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How automotive air conditioning went from miraculous to mundane

It was at exactly this time of year in the late 1970s when my family embarked on our longest-ever road trip from our home in New York state to visit relatives in Louisiana. We drove our Plymouth Satellite station wagon, which had the sticky summer combination of vinyl seats and no A/C. The trip took us four days, because by late afternoon my mother and my sister would be complaining so much that we’d have to stop driving and search for a motel with air conditioning and a pool ...


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While I was in the Army in the early '70's and stationed in Louisiana, one of my platoon soldiers bought a lightly used Beetle from it's elderly first owner. Unbelievably, it had A/C and it cooled and dehumidified the cabin very well. Unfortunately, when it was on, one was limited to 45 MPH in 3rd gear, even downhill. And I think the signs are still on I-15 in California near Baker saying "Steep grade. Turn off AC next 5 miles."

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