Rock River Valley Chapter Studebaker Drivers Club
Studebaker and Other Automotive Trivia
   Home      Automotive Firsts      First Air Conditioning
The Packard Motor Car Company was the first automobile manufacturer to build air conditioners into its cars, beginning in late 1939 (at the start of the 1940 model year).  These air conditioners were optional, and cost US $274 (equivalent to about US $4,000 in 2007).  The system took up half of the entire trunk space, was not very efficient, and had no thermostat or independent shut-off mechanism.  The option was discontinued after 1941.
The 1953 Chrysler Imperial was the first production car in twelve years to actually have automobile air conditioning, following tentative experiments by Packard in 1940 and Cadillac in 1941. In actually installing optional Airtemp air conditioning units to its Imperials in 1953, Chrysler beat Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile which added air conditioning as an option in the 1953 model year.
In 1954 the Nash Ambassador was the first American automobile to have a front-end, fully integrated heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system.  The Nash-Kelvinator corporation used its experience in refrigeration to introduce the automobile industry's first compact and affordable, single-unit heating and air conditioning system optional for its Nash models.  This was the first mass market system with controls on the dash and an electric clutch.  This first true refrigerated air conditioner system was also compact and easily serviceable with all of its components installed under the hood or in the cowl area.