Cold Comfort: Firestone Thermador Car Cooler (Evaporative “Swamp Cooler”)

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(first posted 7/1/2014)    I’ve been hoping to find a vintage automotive “swamp cooler” for quite a while, since I remember these so well from our annual trips to Colorado. And it’s on a ’66 F-100, no less. And at an antique plane show, even. Maybe later… But let’s take a quickie look at the way to keep cool before air conditioning, provided you lived in the western half of the country.

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The technology of an evaporative cooler was certainly simple and reliable enough: A canister with a ram tube, some kind of pad of porous material, and a reservoir of about a gallon of water to keep the pad wet. The cool air was then routed into the interior. The drier the air, the better they worked, so they were particularly popular in the South West. I’m not sure where the cut-off point was in their sales; Nebraska or Kansas, maybe?

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There were several main manufacturers, and Thermador was one of the biggest. This one is Firestone branded, undoubtedly sold through their one-time huge chain of stores.

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These swamp coolers were first made in the 30s, and finally petered out in the late 60s or so, although one can still buy new ones for that typical overdone look, with every available and conceivable accessory that so many restored old cars sport.

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How jealous we were whenever we saw a car with one of these strapped to its side window. It was not to be…