From buffalo coats to dual-zone control

By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine

You have to understand that I am fascinated by old things, and particularly anything mechanical or mobile. My kids frequently remind me that I’m turning into a mobile old thing myself, but that aside, I love old cars or strolling through a museum packed with small town artifacts. I grew up with parents who would spend a Sunday investigating ruins of some farmhouse from the Revolutionary era, and I enjoyed trying to picture the day to day life of the village miller or smithy.

While I certainly appreciate all the niceties of modern life, I’m intrigued by glimpsing the past and always wonder what it was like in that era. Hand me an old magazine, newspaper or photo album and I’ll disappear for hours. Imagine waiting days for the general store to receive its next shipment via the canal barge, or a fire company pulling a steam powered pump with horses. Can you run a pedal sewing machine? How could the stone mason cut two surfaces so perfect that no mortar was needed?

Life was different in other days, and the advent of the horseless carriage was seen by some as a sign of salvation and by others as the work of the devil. Many hold similar positions today, but  how far we’ve come!

Gene D.  Dickirson’s new book, Automotive Climate Control – 116 years of Progress, lets us in on the salvation side, documenting vehicle heating and cooling technologies from the very early days of charcoal-fired foot heaters right through the end of 2011 and the advent of R-1234yf.

The author, with an engineering career history at Ford Motor Company, also follows the development of engine coolant technology and the development of windshield wipers and washers, making the reasonable case that both are also essential to “controlling” the climate.
A large part of this book’s appeal is that the story is told only briefly in words, with the bulk of several hundred pages presenting historic timelines through the advertising and printed matter of the day. We also meet a lot of old friends and are reminded that Motor, Motor Age, Bosch, Trico and many other companies have been here for a long time.

In 1902, the well dressed motorist required both a complete “rain apron” and often either a heavy lap blanket or top-to-toe fur driving outfit due to the lack of both roof and windshield.


In a day when $20 was a lot of money, heaters could be added to your new car as an option, often for under $10.  (“Won’t burn your shoes! Fume proof!”)


The author has done a remarkable job of collecting and sorting hundreds of photos, clippings, technical and parts manuals and other sources to present a unique view of where the mobile HVAC industry started and how it became today’s high-technology field. The pictures tell the story well, from the earliest days of giant compressors and evaporators in the trunk through today’s shoebox size units and gas charges under a pound.


The pictures are informative, nostalgic, and insightful in equal measure, and every reader will have several “Wow, I didn’t know that” moments. It will also make you wonder what’s ahead. If nothing else, the book is a wonderful ride on the time train through each era of automotive history right up through today’s electronic and solid state systems.

Automotive Climate Control – 116 years of Progress is available now in paperback through the publisher at, and also soon via Amazon and other on-line vendors.


The Mobile Air Conditioning Society’s blog has been honored as the best business to business blog in the Automotive Aftermarket by the Automotive Communications Awards and the Car Care Council Women’s Board!

When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.

If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.

You can E-mail us at or visit to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.

The 33rd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Training Conference and Trade Show, Be the Best of the Best will take place February 7-9, 2013 at the Caribe Royale, Orlando, FL.


About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues.
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