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Oilking53

Best add on A/C kit for 77 280z??

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Hi everyone, I’m really wanting to add a/c to my stock 77 280z. Unfortunately the car did not come with it so I’m looking into what my options are for adding it. I can’t find any reviews of people that have added it so I’m not sure where to start. Any advice from anyone that has done this would be very helpful! Thanks y’all!!

 

 

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I think most people look to Vintage Air for aftermarket systems now. Nostalgic AC offers a compressor and mounting bracket they claim works on the Z. They offer similar parts to Vintage Air, but I don't know much about their quality/support.

In the knowledge base there is a nice write-up for AC controls into a 73. The control panel is different, but it should give you some idea of what is entailed. 

 

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I think I might look into aquiring the factory parts from a 280z with AC then buy a new dryer, compressor and condenser

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1 hour ago, Patcon said:

I think I might look into aquiring the factory parts from a 280z with AC then buy a new dryer, compressor and condenser

The risk with that is winding up with a bad expansion valve. I don't know if anybody has found another expansion valve that will work with the evaporator and fit in the form factor.

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Ya, I'm an A/C nut - cuz Phoenix. I've collected about three complete stock A/C assemblies over the years but just like SteveJ says - that expansion valve... It's a doozy.  Most expansion valves just have an inlet and outlet for refrigerant, but the one Nissan used has multiple tube connections to the evap core. To get a simpler expansion valve you need a whole new evap core. The expansion valve CAN be dis-assembled and cleaned/refurbed - but it takes a bit of a wizard to reset the adjustment screw for the orifice if you need to and you'll have a search for the proper o-rings. Having said that, my A/C has been all stock since I got my 260Z back on the road 11 years ago - and it's my daily driver even when it swelters here in Arizona. (Oops, except my Ultra-Heaven duct which increases the airflow from the center vents HUGELY!) (dang, I also forgot my Kia Sportage blower...)

Edited by cgsheen1
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Ya, I'm an A/C nut - cuz Phoenix. I've collected about three complete stock A/C assemblies over the years but just like SteveJ says - that expansion valve... It's a doozy.  Most expansion valves just have an inlet and outlet for refrigerant, but the one Nissan used has multiple tube connections to the evap core. To get a simpler expansion valve you need a whole new evap core. The expansion valve CAN be dis-assembled and cleaned/refurbed - but it takes a bit of a wizard to reset the adjustment screw for the orifice if you need to and you'll have a search for the proper o-rings. Having said that, my A/C has been all stock since I got my 260Z back on the road 11 years ago - and it's my daily driver even when it swelters here in Arizona. (Oops, except my Ultra-Heaven duct which increases the airflow from the center vents HUGELY!) (dang, I also forgot my Kia Sportage blower...)

Hey cgsheen1, so are you selling any of those complete a/c kits?? I think that would be the best option to have all factory parts but shoot this day and age you’ll lucky to even see a z much less find any parts cars.


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I think I might look into aquiring the factory parts from a 280z with AC then buy a new dryer, compressor and condenser

I’ve thought about trying to find all factory components but that’s proving to be easier said than done....one guy told me if I found a z car go buy a lottery ticket LOL.


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My reasoning was I thought there were significant differences in the hvac controls in an AC equipped 280. The expansion valve issue is new to me.

Could you just use all new refrigerant pieces but use the factory controls and ducting?

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Frankly I like the units from Nostalgic AC and Vintage Air that combine the evaporator, heater core and defrost. S30 heater cores are NLA. @Captain Obviouswent through an exercise adapting a Ford heater core for his car.  I do not know if the defrost setting on the aftermarket kits engages the AC compressor, but that would be another bonus if it does. That way you use dehumidified air for defrosting/defogging.

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you can buy brand new evap with a standard TVX, not cheap (300ish iirc) that is a drop in replacement. I would go with a parallel flow condenser (pick a genereric size that approximates the oe size and rig up some mount hardware) a SD709 and a generic drier, then use the new evap in an OE housing. Using the PF condenser should allow for good use of R134a vs R12. I got my new evap just in case my old one leaks or the tvx ever looses its charge. At that time I would just swap out the evap and stay with R12 since I have a good condenser (was a NOS unit). I prefer the old hitachi SWP types with the sump, they are heavy as a tank but cant argue with longevity (looks OE on mine and runs fine). But the SD709 is prob a better choice if you have the mounting bracket. It prob works better (quiet, light weight), but I always wonder about the quality of stuff like this. I think there maybe some other tweeks if you car did not come with AC as far as making it work, its all covered in the FSM on how to add.

Often see the entire AC system for sale on eBay, a good way to get all the pieces then if the evap is bad just replace it with the new one I mentioned above.

Edited by Dave WM
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Thanks for the info! I gapping I can come across a complete system so I can keep everything looking factory. That’s the biggest concern with aftermarket kits is how does it look on the console ya know what I mean? Hopefully it all works out!


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13 hours ago, Oilking53 said:

Thanks for the info! I gapping I can come across a complete system so I can keep everything looking factory. That’s the biggest concern with aftermarket kits is how does it look on the console ya know what I mean? Hopefully it all works out!


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I know exactly what you mean. I like the way the OE system controls work, I find them easier to deal with that modern stuff to get what you want. Another thing to remember you will need to get the under hood air switches and a idle up servo and the vacuum bottle, hopefully you can score a complete system. You should be prepared to pull the dash even if you go all OE, Its not that hard to do and will give much better access to the workings. If you go after market pulling the dash is a given, but even OE its a good idea. You can service the heater core and valving while its out. IF your dash is cracked you should look into a vintage dashes replacement. A good time to do that as well. The vintage dashes  replacement is an excellent reproduction of the OE, not cheap but if you want it done right its the way to go.

Edited by Dave WM
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I know exactly what you mean. I like the way the OE system controls work, I find them easier to deal with that modern stuff to get what you want. Another thing to remember you will need to get the under hood air switches and a idle up servo and the vacuum bottle, hopefully you can score a complete system. You should be prepared to pull the dash even if you go all OE, Its not that hard to do and will give much better access to the workings. If you go after market pulling the dash is a given, but even OE its a good idea. You can service the heater core and valving while its out. IF your dash is cracked you should look into a vintage dashes replacement. A good time to do that as well. The vintage dashes  replacement is an excellent reproduction of the OE, not cheap but if you want it done right its the way to go.

Thank you for it tips! I really hope I can find a whole package deal for OE. I’ve been trying to find anyone who has a z in a salvage yard but that has been.......not so easy LOL. Thats good advise for the dash luckily my dash is not cracked and the car over all is in really good shape. I’ve got about 41,000 miles on it so far. Just need A/C to complete it, those Texas summers are something else and black on black don’t help LOL.


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1 hour ago, Oilking53 said:


Thank you for it tips! I really hope I can find a whole package deal for OE. I’ve been trying to find anyone who has a z in a salvage yard but that has been.......not so easy LOL. Thats good advise for the dash luckily my dash is not cracked and the car over all is in really good shape. I’ve got about 41,000 miles on it so far. Just need A/C to complete it, those Texas summers are something else and black on black don’t help LOL.


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just get some help removing the dash for the install. being old it will likely crack unless you are very careful not to torque it. Texas you HAVE to have good A/C same here if cen FL would not be able to drive it 8 months out of the year without it.

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On 11/23/2020 at 9:50 AM, Dave WM said:

I would go with a parallel flow condenser (pick a generic size that approximates the oe size and rig up some mount hardware)

I have seen some people mention in this forum that they have installed larger than OE condensers to help improve cooling performance, but I would assume that an oversized condenser would increase the strain on the compressor (hence the recommendation for close to OE size). Am I understanding correctly?

Disclaimer: Little to no knowledge of AC system operations, so apologies for dumb questions

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I have been dead set on Vintage Air, but, my 73 came with factory air, and I have all the components removed and just sitting. Should I try to refurbish the OE system, but maybe a better blower?

Honestly when I dismantled the car and put it on the rotisserie, I cringed after taking all the cable controls, brackets, etc out and feeling dread about having to reinstall all of that stuff.

Honestly is looks a tad daunting to try and get all the cables and linkages working again correctly. Is there any literature available for reinstalling all that stuff? Currently its been 2 years since I dismantled all of that. I've been documenting with pics the best I can, but after a few years I'm sure I'll be scratching my head when things start going back together.

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Parallel flow condensers are supposed to be more "efficient" than the serpentine stock unit. I have read that the down side to PF is if you get junk in them they can not be flushed as a serpentine style (a single tube that snakes back and forth with fins on it). the size is just a matter of getting it all to fit in the allotted space, Not sure if oversize it would help a lot since you have to have air flow thru it, and the OE size pretty much matches the opening in the rad support.

Now as to why would you need a PF flow, I would think IF you are going R-134a a condenser type is generally PF, I presume to better match the needs for R-134a, hence my recommendation.

I am not an expert in AC either, just what I have picked up reading and working on my own R-12 unit. I was lucky to find a NOS condenser so that is what I used. Before I got that I bought a reconditioned one from zcardepot IIRC. I was not very happy with that one, so I am glad I found the NOS. IF I had to do again and could not find a NOS I would look into a PF. However if you wanted a serpentine OE drop in style I think I have seen brand new units made. Not cheap like the evaps they are expensive but they are out there. Again I would prob go PF though IF I wanted to go R134a. You can tell a lot with manifold gauges, if the pressures get too out of whack (like the high side going too high with R134a) then there is the option of adding a electric fan in front of the condenser, operated on a trinary switch (low cut off high cutt off and fan on). Typically the pressures soar in high temps with little air flow over condenser (idling in traffic). In that case a fan may come into play. With R-12 the stock setup works as is.

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One offering I noticed on the Nostalgic AC site is that they offer a service to convert your control panel to operate the AC controls of their product. That has me curious. For my 260Z, I have a spare vent control mounted to a stock evaporator. It would be nice to have the controls integrated.

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8 minutes ago, DC871F said:

I have been dead set on Vintage Air, but, my 73 came with factory air, and I have all the components removed and just sitting. Should I try to refurbish the OE system, but maybe a better blower?

Honestly when I dismantled the car and put it on the rotisserie, I cringed after taking all the cable controls, brackets, etc out and feeling dread about having to reinstall all of that stuff.

Honestly is looks a tad daunting to try and get all the cables and linkages working again correctly. Is there any literature available for reinstalling all that stuff? Currently its been 2 years since I dismantled all of that. I've been documenting with pics the best I can, but after a few years I'm sure I'll be scratching my head when things start going back together.

the 73 came with draw thru evap, and poor ducting. So if you want a factory orig style for that era (dealer added factory approved iirc) then you should also know that it was a LOUSY AC system.

the evap is so far from the outlets, and the outlets so small that at best it takes the edge off serious hot days (90+). So you have to decide how orig you want vs how good an AC system you want. this is one of the reasons a prefer the 280z over 240z. In Florida if you want to drive your Z you have to have good AC. The 280z system is ok, not great but ok.

as far as fan upgrades you can move more air that way, but you have to be aware of overtaxing wiring and also you still have the draw thru evap, plus generally speaking for AC to work well you want volume at lower speeds (duct work). this enables the system to deal with humidity better, which makes for a more pleasant conditioning of the air.

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1 minute ago, Dave WM said:

the 73 came with draw thru evap, and poor ducting. So if you want a factory orig style for that era (dealer added factory approved iirc) then you should also know that it was a LOUSY AC system.

the evap is so far from the outlets, and the outlets so small that at best it takes the edge off serious hot days (90+). So you have to decide how orig you want vs how good an AC system you want. this is one of the reasons a prefer the 280z over 240z. In Florida if you want to drive your Z you have to have good AC. The 280z system is ok, not great but ok.

as far as fan upgrades you can move more air that way, but you have to be aware of overtaxing wiring and also you still have the draw thru evap, plus generally speaking for AC to work well you want volume at lower speeds (duct work). this enables the system to deal with humidity better, which makes for a more pleasant conditioning of the air.

Well, it will be my daily driver and for fun road trips. Wife will still go, but probably not a lot if the A/C is sub par. I had a few ZX's in the past, and I dont remember those being to good during 100* days either.

So aftermarket and silly rheostat panel for controls? I really hate to do that. I did see a thread where someone rigged up OE sliders to the Vintage system. I cant remember how that worked out. A little searching.....

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31 minutes ago, SteveJ said:

One offering I noticed on the Nostalgic AC site is that they offer a service to convert your control panel to operate the AC controls of their product. That has me curious. For my 260Z, I have a spare vent control mounted to a stock evaporator. It would be nice to have the controls integrated.

Just got off the phone with them, she didnt say they do that, unless I wasnt explaining my self that good. If my ex wife was here she would probably agree with that notion.

Got a link?

Edited by DC871F

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14 minutes ago, DC871F said:

Just got off the phone with them, she didnt say they do that, unless I wasnt explaining my self that good. If my ex wife was here she would probably agree with that notion.

Got a link?

I went to here: https://nostalgicac.com/evaporator-units/indash-evaporators/id-260sc-in-dash-ac-heat-and-defrost-unit-with-floor-vent.html

Under Control Options: Used Factory Controls (Must send Controls to our Facility)

image.png

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if you want wife acceptable AC, then the OE in the 240z a likely fail. Hopefully you can modify the duct work enough to get more volume, that and the better evap setup of an after market will no doubt get you closer to reasonable. Getting the limited front ducting to work well seems like it would be the biggest hurdle. Perhaps just dumping some of the cold air down into the foot wells. Hopefully someone can chime in with some useful data on this. Like I said I have a 280z and my 240z statements are based on a 40 yr memory of my 240z.

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33 minutes ago, SteveJ said:

I went to here: https://nostalgicac.com/evaporator-units/indash-evaporators/id-260sc-in-dash-ac-heat-and-defrost-unit-with-floor-vent.html

Under Control Options: Used Factory Controls (Must send Controls to our Facility)

image.png

I swear I looked at that tab, thanks.

I may have to entertain this.

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2 hours ago, SteveJ said:

One offering I noticed on the Nostalgic AC site is that they offer a service to convert your control panel to operate the AC controls of their product. That has me curious. For my 260Z, I have a spare vent control mounted to a stock evaporator. It would be nice to have the controls integrated.

Called again. So the ID-200HC evap unit is what they are recommending for 240z install, he thinks the ID-260 is too larger. He says it is adaptable to their "Datsun" package. ALso, you mail in your control panel and they custom make cable controls.

But what they wanted me to do was measure everything out, and condenser measurement and they would "build" me a kit that would work. 

I like the sound of that better than running the VA system and a generic rheostat panel.

Edited by DC871F

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