Argyle author tells how North Texans led the way on auto A/C

Posted Sunday, Jan. 05, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Argyle author Rod Barclay wants the world to know how three Texans made driving in the hot summer weather cool.

So far, Barclay has sold about 100 copies of his self-published book, “Boy! That Air Feels Good!,” a look at the history of the after-market automobile air conditioning industry in North Texas.

To Barclay, it’s more than just a look at car air conditioning, but how three Texas automotive air conditioning pioneers defied Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s to become industry leaders.

Barclay said he spent a year researching and writing the 165-page book, which was published in May and sells for $19.20 on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble websites. He delved into materials at the Fort Worth and Dallas libraries, and interviewed family members of the pioneers as well as folks who worked in the industry, he said.

The pioneers include O.B. Leonard, the Fort Worth department store magnate who started A.R.A. after a friend drove him to south Texas in an air conditioned car; a Lone Star Cadillac dealer in Dallas which owned Frigikar, and a Dallas maker of cotton gin machinery that started Mark IV. It also takes a look at Fort Worth businessman Holt Hickman, who owned SCS Frigette, and others.

According to Barclay, the three Texas companies began installing air conditioning units in cars within two years of World War II while it took until 1953 for Detroit to introduce ‘Factory Air’ in their vehicles. By that time, the Texas companies had already shipped 10,000 units.

The idea for the book came about in conversation with friends, said Barclay, 77, a retired mechanical and industrial designer. He now restores cars, recently a 1953 Studebaker and a 1953 MG TD, as a hobby.

The book has more than 100 illustrations, mostly photographs, he said.

“Dallas-Fort Worth became the world center for aftermarket air conditioning with over 30 companies,” Barclay said. “This book tells how these little companies learned how to work together in the face of Detroit’s marketing muscle, and how Detroit miscalculated the demand for A/C and the number of cars on the road without A/C.”

The companies made kits that were added on cars by dealers, service stations and other retailers.

A reviewer on Amazon.com said he read the book in one night, saying it is well-written, researched and illustrated.

“A must read for gear heads interested in the early days of auto AC,” the reviewer said.

It also received a good review in the December issue of Classic Car, Barclay said.

As for the book’s name, Barclay said he and his wife, Nancy, tossed around several possibilities before settling on the title, which he said is something everyone says getting into a car on a hot day and turning on the air conditioning.

Abbott attacks Davis on payday loan issue

Attorney General General Greg Abbott is accusing State Sen. Wendy Davis, his likely Democratic opponent in the race for governor, of hypocrisy after she called for a Cash America executive to step down from the Texas Finance Commission.

Davis’ statement, an Abbott news release declared, is “blatant election-year hypocrisy.” Then he went on to say that the Fort Worth senator voted to confirm the appointment of William White, the payday loan/pawn chain executive, to the commission that acts as a watchdog on financial institutions.

“Before calling for the resignations of those she voted to confirm, Sen. Davis might take a hard look at her own record," the Jan. 2 release said.

The attorney general noted that the law requires that two commission members must be banking executives, adding that White is filling one of those slots.

As for Abbott, his press secretary Avdiel Huerta said he “has been a determined advocate of transparency and ethics in government.”

Davis made her comments last week after White told the El Paso Times that payday loan borrowers are responsible for their own actions and that lenders shouldn’t be blamed if they end up with debt problems.

A recently book reviewer on Amazon, and a car enthusiast, said he read the book in one night, saying it is well-written, researched and illustrated.

“A must read for gear heads interested in the early days of auto AC,” the reviewer said.

It also received a good review in the December issue of Classic Car.

As for the book’s name, Barclay said he and his wife, Nancy, tossed around several possibilities before deciding the title is something everyone says getting into a car on a hot day and turning on the air conditioning.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718 Twitter: @bshlachter

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?