After suffering through a hot Michigan summer with a non-functioning A/C, I decided to remove the A/C hardware and build a new center console that included a fresh air vent. So far I am very happy with the result.
Here is the "Before" view, showing the non-functioning Behr A/C. Because the evaporator is so bulky, the radio needs be crammed underneath too close to the shifter. Whenever I shifted into reverse, I would inadvertently turn the radio on or off. A/C removal was the usual skinned knuckles exercise, but eventually, I gained a lot of space inside and lost some road-hugging weight.
The best source of fresh air with the Behr heater is just below the heater core. I carefully cut two circular holes in the front lower face of the heater, and then enlarged these initial holes using a rotary sander bit in my drill. Be careful here- you don't want to nick the heater core or mess up the heat outlet doors.
Here are the "target" circles on the heater front face. The horizontal tape corresponds with the lower edge of the heater core. Be sure to open the heat outlet doors completely before cutting the holes.
Here are the finished holes.
Here are two of the four plastic flanges I used to connect the holes in the heater box with the center console vent. These flanges are available from Home Depot in the plumbing dept. The vent hose is a standard air-cooled VW aluminum heater hose. Before bonding the flanges to the heater box, I removed the plastic grid from the flange fittings.
Bonding epoxy used to attach the flanges and to modify the console air vent.
Bonded flanges, ready for connection.
Here are some shots of the vent I used. This happens to be from a mid-eighties Volvo 244. It has two air flow doors that seal tightly. On the back side I bonded a piece of Lexan with two entry holes bored to match the ID of the plastic flanges.
The aluminum vent hose was cut in half, attached with hose clamps to the heater box flanges and positioned to line up with the Volvo dash vent.
The Volvo vent was then connected to the vent hose with clamps, and temporarily taped into position.
New center console side panels were cut from 3/8" plywood, based on a non-A/C pattern, and covered with vinyl. A wood backer was added to each inner side for attachment of the console face.
This picture shows the sides fitted to the shift box and vent. The wire rat's nest is the typical stereo speaker hookup along with the hazard switch wiring.
Here is a shot of the Lexan console face I constructed, with the radio mount installed and two openings for the hazard switch and a USB charger. I subsequently added a clock between these two openings. The Lexan was covered with vinyl and the hazard switch, charger and clock were installed. The face was attached to the console sides tightly underneath the vent with four screws. The radio was then installed, to finish the project.
How it works: With the defrost and heat air controls both in the closed position, all outside air coming through the heater goes to the new center console vent (as long as those are open). At highway speed, a lot of air comes through. At low speeds, you can turn on the fan to augment the air flow. If you want just defrost, you would open the defrost air control and close the center console vent doors. If you want just floor level air, open the heat air control and close the defrost air control and center console vent. If you want to add heat to the defrost, floor or center console vent, just set the heater temp control wherever desired.