The Lure of the Swamp Cooler

The Lure of the Swamp Cooler

I’m not sure what neck of the woods you live in, but right now it’s 103 degrees where I live, which is WAY above normal here, July or not. A triple digit temperature like this is so far above normal for my area that our house doesn’t have central air conditioning, so it takes a bevy of ceiling fans on high and a portable A/C unit just to make the living spaces tolerable. Don’t even ask how hot it is in the garage right now…

This ‘blast furnace’ like heat reminds me of the Memorial Day weekend drives to Paso Robles for the West Coast Kustoms ‘Cruisin’ shows that my buddies and I did from the mid 90s till they held the the last one there in 2007. The long drive down 101 at that time of year would often see temps of high 90s, and in a chopped ’49 Lincoln with no insulation and a 351 Cleveland motor nearly touching the firewall, it felt like 1000 degrees inside the car. Being too poor or too much of a purist to install proper air conditioning, I figured a vintage Thermador Car Cooler hanging off the side window would do the trick. Technically known as an ‘evaporative air conditioner’, but affectionally known as a ‘swamp cooler’, the tubular metal device would use a wet fabric to wick some heat from the incoming air, and blow cooler air into the cabin. There was only two problems with the device: First (and maybe my vintage mounting hardware was suspect), above 50 miles an hour the heavy Thermador would rattle and try to take wingless flight from my door frame, often putting dents in the stainless trim or scratching door jam paint. The second issue was the bigger one, or should I say hotter one? It only lowered the in-car temperatures by 5 degrees or so, which was roughly the same as having a big man with a breath mint blowing on your neck. Not much heat relief for all that effort… But it sure looked cool!


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