In the history of mobile air conditioning in Australia, there are two trade names that dominate early system design, manufacture and distribution. The most famous, worldwide, was Mark IV, and the other was AMC, or originally AMC-AIR. These companies dominated the Australian market through most of the 1970s and 1980s, and their destinies were mostly in the hands of just one man, Rick Pickering.
As a young man, fresh out of his apprenticeship as a telecommunications technician with the old PMG, Rick had found the little shop in Kings Cross where George Jackson had a display of evaporators from the famous John E Mitchell factory in Dallas, Texas. From this chance meeting, Rick ended up spending several months in the John E Mitchell factory, unpaid, where he soaked up valuable knowledge from their production line.
Back in Australia in 1968, he walked straight into the new MARK IV operation as general manager in a small warehouse in the back yard of a house at Kogarah that George Jackson had set up.
George and Rick knocked on the doors of the local Holden and Ford dealerships, offering to install air conditioning into their next new model, at no charge. They suggested the dealerships just loan them a car from each new model release and the Mark IV team would handle the development work, write the specifications and instructions for the vehicle and install the system at their warehouse.
By 1970, George had left, Rick took over as managing director, moved into bigger premises, and before long, he and his new team blitzed the rapidly growing Australian market for air conditioning in cars. Mark IV succeeded where others floundered because theirs was a quality product, backed by first rate service and warranties.
Around 1974, when Mark IV’s American owners started having financial problems, they sold off the Australian company to Bennett & Wood, a Honda distributor. They knew nothing about air conditioning, so it was inevitable that Rick would reluctantly leave company that he had helped to build, and started his own company in opposition, AMC, taking some key Mark IV people with him.
AMC became a significant OEM supplier to the likes of Leyland and Range Rover and it was a highly successful business until the car companies began taking air conditioning installation in-house with factory air. Rick saw that coming too, and sold the business, devoting the rest of his working life to managing a chemical company. AMC continued on for some years, but it was never the same without Rick at the helm.
Rick was a dominant personality in Australia’s frenetic air conditioning installation era, and for his contribution to the industry, he deserves this honour.
As Rick Pickering was unable to attend Wire & Gas 2022, Ken Newton received the award on his behalf and played some video clips from his interview with Rick during the information gathering stage of the Air Conditioning History Book project.