In ’80, Pontiac introduced the new R4 A/C compressor to some of its Trans Ams and Firebirds. Weighing in at nearly half the mass of the long-in-the-tooth A6 compressor, the R4 continued in the F-body line through ’92. It has earned a reputation as an unreliable design because it was prone to body and shaft-seal leaks, and seizing up due to the lack of an oil pan for oil storage.

Aftermarket replacement compressors have been available to consumers since the ’80s, but their focus was on reproducing the original, flawed part, without coming up with something better. Enter Classic Auto Air of Tampa, Florida, whose Original Air Group is dedicated to designing direct-fit upgrade A/C kits using modern R134a refrigerant (it’s no longer called freon!) in classic Pontiacs.

“There’s a growing demand for replacement A/C components for Third-Gen F-bodies, and ’80s-era G-bodies,” says Classic Auto Air’s marketing/product development guru Dan Acosta. “The factory R4 compressor has proven to be the most common cause of A/C component failure in Third Generation Trans Ams and Firebirds. Most of these vehicles had factory air conditioning, and many of them are in need of repair and/or updating.”

The factory R4 compressor has proven to be the most common cause of A/C component failure in Third Generation Trans Ams and ...

So far this year, Classic Auto Air has introduced direct-fit kits for ’86-’87 and ’88-’92 V-8–powered T/As and Firebirds. (Kits for ’82-’85 Third-Gen F-bodies and ’82-’87 G-body Grand Prixs are in the works; custom systems for these years are already available.) “In addition to keeping your vehicle worry-free cool, these high-performance kits reduce parasitic horsepower loss, which results in as much as a 5hp gain, and can safely operate up to 6,000 rpm,” Acosta says.

Classic Auto Air suggested its Stage 3 upgrade kit for the subject ’87 Firebird Formula equipped with GM’s corporate L98 350ci powerplant. Follow along as Classic Research and Development Lead Technician Mike Oliveras installs it.

Conclusion

Classic Auto Air says that the above steps can be accomplished by DIY mechanics, but evacuating and charging the new A/C system should be left to a licensed A/C professional. This particular vehicle took approximately 1.69 pounds of 134a refrigerant. The A/C technician must calculate the amount of 134a, which is generally 70-80 percent of the amount of R12 specified for the vehicle. That information is usually found on an evaporator-case decal or in the vehicle’s service manual.


Classic Auto Air’s Third-Gen A/C Upgrade Kits

Stage 1
Compressor upgrade, which replaces the unreliable and poor-performing R4 compressor with the dependability and efficiency of the modern rotary-style compressor
PN 23-261
MSRP $399.99

Stage 2
Engine compartment upgrade, which combines the Stage 1 kit with a direct-fit, high-performance parallel-flow condenser
PN 22-230
MSRP $699.99

Stage 3 (shown)
Deluxe engine compartment upgrade, which combines the Stage 2 kit with a new evaporator, effectively replacing all A/C components that contain refrigerant and lubrication, thereby eliminating any chance of system contamination
PN 22-230D
MSRP $749.99

Note: All kits feature brand-new parts, including model-specific hoses; compressor adapter brackets; an accumulator; a high-performance variable-rate orifice tube; a pressure switch; a serpentine belt; all necessary hardware; and step-by-step installation instructions.

SOURCE
Classic Auto Air
4901 Rio Vista Avenue
Tampa
FL  33634
813-251-4994
http://www.classicautoair.com