I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have been asked questions about air conditioning for Beetles.
My experience with air conditioned Beetles has revolved around removing non-functioning units from the 1967 Beetles which I have acquired over the years. Foot after foot of wiring, the condenser, the evaporator and the compressor—any of the above or what was left of it. Mostly, what was left of the system.
The old systems, although reputed not to drain horse power, seemed to do just that. That was one of the main arguments against them. They also disfigured the engine compartment and complicated routine maintenance.
The engine compartment had to be altered in order to allow for the compressor and pulley. The driver’s fresh air outlet on the shroud had to be removed and a modified outlet installed, since the compressor was going to take up space at that point.
The compressor bracket required a further altering of the lower tin so that it could be mounted on a cylinder head exhaust stud. The crank pulley bolt was removed and a second pulley was mounted over the crank pulley using a longer pulley bolt.
Many people spoke of having “factory air” in their Beetles. The fact of the matter, as confirmed by this 1967 brochure from Volkswagen of America, is that air conditioning systems were optional and were dealer-installed. There were multiple makes of systems but all had to conform to VW standards of installation and function.
I contacted a now-retired Volkswagen-trained technician to talk about air conditioning systems in the 1960s. When I read the brochure to him, he began to laugh. He told me that the first systems which technicians were installing at the dealership where he was employed were “terrible”. He told me that they were the worst thing that happened to Volkswagen. He did say that the systems improved with time but not to the efficiency of modern systems.
He also elaborated on installations. He told me that no air conditioning systems were installed in Germany. All components were manufactured in the USA and came in big boxes to the dealerships. Units also could be installed at US ports of entry by trained technicians. He assumed that some people interpreted these “port installations” as being “factory installed air”.
My friend told me that he and another technician mastered air conditioning installation and could make lots of money. So much so, that they kept quiet about how quickly they could install the units. Then, he groaned again, as he thought of the over heating and damage the systems caused to the engines.
I notice in this 1967 Brochure that the illustrations used are not from ’67 but from ’66. This often was the case with VW literature—pictures and drawings that illustrated various aspects might come from previous years, if year was not pertinent. (note the Sapphire III radio, for instance).