1 July 2016

Hot stuff: The seven worst vehicles to drive without air conditioning

As temperatures soar across the USA, few things are more irritating than an automobile without air conditioning – for most of us anyway.  We asked our social community to name the worst cars to drive without A/C, and it seems most of you appreciated the opportunity to vent – or at least crack the window and scream a bit – once again proving that misery loves company.

Take Dave Sanders, for instance, who wrote: “In my experience, any Dodge. The sticker may say it has A/C, but it doesn’t work. When you call Chrysler in Michigan they tell you it isn’t considered an essential function, so it can wait. That’s great in Michigan, but when you live in Phoenix and it’s 120 it sure seems essential.”

Just last week, Russ Sutherland wrote that the interior temperature in his Jaguar E-Type hit 140 degree Fahrenheit and he “needed welding gloves to hold steering wheel.”

Steve Organ complained that his 1914 Ford Model T is “way too hot. The fourth cylinder is inside the passenger compartment. Put the top up in the summer and it becomes 100 degrees inside the car even with the windows open.”

Sharing a memorable experience that he’d rather forget, Michael Gray recalled: “I drove a black J20 Jeep pickup (without A/C) pulling an enclosed car trailer from Sacramento, Calif., south across the desert to Mesa, Ariz., and on to St. Louis in July. Torture. And it was just to help a friend.” We noticed that Gray didn’t write “ex-friend,” so it could have been worse.

Many of you made it clear that a summer drive in pretty much any car that lacks air conditioning would be akin to taking a steam bath in Hell, particularly those cars painted black and featuring a black interior. Then there is Rick Gerstner, who is either a firm believer in the power of positive thinking or serves as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer of his local Polar Bear Club. “I don’t know of one,” Rick wrote, trying to name a car that is annoyingly hot. “I hate air conditioning.”

For the rest of us, here are the seven most-mentioned “worst cars to drive without air conditioning”, in alphabetical order:

AMC Pacer – With its wide body and large wrap-around windows, the Pacer was known as “the fish bowl.” Marc Stakey has another name for it: the giant magnifying glass.

Chevrolet Corvette – As beloved as Corvettes are, you offered multiple nominations from a wide variety of model years. It seems Corvettes with big block engines are truly hot. Mike Hobbs wrote that a 1969 big block “actually left second-degree burns on my legs.”

Dodge trucks – Who knew? Dodge pickup trucks from the ’70s don’t seem like an obvious choice for the too-hot list, but Keith Hamilton Jr. and Robert Evanoff Jr. speak from experience. “I had a ’78 Ramcharger that was just awful,” Keith wrote. “It was black and there’s a whole lot of glass on that thing. You could bake a pizza in it. No fooling.” Evanoff believes him. And he’s pretty sure where to put that pizza: “The floorboards get very, very toasty.”

Mercedes-Benz 300SL – The iconic 300SL is known as much for its cool-looking gullwing doors than any other feature. But once those doors close, the car is anything but cool inside. Dave Hutchison calls it “The EasyBake Oven.”

Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser – First- and second-generation Vista Cruisers featured fixed-glass, roof-mounted skylights over the second row of seats. Imagine scoring one of those seats for a long trip without A/C. Nicholas Iacullo doesn’t have to imagine. “My Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser is God awful to drive in the summer. With all those extra windows, the sun absolutely fries the interior of the car.”

Postal truck/Work vehicles – There should be a therapy group for anyone who drives a less-than-luxurious work vehicle on a regular basis. From postal trucks to armored vehicles to U-Haul moving vans to semi-tractor trailers, their drivers are overheated on a regular basis. James Logan posted a photo of a U.S. Postal Service truck along with these words: “No air, no heat and usually filthy… over 20 years old and overused every day.” Dylan Ray concurred in a big way: “An 80,000-pound tractor trailer in the desert states with messed up windows that don’t roll down.” Brutal.

Volkswagen Beetle/Transporter/Kombi – Apparently, if you drive a Volkswagen built in the 1950s, ’60s or ’70s, you get a little hot under the collar sometimes… except during the winter, of course, when you have to rely on an under-performing heater that finally kicks in just as you arrive at your destination. We really sympathize with Ray Miller, who wrote: “We once drove from Philadelphia to Guatemala in a VW Microbus… in July. That kind of sucked.” Sounds lovely.

Save us, Mr. Polar Bear!

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Mike BC July 3, 2016 at 14:06
    Try the Pacer wagon - even more area to allow sunlight to bake the interior and raise the temperature of the vinyl seats to "thigh-searing" level. :-) My mother had one, we called it the 'window wagon' or the 'rolling microwave'.

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