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MG MGA - A/C Installation

We bought our 1960 MGA Coupe in October and added A/C to it earlier this month - we live near Gulfport, MS where the summers are hot and humid and knew we'd never be able to drive the car without it.

We bought a Vintage Air Universal Gen II Mini Heat Cool & Defrost Air Conditioning System from eBay - this is a small unit that fits up under the dash and we were able to connect it to the defrost vents and three under the dash vents.

We used a Sanden 505 compressor and a 1991 Saturn alternator, the MGB bracket sold by Vintage Air for mounting them (modified slightly to clear the shock tower), a universal condenser and dryer and a pusher fan. We also opted for an MGB radiator and water outlet to give more room in the alternator/compressor area. To make radiator installation easy we swapped the mounting brackets between the MGA and MGB radiators so all six bolts are used.

We stripped the guts out of the MGA heater unit, used 90 degree turns inside of it so we could run the heater hose through it to the new AC unit. Not sure when we'll ever use the heater but it's there.

The MGA heater control switch energizes the compressor and the slide bar still controls the heater...switches on either side of the heater control panel control the AC fan speed and vents.

I added a small LED to remind me to turn the unit off before I start the car. You may also notice that there's two Choke pulls - I need to order a new Starter pull because the cable was too short on the original one after we had to reroute it.

Here's some photos of the installation in case you're interested.

Gene Gillam

Here's a view from the driver's side:

Gene Gillam

Alternator/Compressor view

Gene Gillam

A/C hoses from/to A/C unit

Gene Gillam


Gene Gillam


Gene Gillam

Finished engine compartment - note that we switched to an MGB bonnet holder also. The 4" hose that used to route air to the heater has been opened on bottom at the front to conceal the hoses passing between the condensor/drier and the compressor. It also nicely hides where they go into the passenger compartment.

Gene Gillam

And lastly, a couple of shots looking up at the A/C's not as uncluttered as it looks but it is definitely doable. The only things missing in this shot are the two heater hoses that also hook up to the plugged pipes below the fan.

Gene Gillam

And the most cluttered looking shot of them all...but it works!

Gene Gillam

Gene..that is a superb piece of innovative engineering and packaging...congratulations.
Is it a coupe?
How effective?
What does it do to performance and mpg when you turn on?
How tall are you? I need every mm under dash for my long legs .
Neil Ferguson


Yes, it's a coupe and it's very effective - at least right now. Our outside temperatures are in the mid-60's and I can now drive around with the fan on low and the windows rolled up. Before I had to have the windows down unless the temperatures were in the low 50's. Now what it will be like in the summer I'm not sure but I think it'll be worth the effort that has gone into it.

When the compressor comes on I can't even tell it - the Sanden 505 is very small and efficient. The engine has a 3/4 race cam but that's the only modification to it that I'm aware of. As for MPG, I don't know. I haven't driven it enough since the install to get a feel for it but I don't think that it will affect it too much since the car should be more efficient with the window shut than open.

I'm 6' even and the installation didn't impinge on me at all. I was worried about the vent on the driver's side and we were looking at different ways to mount it but when we tried it where it is I didn't have any problems at all. We did set the center vent back so your hand won't hit it when you're shifting gears but after driving it a bit I'm not even sure that was necessary. There's very little impact on the passenger side either...I can get in without hitting anything and I'm not the most limber person in the world anymore.

Gene Gillam


I forgot to add (or rather the edit didn't let me) that the under bonnet temperature is higher now. Before when I was driving 65 or so the maximum temperature I saw on the gauge was between 190 and 200. After the installation it was going up to 212 degrees...probably because of the condensor in front of the radiator. I tried bending the slats out to allow more airflow but that didn't drop it very much so I removed the slats and replaced them with stainless mesh. The temperature now stays around 205 at speed...I don't know what it's going to do in the summer heat so I'm investigating the use of twin cam louvers in the wheel wells to help exhaust heat when I'm moving. Strangely at idle it seems to stay below 200...fingers crossed it remains that way.


Gene Gillam

Gene congratulations the installation looks real clean and professional; well done. I also have a coupe and always toyed with the idea of installing A/C but never did.
What condensor did you buy, where from and what size is it? I couldn't find one small enough to mount in front of the radiator without cutting a slot in the lower apron.
Did you make your own hoses or are they stock items?


Andy 60 Coupe

Andy Preston 1

Very nice. With the race cam, how does that affect the drivability of the car. I assume this is a 1500cc motor. Does the engine lug down on steeper hills. When running at 65mph could you tell what your RPMs are. Is the car running its origional tranny and rear differential. And finally, in just a ball park figure ( if you are comfortable with it) how much was invested, in time and money to make the installation. And one last question, the AC unit installed, are they very rare or easily accessable , for others who might wish to install that unit. Thank you and well done.
Gordon Harrison


Sorry I didn't answer yesterday - too busy to spend any time online for once in my life.

I found the condenser on eBay. It was a "NEW UNIVERSAL CONDENSER PARALLEL FLOW 4 PASSES ALUMINUM O-RING #6 & #8 - 10" x 18" " and fits perfectly in front of the radiator. I think I made an offer of $55 and they accepted it.

The hoses were custom fit - hose ends and dryer were bought from and the fellow I was working with had the crimper needed. The bracket for the compressor and alternator also came from I mentioned above it's for an MGB but will fit the MGA if you cut 1/2" from the bottom of the bracket to clear the shock absorber. This doesn't weaken the bracket at all.


It's a 1600 engine and I can't even tell when the compressor kicks in. The Sanden 505 is the smallest compressor (or at least one of the smallest) and doesn't seem to lug the engine down at all. The RPMs at 65 were around 3500 and as far as I know it's the original transmission and differential however both were gone through about 700 miles ago. Parts ran no more than $1400. Installation took about 5 days but that included mocking things up two or three times, swapping brackets on the radiators and figuring out what had to be done.
Gene Gillam

I too have an MGA coupe, and I am putting AC into it. Mine has an 1800 cc MGB 3-main engine. The attached photo shows my evaporator coil mounting. It is behind the valence and front bumper. Its 2 attached fans are wired into the compressor switch. the whole thing doesn't extend down farther than the bottom of the chasis cross-member. I hope that this set-up will help with cooling.

Michael Whalen

M.E. Whalen


There's a guy in Florida doing A/C installs on the MGA who mounts them below the car also. I'm going to try to take a look at one next month when we're there for a show. I'll get some photos if I can.

Are you using the engine fan also or just the two pusher fans?

Gene Gillam

J Bray


I removed the engine fan, so I have only the 2 pusher fans. I've never tried this before, so I hope that it cools well and reduces noise and vibration.

M.E. Whalen


By dropping the condenser below the valence you'll probably be okay - if not you can always add the fan back.

If you can hold off installing your grill I'd recommend getting a baseline temperature with it off, then install it and see how much the engine temperature rises . When I did mine I wasn't sure whether the load on the engine from the compresser was causing the the temperature to go up or if it was air flow...removing the grill showed me it was strictly air flow.


Gene Gillam

Gene that's the perfect size and I couldn't find one that small. I did a mock up condensor which I made out of cardboard and found that was the perfect size. That was a good find on eBay.

Mike that's a very creative installation. I've seen something similar in one of the a/c retro catalogues so it should be ok. Do you plan on installing the front valance or cutting holes in the front valance?

Andy Preston


I am going to instal the front valence, and I may well end up cutting some vent holes in it.

Gene: the answer to the air flow problem might be using the wide-mesh grill inserts that Moss and some others sell to replace the original slats. Your advice to run it first without the slats is good, and I'll certainly do that.

M.E. Whalen

This thread was discussed between 22/03/2013 and 03/04/2013

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