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Installing A/C in a BMW 1600-2

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Hello folks!!


What a pleasure it is to have found people who love the 02 series as much as I do ( maybe even more!!).


First of all I apologise if this thread is posted in the wrong section. I never was good at navigating forums.


Now straight to the point!


I have the opportunity to acquire a BMW 1600-2 for a reasonable price. It's enough to say that I've dreamt about this car for a while.


The only problem is that where I live (Bahrain) is hot and humid! Think Louisiana and Texas climates combined.


Driving a car without air conditioning is unthinkable.


I was therefore wondering if it were possible to install an air conditioner in the 1600-2. I'm not exactly tech savvy nor do I know much about mechanics.


Let's assume price isn't an issue. Has anyone done it before? Is it possible? How would it affect the car mechanically speaking?


In this hot weather, an air conditioning unit is an absolute deal breaker, which is a real shame given most classics don't come with one!!


Thanks in advance folks. Take care and stay safe!!



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Hey Ali,


i understand your concern, air conditioning is a basic human right...


Easy to do with aftermarket parts on your car, there are a few Compressor brackets available from specialists ...or get a local workshop to fabricate a bracket...i am sure they did that a lot 20 years back...


Remove the heater if there is one, block the hole and fit a combined fan/evaporator unit...you'll find them on eBay or AliExpress.



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My only concern with adding A/C to an early car is that some of them — I am referring to the engine block — lack the drilled bosses onto which most ‘02 compressor brackets fasten. Especially if your 1600-2 is a 1966 thorough 1968 model year car, this might be an issue.


There are, however, by now, many different types of compressor brackets, e.g., Blunttech, hobiedave, etc., and one of these might solve the compressor mounting challenge.






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For adding a/c to a 2002, buy Rob Siegels's books for guidance.  I bought his first book, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic, and  it had one chapter devoted to vintage a/c that really helped me understand how the whole system works, and to repair the a/c on 4 cars.  His follow on book, Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning, continues with the good information.  With those two books I think you could either do the work yourself, or be a much better educated consumer when you hire the job out.

Edited by Ian
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I would also encourage a new-era electronic AC system like what is found in say, a Toyota Prius or Tesla. These are efficient, nearly inaudible, and I would assume a bit lighter overall than a belt driven system that WILL mess with how your engine runs, both with AC on and off. 




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You’re not going to defeat the Abu Dhabi climate with a period-correct A/C (Behr, Frigiking, Clardy), so Danco’s approach might be the best.  If you decide to go with a period unit and your block is not drilled out (as Conserv suggests) I understand it’s possible to get those bosses drilled.  I have been pretty satisfied in Florida with my Clardy-style kit purchased from ICE Auto Air in San Diego.  The evaporator purportedly contains an additional layer of coil, which along with a large included condensor enhances the cooling.  And (see photo upper left) it contains console components that completely replace the original console and that are compatible with the 02 interior (if most appropriate to later square-light models).  Not that difficult to install.

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Wow guys! Thanks for all the suggestions!


So it's definitely possible then?


The car is in Germany. Does anyone know any experts in Germany that might be up to the job? If not Germany, then in the US


I contacted the BMW Classic Group restoration unit (part of the museum) and they said that they're not in a position to do it. I wasn't sure what they meant by that but I wrote back asking if they knew anyone who could do it.


This particular 1600-2 comes with an original radio as opposed to most 1600 cars I've seen which have nothing in the center console. (This car actually belongs to my dad's friend and he's agreed to let it go for close to nothing)


I know close to nothing about cars but would the slot used to fit the radio work for the ac? Can the radio be pulled out and replaced with the ac unit?


Also, what modifications will have to be done to the body of the car? Will holes have to be drilled for tubes and whatnot? Does the presence of a radio eliminate the need to drill more holes? (Sorry for the naive questions)


Would anyone who's done this mind sending me pictures of the final result? Im interested to see how the dashboard would like after the installation.


Finally, I'd really appreciate your recommendation of experts who are best suited to carry out this job.


Once again guys thank you ever so much for your help and support. You really don't know how happy it makes me to interact with kind and genuine people like yourselves.


All the best!


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Your questions may have different answers depending on the solution you choose.  Some approaches will require you to change your entire console.  Others (eg, a trunk-mounted electric unit with vents in the rear of the cabin) will not interfere with yourcurrent radio.  Lots of posts on the 2002faq site about this.  Eg: 


There is no substitute for educating yourself about this problem. You could spend several days on this site alone doing that.  Regardless of your approach, you will be drilling holes and doing some wiring, installing hoses and major ac equipment, and modifying your interior.  Ian’s suggestion to read Rob Siegel’s book is a great one.  You will feel much more confident once you have absorbed that information. At that point you may know enough to ask questions like: should I rebuild my heater box before I install the ac?


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As others have said, my book, "Just Needs A Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide To Vintage Air Conditioning" (https://www.amazon.com/Just-Needs-Recharge-Mechanic-Conditioning/dp/0998950718/) is a good place to start, and has a lot of 2002-specific information.


No 2002 had factory air, but those sold in the U.S. could have either Frigiking, Behr, or Clardy systems installed at the dealer. The Behr had the most factory-looking console, as Behr did the consoles in the E3 and E9, but it's also the most pain-in-the-butt, as all components including the fan and the expansion valve are inside the evaporator assembly. Part of the advantage of the Clardy system is that both the fan and the expansion valve are outside of an evaporator "tub" and are thus much easier to service. Some of the aftermarket systems that are available now are based more on the Clardy design.


But, as others have said, if you're living in Bahrain, using any of those three original-style systems and filling them with modern R134a refrigerant is unlikely to keep you cool in that heat, even if you update them with a modern compressor, parallel flow condenser, and big fan. Using R12 (Freon) instead of R134a would help. You might want to look here on the FAQ for posts from folks who have used modern evaporator assemblies from ICE A/C, DTech, or the Vintage Air mini system, as none of those are covered in my book.


If you want it to look "stock," the ICE A/C console I believe looks very similar to the Clardy console. The DTech one looks somewhat similar. With the Vintage Air mini system, I believe that you're on your own coming up with a console and vents.


Yes, installing any a/c system requires punching two holes in the firewall for the inlet and return hoses for the evaporator, but that's not really that big of a deal. Keep in mind, though, that installation of a modern climate-control-style system like the Vintage Air mini system (with heat and a/c integrated in the same unit) is quite a bit more invasive than retrofitting an old-style system. The folks I know who have done it have had to cut into the firewall and into space occupied by the glovebox.


For a car as old as a 1600, as others have said, you do want to be certain that a) the block has holes for the bracket to hold the compressor, and b) that the crankshaft pulley has the inner groove for the compressor belt.


Good luck!



Edited by thehackmechanic
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Thank you so much guys for the wonderful tips and suggestions.


As most you mentioned I have to hit the books to bolster my understanding of AC mechanics. No two ways about it.


Rob, thank you for that detailed reply. I'll be sure to buy your book asap. In case I go ahead with the purchase, would it be possible to perhaps engage your services in helping install the AC unit?


All the best.

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