Hi JWA. Thanks for the detailed reply and pictures and also the offer to chat with me directly if need be. I think that all of this is totally helpful. I just had a few follow on points that I wanted to mention after going through the whole thread:
1) your suggested parts would be a cheaper alternative to the max cold setup where they made you buy both the vacuum actuator valve and the switch to fire the valve? Am I seeing that correctly?
2) Midway through this thread you mentioned a purely electric solenoid valve at this site: http://www.electricsolenoidvalves.co...alves-n-o.html
. They are still for sale so I was wondering if you had finally ever used them in your setup? They are $60 without the barbed fittings so probably another $10 for those and would be double what your setup using the vacuum based valve but still 1/2 the cost of the max cold setup at like $120. It seems to me that this is a more elegant setup (if the valve holds up to the heat) since all you have to do is wire in a switch.
3) In your explanation of the OEM hose, I wanted to make sure I'm clear. Earlier in the thread, you mentioned to one of the posters that this hose was one piece in the OEM world but that due to the removal of the rear heater or some other aspect, the hose was split and this plastic fitting was put in the middle. Just to clarify, does the OEM hose from Ford come as one piece from the cross over to the core or is it sold in two segments with the hose coupler in your picture?
With respect to 1) above, your parts gets you a switch activated setup still associated with a vacuum valve similar to the setup on the max cold (or whatever it's called), but somewhere in the original thread, one of the posters described the color coding for the back of the control panel that allowed you to tap into the factory panel to activate the vacuum on the vent, ac, and max ac settings, which in theory would remove the need for the switch, but would force you to mess with the panel (if you're comfortable doing that).
I'm leaning towards 2) with the solenoid valve as a one part solution (plus a switch). I chatted with the vendor and they indicated that the valve's minimum running temp is 170 deg f as that is what temp the solenoid gets up to internally and they didn't see an issue with using in the car application. So assuming it's fine, I would get that valve, 2 male barb fittings, and the switch you suggested and install them in the spot you indicated in your pictures. Does that make sense?
AGAIN, many thanks for your time responding to my questions. I'm continuing the thread just to have all the info posted so others may see. And I can report back after with pictures on what I did, so future van folks can benefit from our journey!!