Did you have a working stock AC system before you upgraded the condenser/fan?
Yes, it worked, but not as cold as I would like. It came with a Sanden conversion but still used R-12 and was stock otherwise. I want the vents blowing ice cubes that need to be tempered with an open window.
not recommended as a primary condenser
I recently noted that, too. I do not recall that note being there when I made the purchase. If you think of using this unit, I'd call them and ask just why that statement is there. Remember, our cabin area is very small.
do you consider this upgrade to be a huge improvement over the stock AC system
Certainly no worse. Better, maybe.
BUT, and a big but, charging this system is a pain.
I can find no one that can provide a factory fill amount for a Pantera system using the original R-12, or obviously, for an R-134a conversion. Now, I could hunt down a good tech that fully knows systems and can just fill with trial and error and watching the gauges, but I enjoy a challenge and have been trying to do that myself. I've been able to pull a vacuum and fill using 14 ounce cans, but that method leaves a bit of precision on the table as to just how much freon I'm actually charging with (hose loss, partial can use, etc).
A while ago I obtained an R-12 Robinair recover/recycle/recharge AC machine, and just last week finally scored a virgin NOS tank of R-12 from a Craig's list sale.
Hopefully, between the Harry Homeowner and Honey Do list chores, I intend to use the new R-12 to fill the machine's tank and then start dialing in my proper charge. With the machine I can set a charge at 3 pounds, 3 ounces (or whatever) and it will automatically fill to that level. I can do some trial drives to judge performance and if lacking, pull it all down again, and try three ounces more, or three ounces more - precision I have not been able to obtain using the small cans.
And of course, I do have the upgraded evaporator sitting on my shelf that needs to be put in, and that will again require recalibrating the fill - assuming I get to the current system this season.
And if with everything installed and I still can't dial it all in, then I'll toss in the towel and seek professional help; but you know how we are letting grease monkeys near our cars.
So the final verdict on my system is still down the road a bit.
For you to consider now, I offer these thoughts:
Steve Wilkinson swears by the upgraded evaporator.
The firm that sells it (for less than the vendors) also has an upgraded condenser.
R-12 is a better refrigerant than r-134a. There is nothing illegal about continuing to use R-12. The only thing illegal is to manufacture or import it. There are firms that reclaim (probably from wrecking yards) and reprocess R-12 and sell those 30 pound tanks for about $400.
Most large towns still have a shop that will do R-12 systems. Try truck repair shops if none of the auto dealers still service R-12.
NOS 12 or 14 ounce cans sell on eBay for $20-$35 a piece. Same for Craig's list. I bought the 30 pound NOS, sealed tank for $300.
Stock system uses flare fittings. And has 35 year old hose. New 'barrier' hoses with o-ring fittings would be a worthwhile upgrade for a complete overhaul project.
A front mounted condenser does have some advantages. I did not go that route because I have pusher Meriah fans that leave no room for front mounting.
A proper r-134a conversion requires much more than draining oil, changing charging fittings and adding 134. You will find folks who say it really is that simple and it worked for them. To them I can only say, good for you - you got lucky.
And one other thing, if you are not a glutton for punishment and your check book allows for it, letting a known, trusted shop figure this out for you would sure be a less-frustrating affair for you than the road I have taken.