It’s late August, the hottest month of the year and absolutely the worst time for anyone to get caught driving through Death Valley with their windows rolled down. So why in the last days of August 2012 was there a black ’69 Z/28 Camaro doing exactly just that? The official name was the Death Valley Challenge, and the concept was dreamt up by the folks at Classic Auto Air to introduce Restomod Air—its newest division geared toward the needs of the custom A/C system builder. A custom builder can best be defined as either the home DIY guy who’s fanatical about how clean and functional the work he produces is, or the high-end shop that caters to clients desiring a custom-built A/C system unlike any standard production unit. Unlike in the sense that not only does the air-conditioning system have a fully customized appearance, it puts out a heretofore unheard of amount of freezing cold air.
The custom-engineered Restomod Air air-conditioning system the company chose to battle Death Valley’s world-famous blistering heat with was a dual-air setup that employed Restomod’s top-of-the-line Haymaker mounted fore and aft. Interestingly, a decision was made to utilize the company’s smallest available sized Sanden compressor to illustrate the diminutive compressor’s ability to handle excessive demands seldom encountered in every day use. I rode shotgun in the Camaro, and can vouch the little Sanden never failed to keep both front and rear A/C units blasting frigid air. In addition to two Restomod Air Haymaker units flooding the passenger compartment with ice-cold A/C, the front and rear seats were air-conditioned. Not ventilated—air-conditioned.
It wasn’t planned to get a reaction, but European tourists freaked out a little as we drove slowly through Furnace Creek’s campground with the Camaros windows rolled down, and not a bead of sweat to be seen. The phenomenon of a cold sensation going right to the bone is known as radiant cold. Out on the highway, riding through Death Valley with the Camaro’s windows rolled up, we were chilled to the bone, even with heat waves and mirages rising outside the car.
Our test procedures weren’t exactly on a par with Consumer Reports, but armed with Fluke brand instruments we knew we were gathering credible data. To get a pretty good idea how well the dual-air system performed while subjected to extreme abuse, we drove the Camaro from one end of Death Valley to the other. Perhaps the most brutal test, we subjected the Z/28’s drivetrain and A/C to a route we learned of from the Viper test crew. Highway 374 climbs fast and hard for eight miles from below sea level to over 3,300 feet of elevation, where it reaches Beatty, Nevada. A lot of time was spent testing to verify how fast Restomod Air would take the Camaro from shutoff and cooking in Death Valley’s midday sun to starting the car up and driving off. It wasn’t all that long before the 145-degree plus interior temps were beat down with cold air in the low 40s streaming steadily from the A/C ducts. The Restomod guys named this portion of the test loop the “Beatty Beat Down”.
At the end of three long and hot grueling days, the mission to subject Restomod Air to the most scorching climate North America has to offer and come out delivering ice-cold A/C met with great success. In honor of such a fine occasion and just because it’s a really good excuse to get out and drive the wheels off, there will be a Second Annual Death Valley Challenge and everyone is invited. For more details, be sure to head over to Restomodair.com.
Under the Eddie Motorsports billet hinged hood is a Crane-cammed ZZ4 powerplant that’s backed with a 700-R4. Assisting the brakes is a Master Power brake booster and master cylinder.
Install Dynamat and Dynaliner first. An essential step to ensuring an aftermarket A/C system will do its job properly is to make sure the vehicle is thoroughly insulated.
A sealed box was constructed to isolate the rear Haymaker from ambient hot air in the trunk. Dynaliner covering ensures the heat stays out.
The Haymaker, Restomod Air’s top-of-the-line model features an extra row of heating and cooling lines. Restomod bulkheads, controls, and vents feature high-volume airflow characteristics matched to handle the Haymaker.
The one-off look of custom fabricated aluminum is how all Restomod Air mounting kits are made. Numerous holes in a consistent pattern offer infinite mounting options.
The somewhat evil appearance of Restomod Air’s logo is intentional. Note the rear Haymaker air intake is reminiscent of a ’61 Impala rear seat center.
Rear A/C means rear controls. Restomod Air offers three distinct styles all made from genuine ARP bolts and high-grade billet aluminum.
The front internally air-conditioned bucket seats in addition feature rearward facing vents for the back seat passengers.
The front vents are from the Synister line. All three lines, Synister, P-38, and Diablo, feature high-volume large-throat vents fastened with ARP bolts.
Next to Dakota Digital VHX Analog/Digital gauges: Control units, and firewall mount bulkheads are available in vertical or horizontal configurations.
At first it was a scary warning, but from inside the ice-cold Camaro’s interior the sign warning “caution extreme heat danger” didn’t seem to mean much.
There are numerous route options in Death Valley that aren’t paved. The dirt road up 20 Mule Team Canyon is pretty good if one doesn’t mind getting their car covered with dirt.
Twenty miles with the A/C turned off, what are they nuts?
The descent into Death Valley happens fast; here’s the 2,000-foot mark.
The Camaro was left running with the A/C on full blast while we enjoyed viewing Zabriskie Point. Boze Alloys, Master Power Brakes, and Eddie Motorsports played a strong part in creating the car’s exterior look.
The next thing you know you’re at 1,000 feet. It’s the rapid climb back up out of Death Valley that raises Cain with a car’s cooling system.
Well worth stopping to have a look-see; Zabriskie Point overlooks Furnace Creek, a creek that dried up long ago, and the title/location of a ’70 cult movie classic.
Here a visiting tourist from England enjoys a nice blast of ice-cold air from within the workings of air-conditioned seat cushions.
Superclean describes Restomod Air’s serpentine drive. Notice the Sanden A/C compressor is smaller than the alternator.
Barely after sunrise the Camaro’s inside temps began to rise.
After starting the car and kicking the A/C on full blast, it took about 2 minutes to noticeably drop interior heat.
With a half-dozen test Vipers lurking in the background, the ’69 was inspected for its final run. A preproduction glitch was detected and the offending prototype design corrected. Without exposure to Death Valley’s extreme heat this part would have never failed during normal use.
All the test crews from major manufacturers seem to gather at Furnace Creek for lunch. In the background next year’s models from Chrysler were so ugly the test crews locked on car covers.
While the Camaro sat at Furnace Creek, here are the Fluke thermometer readings inside the Camaro at 145.4 degrees and 105.4 degrees outside.
Out on the road it didn’t take long for the dual Restomod Air Haymakers to start blasting 43.9 degrees from the front unit’s ducts and 45.0 degrees from the rear unit’s ducts.