For most modern drivers, the presence of an air conditioner in a car has become a common thing, because now even budget models are equipped with such an option. However, this was not always the case – several decades ago, air conditioning was a sign of luxury and these systems were installed only on premium cars.
The very first car with factory-installed air conditioning was unveiled on November 10, 1939 at the Chicago Auto Show – exactly 81 years ago! What kind of car was it and why did not air conditioners in cars become widespread at first?
The first machine fitted with an air conditioning system out of the box was the Packard 12 Sedan. Of course, air conditioners were used in transport before that, but it was the Packard that became the first passenger car with such an addition. Of course, air conditioning was an option, and a very expensive one – for the ability to cool the interior, you had to pay an additional $ 274, despite the fact that a new passenger car cost about $ 700.
But not only the price was the reason why the Americans were in no hurry to disassemble Packards with air conditioners. The system itself was very cumbersome due to the novelty and imperfection of the design. Air conditioner parts were installed not only under the hood, but also in the interior, and also concealed almost half of the space in the luggage compartment.
In addition, the system was also difficult to manage. If in a modern car you can activate the air conditioner with a single press of a button, then in the case of the Packard 12 the driver had to stop and climb into the engine compartment to manually install the belt on the system drive pulley. No thermostats or even hints of automation – just mechanics. Considering all the shortcomings of the system and its high cost, there were practically no people willing to buy a Packard with air conditioning.
In 1941, the company removed this option from the equipment list of its models.
At the same time, the Cadillac and Chrysler brands began experimenting with air cooling systems, but these experiments stopped at the level of expensive additional equipment for premium models. And then the United States entered World War II and the auto companies were not up to air conditioners.
American manufacturers returned to air conditioning systems in the 1950s and this time things went much better. Over the decade, technology has made a leap forward – equipment for air cooling systems has become much more compact and cheaper. Therefore, in the mid-50s, air conditioners appeared on many Chrysler models. Later, other manufacturers joined in, and air conditioners over time from an option “not for everyone” turned into a familiar equipment for almost any car.