Tech: Vintage Heat for your Vintage Car

This is for our new category: Tech Archives. If you want to read just tech articles you can go to the right side column and click on desired category.

I like to fix, repair and refurbish old things when possible as opposed to buy new stuff.
Old American products are usually of very high quality and all they may need is a cosmetic restoration and some inside updates. Some items look great with original patina and some lend themselves to refurbishing. Only YOU decide what direction to go…not your buddies, not the current trend, just use common sense.

This article is about how to stay warm in your vintage car or truck while still looking old-timey.

Washington state offer some great summers for vintage car cruising but we do get a fair amount of lousy and wet weather as well. While some hardy folks can drive an open roadster in the middle of the winter…I am NOT one of them. I like to be comfortable so a heater is high on the list. You can hide a modern heater unit under the dash or seat but I think a good looking vintage heater is the coolest. (No pun there…) I find these at swap meet and sometimes at garage sales. Up to the late fifties new cars and trucks did not come with heaters but there were many manufacturers that stepped up to produce add-on heathers. Allstate, Firestone, Southwind, HaDees and others made aftermarket heaters and many of them had beautiful designs.

1937 Ford HaDees Heater

This Hadees Junior is sporting some serious art-deco design and it will look great restored.

 

1937 Ford Cabriolet heater grille installed This one is part of a larger assembly out of a Ford and I like the crest and simple design. I just kept this rectangle box and it will contain the element and fan. I am debating what color it will be. In the 40’s brown or black wrinkle finish was used. Another favorite coating is the hammer paint. I found the stainless grid at an elevator interior company of all places. It looks like an old radio cloth. Love it! There will be a tech article on this unit down the road.

Today we are going to restore a Tropic-Aire heater:

1930 Ford Model A heater 1

 

Let’s go to work: 1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 2 First order of business: Dissasemble.  Most firewall heaters are rather deep because they have the fan assembly behind it and also the tubing usually designed to go straight thru the firewall. I usually eliminate that by installing a compact brushless fan or small cooling fan similar to the ones you see on small transmission coolers.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 3 This heater contains a round element with the fan motor in the center. This makes for a compact unit and I will duplicate this set up.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 4 I want the heater core as deep as possible in to the unit so I removed this ridge.

 

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 5 I also flattened out the louvers on the side and welded them up.

 

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 7

I welded a stud to the outside louver to keep it in place..

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 8

Test fit…looks good.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 6

After some bodywork and hammer coat paint we got ourselves a nice looking heater body.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater 9

A good coat of a maroon color and some polishing yielded a nice looking louver.
1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater Tropic-Aire

I polished the stainless trim piece and painted the letters in gloss black.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater Tropic-Aire 2

Hubba-Hubba !! (technical term) That looks pretty snazzy. Let’s attend to the inside components now.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater Tropic-Aire 10

This is a 12V clip on fan from that big box store. It set me back a whopping ten bucks.

 

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater Tropic-Aire fan

I removed anything that did not look like a fan from the clip-on fan and I made a back shroud based on the diameter of the fan blade.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater Tropic-Aire11

This is the mesh from the fan I bough. I welded it to the back shroud to protect any toes that may find themselves behind the heater.

1930 Ford Model A hot rod heater Tropic-Aire 12 Here it is, all ready to go together. The fan motor squeezed in very nicely inside the core. I used some silicone glue to keep it in place.

1937 Ford Cabriolet heather valve

I use a stand alone heater valve from any parts house. I like this kind with the cable bracket in the same unit. That way you can attach a remote cable without having to secure the heater valve to anything. It can just be in line with the hoses and cable operated without tugging on anything.

 

1930 Ford hot rod heater

…and here it is. Installed in our latest project build, a 1930 Ford Model A Hot Rod.

Note 1956 Chrysler gauges, custom sub dash and vintage style Euro square weave carpeting. Look for this car at the NSRA event in Ridgefield, Washington, June 28-29th.