Friday, June 7, 2013

New Car New Mobile "Shack"

There are so many things to consider when buying a new car, but the whole time I was shopping for my new ride, I was envisioning my next mobile "shack." For the last 7 years, I have been driving a lifted Jeep Rubicon. It has been a great vehicle. I've put nearly 200k miles on it and never had a major issue. It was a radio-lover's dream. There were so many places to put gear, antennas, etc. that it now resembles an AWAC more than a passenger car. My new ride…not so much.

I ended up purchasing a 2013 Huyndai Elantra CoupeMy decision to buy a this particular car was a mix of priorities: fuel efficiency, warranty, and price. This car will run out of it's factory warranty just before my son gets his driver's license. When he does, it will still have a few years of warranty on the drivetrain, so… While those were major factors in the purchase, I would be lying if I didn't mention that it was the only small commuter type car I looked at that had a reasonable platform for mobile Ham communications.

I'm not sure how new your vehicle is, but flat surfaces to mount radios are scant on newer cars and trucks. Furthermore, flowing body lines and side curtain airbags make mounting antennas a challenge. So I began looking into ways to mount my radios, antennas, GPS, etc. that were wholly different from what I was used to. The Elantra has a largely flat dashboard. My GPS will live there, rather than semi-stuck to the windshield where it always decides to fall off during complex lane-changes at unfamiliar exits. My radio's go in the trunk.

This choice was different for me. While I've always had a VHF/UHF Dualbander with a removable faceplate, I've never needed to separate them. On this car, it just makes sense. By mounting the radio under the rear window, I will only need a few feet of feed line to the antenna (more on this in a moment) and I can ground the radio, mount, and antenna all together to the body and frame of the vehicle. I never had to worry about so much paint on my Jeep, so this will allow me to grind some away without alerting the XYL. 

I'll be performing the install in stages to avoid angry calls from creditors and allow me to perfect one or two bands at a time. This weekend, I'll be running power directly from the battery, fused on both positive and negative to the trunk. While I have all the panels pulled to do so, I will also run the seperation cable from my FT-7900 as well as a CAT5 cable for a future separation of either an FT-857 or Icom IC-7100. One last cable to make the run will be coax, to accommodate another external antenna for my BC-396XT, which goes just about everywhere with me. For this keeping track, I will not be running any cable for audio. Instead, I will be mounting an external speaker above the trunk in the passenger compartment, just like an old police cruiser. 

Once that is done, I get to the fun part. I'll be breaking out the Miller Passport and welding up a mount that will attach to the front passenger seat bolts. Yes, I know they are available commercially, but mine will be much cooler and manly; trust me. When finished, it will hold the face plate from my FT-7800 with room to mount a second (future) faceplate and give me a location to hang a mic and my BC-396XT. If I'l feeling extra saucy, I may also include an iPhone mount. 

The antenna mounting, will be a whole different game. For the moment, I will be using a Comet SBB-5 NMO 1/2 wave on a Diamond K400CNMO comet mount. Eventually, I will drill through the trunk lid, but I want to wait for a better idea of what HF antenna I'll need to mount before committing to something permanent. As I mentioned before, the mount will be bonded to the body and farm of the car, hopefully giving me a solid ground plane. 

So that's the plan. I'm curious to hear what other mobile installs Hams have done lately. I'm especially interested in how you have gone about grounding trunk lid antenna mounts. If you have anything to share, please do. Now, where did I put my welding helmet?

1 comment:

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