Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Air Conditioning Part 2

July 11, 2013 Comments (0)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the Nineteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Putting it Back Together

In Part 1 of this project, with my assistance, Spencer Guder, of Spencer Restorations of Canterbury, CT, had disassembled the entire A/C System on the 308, except for the hoses running back to front through the passenger side rocker panels. These were detached from the original components but remained in place.

In Part 2, we put it all back together.

Beginning at the front… In case I didn’t mention it, the hood needs to be off because the radiator condenser assembly needs to come out. Probably more than once. Since we were replacing the rad anyway, we killed two birds with one stone and did the rad/condenser/fan assembly all at once. Placing the condenser in the position you want requires a little fiddling. The condenser has multiple attachment holes; you can locate it with zip ties and then fasten it with bolts that come with the condenser.

Radiator and condenser

While we are taking things off, the wheel well liners on the right side and the right side fuel tank also need to be removed. This means draining all the fuel from the center plug of the crossover tube at the bottom of the tanks. After you have drained the tanks and you put the plug back, Spencer recommends coating the sealing ring with a Teflon paste. This plug is a pain to take off and tougher yet to keep from leaking when you put it all back together. The air cleaner hose and fiberglass air pick-up tube need to come off also. My steel trunk lid is too heavy for me to handle. I believe newer 308 models have an aluminum trunk lid, and of course some 308s are fiberglass, so if you can, it would make things a lot easier if it also could be removed.

Old Fan

The original fans, though similar, were not identical. Things happen in 35 years. The fan situation needed updating for several good reasons, the first was that one worked and the other didn’t. Second, they were inefficient in electrical draw and in their suspended mounting application. They each weigh 2½ lbs.

We replaced them with a single plastic 16” SPAL pusher fan. Total weight 2.9 lbs. Thickness 2.5”.

Our supplier was The Fanman, accessible through the MMR Goods and Services Directory under Radiator Fans. We had no issues mounting the product or putting the whole package in place

Radiator Condenser Fan assembly

Next, we mounted the compressor. The new set up is actually easier to mount than the original because the compressor sits on a platform which is bolted to the block. The mounting needs to be shimmed with washers to properly align the pulleys and place it within the adjustability range of the belt tensioner. That is a trial and error job which requires patience and some strength to hold the compressor up from beneath so that you can fiddle with the washers and the bolts. Spencer has the patience of a saint and he did it all by himself. I encouraged him by watching, grimacing, and drinking sympathy beers.

New mounted compressor

Next came the trickiest part of the endeavor; threading the new hoses through the rocker panels.

The replacement hoses have fittings at the compressor end and a package of loose fittings which are meant to be affixed once the hoses have gone through the rocker panels and are set to be attached to the receiver-dryer and the condenser.

There is no room to pull hoses with fittings thru the rocker panel. Undoing the old hoses from the compressor, Spencer sliced off the old fittings. Next he threaded the ceramic end of a spark plug into the end of the hose and lockwired it in place. He then forced the threaded end of the spark plug into the end of the new hose which had no fitting and was meant to go to the front of the car. He lockwired that in place also. The lockwired spark plug joined both hoses, but more importantly, was no wider that the hoses themselves. After spraying all the visible hose with silicone, and me pulling from the front and him pushing and feeding from the back, we pulled the old hose out and the new hose followed easily. It felt like we had given birth.

The new hoses were now ready to be measured, cut, and have the proper fittings attached. In a normal, well equipped shop, we would have swaged the fittings and been done. In my garage, we didn’t have the equipment to complete the job. By the same token we didn’t have the equipment to charge the system either. Enter Rick Hennessey of Natick Radiator and Auto Repair. Rick supplied us with the older style fittings that can be mounted on the hose and secured with hand tools. That done, all we had to do was reinstall the rear fuel tank, a proper pain in the butt, button everything together, and bring it round to Rick’s to be charged. We did and he did and the system makes driving the WASRED 308 a very different summer experience.

This was by far the most complex project in our upgrading process. Here are some tips I learned from watching someone who knows what they are doing.

  • You don’t really need special tools but we found lock wire pliers handy. Taking pictures before and throughout the process, making notes and diagrams, really helps.

  • Assemble all the components you believe you will need before you begin anything. You will be wrong, but try. Then try to get it done in as short a period of time as possible. There are a hell of a lot of small parts involved in this process and between that and trying to remember exactly how everything goes together, it can become a challenge. The less time you spend doing this, the easier it is.

  • Remember that the kit is not an exact replacement and that you will need to be flexible in your interpretation of the instructions. Once you accept that, you are fine because it all works. And, probably far better than it did originally.

  • If your 308 is an older car (all 308s are older cars now) that has been screwed with under the dash to fit various stereo components, there is a strong possibility that the fragile plastic evaporator is at least cracked. When you take it out, I would say, if it isn’t broken or at least cracked you are lucky. I would have it reinforced anyway once it is out.

  • New R-134 refrigerant requires green O-rings and a sufficient amount come with the kit. If you should misplace them and need more, they are available at any NAPA store. At several of the places where the hoses pass through bodywork, the hoses sit on relatively sharp edges. We slit lengths of heater hose and slipped them over those sharp edges and then tie-wrapped them in place.

  • Wherever you buy your kit, make certain you are dealing with someone who can communicate with you and has the patience to do so. RetroAir was at the end of the line on more than one occasion and they responded quickly and professionally. Only call me if you are prepared to be disappointed.

Good luck!

Thanks to the following businesses for making this possible (as listed in our MMR Goods & Services Directory):

Spencer Restorations


Natick Radiator and Auto Repair

The Fan Man -Radiator Fans


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