Ford’s MagicAire System


By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Editor

In preparation for the September issue, the staff at ACTION™ checks out many classic cars. We’d really like to find some of the earliest examples of factory or aftermarket air conditioning, but are always happy to find some unique or custom HVAC setup, or something we haven’t seen for a while.

Along the road on this quest, we met up with John Posen, owner of this 1957 Ford Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird was one of Ford’s most popular models for 1957

The Thunderbird was one of Ford’s most popular models for 1957

This car doesn’t have an air conditioning system, but it does have an early example of another feature which eventually became standard on almost every vehicle worldwide. Ford called this their MagicAire System, which included a feature known as Recirculated Air Heat.

The idea was to keep out odor contaminated air and fumes from heavy traffic or other outside sources. On the system control panel, the lower knob has to be moved all the way to the left (OFF), while the top knob can be placed at the desired temperature. These settings close off the outside air doors, allowing air in the vehicle to recirculate through the heater.

As long as the bottom knob is set to OFF, the MagicAire System will operate in recirculation mode

As long as the bottom knob is set to OFF, the MagicAire System will operate in recirculation mode

Of course, there’s still a little bit more to it than that. Almost every vehicle back then also had some sort of direct venting. It works as ram air, forcing ventilation while driving at speed. This model Thunderbird has two cowl side vents, one on each side of the car just forward of the doors. In order for the MagicAire System’s recirculation to work properly, these vents must be closed.

The cowl side vent is the rectangular shape, seen just forward of the door

The cowl side vent is the rectangular shape, seen just forward of the door

The cowl side vent controls are located under each side of the dash and are part of the cowl vent assembly. It’s a simple open/closed control. The more you open the vent, the more air you allow to enter the vehicle.

The passenger’s side interior cowl vent

The passenger’s side interior cowl vent

The driver’s side exterior cowl vent. A simple mesh screen prevents debris from entering the vehicle

The driver’s side exterior cowl vent. A simple mesh screen prevents debris from entering the vehicle

Keep an eye out for the next edition of MACS ACTION™ Magazine. September is our classic car issue, featuring some interesting vehicles you won’t want to miss! Visit www.macsw.org to learn more!

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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. www.macsw.org
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