!

  • avatar
    jimble

    In DC I would never own a car without air conditioning, but I only use it when I need it. It always surprises me that even on the nicest of days almost no one around here drives with their windows open. Maybe they don’t want their hair messed up by the breeze — not an issue for bald old me.

    I once did a cross-country trip in a car without working A/C. Driving west across Canada we had no need for it. Driving down the coast from Vancouver to San Francisco we didn’t miss it. Driving across the mountains, the desert, and the plains we were fine. Once we hit Missouri we were sure we were going to die.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Oh yeah, spent a summer in Missouri with a 65 Mustang with no AC. That’s when I vowed never again.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “In DC I would never own a car without air conditioning, but I only use it when I need it. It always surprises me that even on the nicest of days almost no one around here drives with their windows open.” Agreed, I don’t begrudge people their a/c when it’s truly uncomfortably hot & humid or if they’re driving at highway speeds (45-50 mph is about my threshold for closing the windows because of the noise), but it stuns me how many people never open their windows unless at a drive-through or a border crossing. On perfect days, on surface streets, 90-plus percent of cars still have their windows closed.

      Related: I work in a nice, 1910s high-rise. Idiotically, the “Chicago windows” (see http://www.architecture.org/architecture-chicago/visual-dictionary/entry/chicago-window/) have been nailed and painted shut for years, as they are in most commercial buildings.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    In the Kansas City area, you’d probably take a hit of a couple grand at least when trying to sell a modern non-classic vehicle without A/C. You might get that one guy who was planning a move to Fairbanks and wanted a stripped down Wrangler to take along, but that would be a one in a million. It would be money ahead to pay the grand up front to get it, you’d more than recoup it down the road…I’m pretty certain the resale penalty would exceed the up front savings in this area.

    Unless they were just giving the thing away, you’d be foolish in my local market to opt out of A/C, even if you personally never planned on using it.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I love air conditioning, and can’t drive a vehicle without it in the summer.

    For whatever reason, I’m very sensitive to humidity so even if it’s cool and damp/humid I’ll have the A/C on. Just got central air in my house last year after years of window rattlers that weren’t all that effective at keeping the humidity at bay.

    A/C is becoming more of a necessity due to climate change. The weather in Maine has gotten noticeably warmer during the the summer since I arrived here in 2000.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    My father may have never owned a new car but from slightly before my birth (1977) until now they’ve always had functioning AC with the exception of the 67 Mustang convertible I now own. Many folks outside of the true sunbelt would have felt it foolish to have AC in a convertible back in those days.

    Those few times that I’ve had the AC “die” in a vehicle I’ve owned it was always terrible until I got it fixed.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    R-12 provided superior cooling. For a time after the ban, black market R-12 was more profitable than cocaine in Florida.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    The problem with not having a/c in a more modern car, is that even rolling down the windows doesn’t move enough air to really keep you cool. BTDT. Older cars w/o a/c had those wonderful quarter windows that pulled in major air, and I’m sure were also major aero drags.

    I remember a story that BMW’s used to have nearly useless a/c, and the U.S. dealers couldn’t get the Germany-based execs to listen. So the dealers had the execs attend a meeting. In Houston. In August. And drove black BMW’s to pick them up. Problem solved. I always wondered if that was true…

    • 0 avatar
      roverv8i

      Yes, I wonder if that is true. A similar story was that Volkswagen dealers could not get a car with an sunroof and AC. Same sort of thinking. They just could not understand why you would have the roof and windows open and still need AC. Don’t know if that is true but somehow I can see that happening. If you have not experienced something for yourself you can’t really understand.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I’ve heard that anecdote too, and don’t know if it’s apocryphal. I can confirm, however, that BMW a/c (at least in my family’s example, an ’82 bought new) was decidedly sub-par compared to that in US cars. HVAC was the one area where Detroit really trounced Germany and Japan. My experience has been that European and Asian manufacturers kind of figured things out over the course of ’85-’05. Our ’93 Toyota also was bad compared to the various Big Three cars we’d owned over the years.

      Cars have become more globalized, but in keeping with the theory that they used to reflect their home market (good handling for English country roads, high-speed stability for the Autobahn, soft suspension for cobbled French roads, and so forth) Detroit does have big temperature extremes compared to, say, Birmingham or Munich. That might explain why Big Three HVAC long has been a strong point.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I think many ACs have been terrible since the end of R12. I haven’t thought an AC system was stellar since the early 90s.

        My Toyota and my wife’s GMC don’t seem to do squat unless you’re moving and not standing still. I can get “cold” in them as an occupant but only if the drive is an hour or two. My old Celebrity could get chilly on a 10 min drive in the middle of July.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I was born in 1955. The first car I remember we had was a ’56 Mercury Monterey. It had A/C. The next was a ’59 Galaxie 500, then a ’65 Galaxie 500. All our family cars always had A/C. Dad had a Firestone company car for a while, a ’63 Falcon. It was BLACK with NO CARPET and hot solid VINYL SEATS in ARKANSAS. That’s the hottest car I remember. I have personally spent thousands of dollars fixing A/C systems. I work in a hot metal shop building 10+ hours a day so I am going to darn sure have cold A/C to and from work, and at my house.

  • avatar

    As a kid of the 80’s we had no AC here in CT. In the early 90’s we got a few year old Caravan with AC. Most of my mothers cars since have had AC and my dad’s have gone back and forth (still hardly uses to this day). The econoline we used for family vacations never had AC and that sucker was an oven in the summer.
    My parents got a window AC for the house in the late 80’s but just for their bedroom. When i was around 13 they bought the biggest Fedders window unit they made and put it in the family room. Which was delightful. When I was around 16 a relative gave me an old window unit had a friend refurb it and from then out I have had bedroom AC (same unit still works but I finally swapped it for a newer unit 2 years ago).
    On my cars Most have had AC but half the time they didn’t work. About 8 years ago I decided to figure out how to fix them myself and have had working AC ever since. The last car with no AC installed at all was my 87 Toyota pickup I sold around 2006.
    On the old cars having better AC my ramcharger was never great but I have a feeling the unit was borrowed from the pickup and over powered which is the same issue my Durango has. My 2001 XC70 Had about the best AC I have ever experienced. My kids also liked it as there were real direct able vents in the B pillars.
    I had a teacher with a 76 Deville in High shcool that also had wicked cold air.

    As some one else mentioned AC is what helped the south develop. I would consider AC and refrigeration in general as a one of the top 10 inventions of all time by man kind.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Mopar4wd posted: “As some one else mentioned AC is what helped the south develop. I would consider AC and refrigeration in general as a one of the top 10 inventions of all time by man kind.”

      Agree 100% and so do many sociologists and economists. Without relatively inexpensive and reliable A/C much of the development and relocation to the American South would not have occurred and the ‘rust belt’ would have retained much of its economic advantage.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I live in Seattle and I use A/C all year long. It is far more useful here for the rainy, humid cold part of the year which is about 7-8 months, for keeping the windows from fogging up on the insides.

    So for those who say that you don’t need A/C in Seattle, you are wrong. I’ll unplug your compressor and have you drive your car with 4-6 people inside it in November and you’ll come to understand my point.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Texas heat doesn’t bother me. Regardless, A/C is necessary due to the specific nature of heat during the summer in the Southern Midwest. It never cools down. From Jul 15 to Sep 15 it’s generally 95-100 degrees and the nighttime low is generally a delta of 10 degrees or less. It’s 100 during the day and then 90+ at night. This is particularly true in Central Texas. As a result nothing cools down. Roads stay hot. Brick houses stay hot. Cars stay hot.

    The heat cycles between Broil and Keep Warm. There is no time for your body or anything else outside to shed heat.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    I sweat fairly easily. If a car has Vinyl/Leather seats and you don’t run the AC I’ll arrive with a wet back. It’s not that I can’t handle the heat it’s that it’s just not pleasant. AC can give me a headache so after the car starts to cool down I change to bilevel and move the vents. It seems to only bother me when blowing on my head. I know in some Porsches the auto ac moves to blow out of all three, bottom, top, and defrost to help with this after the car cools down. I would agree that modern cars do not really accommodate not using the AC. We no longer have the Vent windows nor the Kick panel vents that you could open when it was raining to still get good airflow. I know the 66 Impala had this on the drivers side even with AC. The passenger one was taken up by the recirculation flap. For me the number one problem is not being able to spec a nice breathable cloth type material for the seats and a not dark interior on many cars. I don’t really understand how cheap leather is somehow indicative of luxury. Quality leather maybe so. If you look at really old cars intended to be chauffeur driven the good seats were mostly some plush cloth material and the driver had cowhides, and maybe a roof if he was lucky.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    My grandparents were thrifty, salt-of-the-earth people. They always drove cheap Chevrolets. I remember them having a 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne which was replaced by a 1967 Chevrolet Biscayne. The only options were the smallest displacement V-8 engine (I think they were 283 cubic inches), optional overdrive to go with the standard 3-speed manual transmission, and a pushbutton AM radio. My grandfather also had some sort of late 1950s Chevrolet pickup which was replaced by a 1963 GMC V6 pickup, then a 1969 International pickup.

    In 1973 Grandpa bought himself a new redesigned GMC pickup. It had a big 454 V8, automatic transmission, and air-conditioning. Grandma loved it and borrowed it every chance she got. They were starting to do pretty well financially in the early 1970s, so at Grandma’s insistence, Grandpa bought her a new 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic with air-conditioning and big honking 454 V8. (It was in the middle of the Arab oil embargo, gas prices were ridiculous, and he got a really good deal on the car.) After than pretty much everyone in the family bought cars with air-conditioning.

    • 0 avatar
      Southern Perspective

      The 1970s were also first A/C cars in my family. My parents first was a ’73 Oldsmobile 98 that they bought in 1975. I no longer lived at home then. My first car with A/C was a 1985 Corolla. That Toyota could make the interior of the car cold enough to hang meat in even on hot days and in “Econ” mode! They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Here in Miami, Florida? A/C is all but essential. As part of my environmental job, I drove plenty of trucks that didn’t have A/C or it wasn’t working. Sweat city, even for a fairly fit guy. Perhaps the worst situation is driving in a summer thunderstorm, where all the humidity in a non-A/C cabin condenses heavily on the rain-cooled glass, making for near-zero visibility. Sure, you can run the defrosters, but that just makes for heavier fog on the other glass, not to mention adding to the discomfort.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Yep in Florida you need A/C from about April thru October. Granted by the time I started driving in the late 80s A/C was already pretty much included even the lowest trim options, so I’ve never been without it. I once read an article that listed A/C and best modern invention because without huge areas of the US would be completely empty and most manufacturing facilities would only operate for half the year.

  • avatar
    rmigoya

    I am from Mexico City. I am 29 years old. I recall that, before the year 2000, the heat in the city was never so high that it was a must to have A/C. Now the highest record of temperature has been 88 degrees. Exactly in that year my brother bought the first car that had A/C in our family. It was a ’00 VW Derby (European-market Volkswagen Polo Classic Mk3). Since then all our cars have had A/C. I absolutely do not imagine myself driving around without A/C.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I saw a show on the Weather Channel that dealt with urban “heat islands”, huge metro areas with lots of buildings, black roofs, and pavement. They claimed that Atlanta, GA actually creates it’s own weather systems on extremely hot days and the temperature can be 20 degrees cooler just ten miles outside the city. A/C may have enabled southern cities to thrive but it also may have made more a/c necessary.

  • avatar
    Southern Perspective

    Where I live summers are cool, as is most of the rest of the year. In my situation, A/C is a useful safety feature for keeping the inside of the windshield and other windows clear on damp and/or cool mornings. I’m glad to have it.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Just spent $$$ to repair the knee knocker 70s era AC unit in my 63 Valiant Signet. It had already been converted to R134A.

    Worked when I got it in 81. Died, then I finally decided to repair it after moving to AZ.

    Funny thing is that parts of the unit were name brand direct replacements all these years later.

    First AC in the family was the new 72 Ambassador Brougham my parents bought as well as a 70 Olds Delta they picked up later.

    Yeah, even though I am an automotive minimalist [the Valiant has three speed on the column and a heater], AC is required.

  • avatar
    mncarguy

    Here in Minnesota, air conditioning started becoming more common in the 60’s. Our first car with it was a ’65 Chevy Impala SS. Today, I wouldn’t buy a car without it. I remember when my wife and I bought a Honda in the 80’s, the vents were built into the instrument panel, but the dealer installed the AC. I had a Pinto with AC. When it was on, it took so much power that I could barely make it up the hills in SW Wisconsin when I had two passengers in the car. Usually, I had to turn it off until I got up the hill! Now, if I could find someone to fix the AC in my ’65 Corvair.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    My parents’ “travel” car always had A/C when I was a kid in the 60s, starting with the 59 Olds 98 coupe, but my dad didn’t like to use the a/c and his “around town” car never had a/c…’64 Beetle, 68 VW Type III, ’75 Gremlin, ’78 Dodge Omni…and he always got vinyl seats.

  • avatar
    James2

    It is 1990. The car, a 1986 Mazda 323, with a broken A/C. (Can’t afford to fix it.) Work is ~10 miles away on a divided highway that HDOT finally is repaving, so it is contra-flowed and I’m driving against the predominant flow each way. Thus, the maximum speed I can achieve is a whopping 10 mph. All four windows are down, the portable electric fan plugged into the cigarette lighter is revving its little heart out and I feel like I’m in a mobile sauna. Never again!

    It is 2015. The car, a 2007 Mazda 6, has a broken A/C. I hand over the credit card ASAP, the thing’s getting fixed!

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I have a roadster with no A/C but everything else does. It costs very little in mileage and most cars come from the factory with it. A few hundred dollars to DIY except the fill (if you don’t have a way to pull a vacuum) I see no reason not to have it.

    I do admit I did not drive the roadster much in the Imperial Valley when it was in the 120* range.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Can you live without A/C in June of 2018?”

    I can, but since I don’t hate myself and don’t like broiling in July and August when it’s actually “hot” here, A/C is not optional.

    (AC is also useful in the winter for reducing moisture in the cabin and preventing condensation on the windows.)

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I like having a beater to keep the miles off my newer cars and most of these did not have AC and I live in Florida.

    You just kind of get used to it.

    Just bought a ’92 GMC Sierra with no AC as my new beater vehicle, but I still have my ’15 Toyota Highlander and BMW Z3 if I don’t want to sweat. So I guess that’s cheating.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I don’t see any virtue in sweating to death.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Hell no I can’t take it. The coastal mid-Atlantic is a swamp. I’m one continuous puddle of sweat from May through September. Even the worst of my buzzbox 80s beaters had working air and when they didn’t it was time for a different beater.

    Discovering that my brand new $38,000 truck turned off the AC at red lights was like discovering a dog turd on my side of the bed.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Federal EPA regulations require that I think. It is defeatable in the 2018 Escape Ecoboost I bought in March. But every time you restart it, you have to defeat it again if you want the engine to stay running. If the cabin temperature gets too far away from what you have set, the auto start-stop will be defeated by the computer in order to maintain a semblance of cabin comfort. The computer can also restart the engine itself.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Even GMs system which is unable to be turned off can be temporarily defeated by running the AC at MAX or by using the manual selection feature of the automatic transmission.

        I know I’d be using the manumatic feature of the transmission around town if I bought a GM vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I fixed mine (’16 F-150) by jumping the wire behind the disable button, and then replacing the combined hazards/stop-start button assembly with the hazard only button assembly from the base trim that didn’t have the feature.

        I lived with it for just long enough to know to make absolutely sure that it can be permanently turned off in any future car that I ever look at. It was just plain masochistic.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB

    I live in Atlantic Canada on the coast where the average July and August temperatures might be 80-ish. My AC is on from May through to late October. The best feature of my current car is the cooled seats. Then again, I also walk the dog in January with temps in the 20s and snow on the ground while wearing shorts. I guess I just run hot.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    No way! I love central air at home and A/C in a vehicle.

    When I bought my old ’01 Taurus in 2010 the first thing I’ve checked was if A/C was working. I later found that heat was not working and I’ve lived w/o the heat for 5 years that I owned the car.

    My current car (’11 MkZephyr Hybrid) has an electric (compared to a belt driven) compressor. In town and in stop and go traffic I usually drive with windows down, as A/C is not very effective, as well as sucks too much current from the hybrid batteries that forces the engine to keep running (defeating the purpose of a hybrid. But I do enjoy A/C seats that I use more often than A/C. A must in a car with a black leather interior.

    And I agree with Principal Dan that unless you’re driving at speed, A/C is not very effective.

  • avatar

    First A/C was grandfather’s 1966 Chrysler New Yorker. We’d love to take a ride…anywhere…on a hot day. Sitting in Traffic with windows UP in NYC in August was the ultimate in status. In 2018, all cars have A/C, even our ace of base Jetta 1.4S. The R12 systems would toss icicles…the newer systems, not as much.

    If you wear a suit for a living, AC is really required

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Timely QOTD as I am visiting family in East Texas this week, the temperature is 98 degrees, and the dew point is around 70. (My rental on this trip is a Grand Caravan that is basically identical to one I rented for my wedding in 2012.)

    The answer is HEL|_ NO. Working air conditioning is mandatory and I wouldn’t even go without in in a track car (if that were my thing).

  • avatar
    Rigaudon

    I love A/C, don’t leave home without it! Growing up, only Cadillacs and Lincolns had it. We certainly didn’t. But I did love both the little vent windows you could pivot to send a stream of air right into your face and those ankle vents. You pulled the knob under the dash and it opened those up. No A/C back in those days, but quite a torrent of air moving in the car as long as you were moving…
    My 5th car was an ’83 Accord Hatch. I wanted the base model, but you took what the dealer offered when their allocation came in and paid hundreds over list. I was allocated a LX which had A/C and power steering. I didn’t want either, but wanted the car badly so accepted the LX. I loved it from day 1 and have had both in all cars since.
    In ’90 I bought a Miata and saw it had A/C. I asked the dealer why anyone needed A/C in a convertible and he said you’ll enjoy it when you’re stuck in traffic on a sunny day. He was right.
    Jump forward to 2012. My son needed a college commuter car. We looked around and liked a Honda Fit. The base model came with A/C, power steering, power mirrors, power windows AND cruise control all standard. Those options defined a luxury car in the 60’s and now they are standard in the base model. Times have changed!

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    I seem to recall our family ’82 Pontiac Lemans wagon (not brown, but had fake wood paneling) was the first car we had with A/C.

    My first car with A/C was a ’92 Honda Civic. Bought it off the lot, but A/C was a dealer installed option. I remember that one because it only had half a radiator before the A/C was installed. Since then, it became pretty much standard in every car.

    Could I live without it? Well, it’s supposed to be 40C this weekend, so no. Actually in the winter it’s very helpful for clearing the windows as well. Didn’t realize that until the A/C failed in one car and I had to scrape the *inside* of the windshield on freezing days.

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