“This Car Is Air-Conditioned…”
“See How Cool It is Inside”
“Look At the Thermometers”
In August 1952, on a street in Fort Worth, Texas stopped a car with air conditioning in the cabin. Inside the car was sitting in the cool photographer and recorded the reaction of people at it.
In 1939, Packard became the first automobile manufacturer to offer an air conditioning unit in its cars. These bulky units were manufactured by Bishop and Babcock (B&B), of Cleveland, Ohio and ordered on approximately 2,000 cars.
The 1953 Chrysler Imperial was one of the first production cars in twelve years to offer modern automobile air conditioning as an option, following tentative experiments by Packard in 1940 and Cadillac in 1941. Walter Chrysler had seen to the invention of Airtemp air conditioning in the 1930s for the Chrysler Building, and had offered it on cars in 1941-42, and again in 1951-52.
The Airtemp was more advanced than rival automobile air conditioners by 1953. It was operated by a single switch on the dashboard marked with low, medium, and high positions. As the highest capacity unit available at that time, the system was capable of quickly cooling the passenger compartment and also reducing humidity, dust, pollen, and tobacco smoke. The system drew in more outside air than contemporary systems; thus, reducing the staleness associated with automotive air conditioning at the time. Instead of plastic tubes mounted on the rear window package shelf as on GM cars, small ducts directed cool air toward the ceiling of the car where it filtered down around the passengers instead of blowing directly on them, a feature that modern cars have lost.
Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile added air conditioning as an option on some of their models in the 1953 model year. All of these Frigidaire systems used separate engine and trunk mounted components.
In a 1971 front-page story, the New York Times implicated air-conditioning in the death of the convertible, postulating that: “In the age of air-conditioning, real air has lost its value.” Today, more than 99 percent of all new cars are air-conditioned.