Though air conditioning is very much a commonplace feature on modern Cadillac vehicles, this wasn’t always the case.
The first documented implementation of any kind of air conditioning was way back in 1884 with the invention of “All-Weather Eye” for horse-drawn carriages. The system utilized fans attached to a carriage’s axles that blew air across trays filled with ice. In theory, the invention was solid, but not so much in practice considering it required hundreds of pounds of ice per hour to function.
Automotive air conditioning, as we now know it today, was first implemented on Cadillac vehicles for the 1953 model year. The then-all-new Frigidaire system was available as either a factory option or as a dealer-installed extra. The option cost over $600 in 1953, equivalent to nearly $6,000 today when adjusted for inflation.
Cadillac sedans of the 1950s and 1960s with air conditioning had distinguishable fresh air intake vents just behind the vehicles’ C-pillars, mounted on the rear deck lid. Air was inducted through the vents by twin fans mounted inside the trunk, where it would then be cooled and dehydrated by the evaporator. The only way to control the trunk-mounted A/C system was by adjusting a knob on the parcel shelf (rear dashboard, essentially), meaning it could not be changed by the driver while the vehicle was in motion.
For distribution, Cadillac models equipped with the A/C feature routed the air to a vent mounted on the vehicle’s ceiling just above the rear seats, but this posed somewhat of problem, since the tube used for this function obstructed rearward visibility. Cadillac was able to circumvent this issue by constructing the tube out of clear Plexiglas, which helped maintain a safe field of view out of the rear of the vehicle. However, one of the issues with the roof-mounted vents was their tendency to produce condensation, which sometimes dripped onto passengers in the back seat.
Eventually, Cadillac’s Harrison Radiator Division created a design that allowed engineers to move the air conditioning systems into the engine compartment. This change not only freed up space in the trunk, but also allowed the controls to be moved into an area where they would be ready accessible by the driver. The 1965 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was the first vehicle to offer an air conditioning system as standard equipment rather than as an option.
Cadillac introduced Comfort Control in 1964, which allowed air to be channeled forward to the heater core, thereby achieving a greater degree of interior climate regulation. Comfort Control mixed hot and cold air to allow air to be delivered at a specific temperature, similar to how today’s automatic climate control systems function.
Exterior fresh air A/C vents were eventually phased out in 1971 after a nearly 20-year run as a staple in Cadillac exterior design. By 1969, over half of all new cars sold in the U.S. were equipped with optional air conditioning, and as of 1977, Cadillac was the only brand under the General Motors umbrella to feature A/C as standard equipment.
It (almost) goes without saying that all current Cadillac vehicles feature air conditioning as standard, while offering heated and ventilated seats as an option. In fact, many Cadillac models today feature an air ionizer feature that is capable of (as the name implies) ionizing the air before it enters the cabin.
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