History of Automotive A/C:

A Short History of Automotive A/C

Air conditioning may be the best part of a long drive, especially in the summer months!Have you ever considered how great it is to have air conditioning in your car? To just click a button and have A/C on a whim is a dream. If you’ve ever had a broken A/C or ventilation problems, you know how bad it can be. We didn’t always have it this good.

In the early days, automobiles were open-bodied and exposed to the air so they didn’t need ventilation. However, it didn’t take long to realize a closed-body design would last longer against the environment. In a closed-body design, ventilation became an issue that manufacturers set out to resolve. Some ventilating cushions were invented that might’ve helped a little, but were nowhere near as good as modern technology. Rolling down the windows is one obvious solution and some cars even allowed drivers to open the windshield a bit, but a more graceful remedy for sweltering heat and stagnant air didn’t come along until just prior to the start of WWII; well after the automobile was in mass production around the world.

Today we’re gonna take a trip down memory lane with some history of air conditioning in automobiles. At the end you can learn more by watching a 3 part YouTube series, or if you think you might need A/C repair service then give Tedious Repairs a call at (530) 826-4275!


  • 1886: For reference this is when the first mass production automobile is patented, the Benz-Patent Motorwagen.
  • 1919: The “Kool Kushion” comes to market, which elevates drivers slightly above their seat in order to allow circulation of air. This can be considered a crude form of A/C, but A/C nonetheless.
  • 1933: Ralph Peo of Houde Engineering in New York begins installation of the first air conditioning for cars. He files a patent in 1935, which is granted in 1937. His earliest tests typically involved limousines and other expensive vehicles owned by clients that could afford expensive cutting edge A/C technology.
  • 1939: Packard begins selling the first mass produced auto with preinstalled A/C. It is not a commercial success due to the cost of the A/C equipment- besides the expense of a car during WWII- and was discontinued by 1941.a 1933 Packard LeBaron. Quite a beaut, we say!
  • 1953: After a long hiatus as the tech evolved, the Chrysler Imperial becomes one of the first cars in over a decade to offer A/C as an option. It is much more successful than its predecessors and air conditioning begins to gain popular interest.
  • 1954: The Nash Ambassador becomes the first American car with fully integrated front-end mounted heating and air, a significant advancement in ease, AC repair cost, and efficiency. It was a notch above alternatives like those made by General Motors and greatly expanded the acceptance of vehicle AC.

By the ’60s, America experienced a kind of manufacturing and appliance boom that put many competing A/C products on the market, and not just in cars. The vehicle side of air conditioning technology grew hand in hand with America’s growing fascination with futuristic devices like affordable freezers, microwaves, and hair dryers, and by the ’90s it became essentially impossible to find a car without a new A/C system included.

Fun Facts From Air Conditioning’s History

  • The Benz-Patent MotorwagenThe Benz-Patent Motorwagen lacked just about every modern convenience including A/C, or even a windshield.
  • “Kool Kushions” are still sold today, although it’s mostly just seat covers now.
  • Be thankful A/C technology has come a long way since 1933. A quote from a piece about the First Air-Conditioned Auto: “The makers foresee the car of the future provided with A/C as standard equipment. In that event many of the inconveniences encountered at present will be removed, along with a decrease in the danger of suffering carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Chrysler’s Imperial used “Airtemp” A/C technology that was first developed for the Chrysler Building. It made A/C repair easier, reduced A/C service cost, and perhaps didn’t suffer people as much risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning, which has got to be a worthwhile investment.
  • The Nash-Kelvinator corporation originally manufactured refrigeration units and this gave them the expertise to advance auto AC, as well as keep their cost of production low. This made their “All-Weather Eye” auto AC products highly competitive.
  • There have been a few different types of refrigerants used in vehicle AC over the years, particularly as we became aware of the growing damage to the O-Zone layer caused by older refrigerants like Freon. To learn more about which type of refrigerants is right for you, check out our article about the Types of Refrigerants for your car.

Learn more about vehicle A/C

Want to learn more? As in, a lot more about the history of air conditioning in automobiles? We found a 3 part series called “The History of Automotive Climate Control” that covers the subject much more thoroughly. It’s an hours-long seminar given by author Gene Dickerson who wrote “Automotive Climate Control: 116 Years of Progress”, but if you want to learn then this is the way to do it.

Part 1 is embedded below, and the link for Part 2 and Part 3 is just below that.

PART 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRd8LcJPumk
PART 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0yass9Sxkc
PART 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EROb7juw9-8

Need Cheap Fast A/C Service?

We’re here to help you with all your air conditioner repair needs. We do AC recharges, AC diagnostics, AC repair, AC replacement, and anything else you need to keep your car cool especially in the hot summer months. Just give a call for a quote on AC service or if you have any questions about your air conditioning system, or anything else related to your vehicle.

Click Here to Schedule A/C Repair Service Online

Need A/C service for your car? Call us at (530) 826-4275 or Text (530) 828-3007

or Email us about Air Conditioner Service at TediousRepairs@hotmail.com


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