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Author Topic: Suggestions needed for parked station in a van  (Read 2727 times)
KJ6ANT
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Posts: 2




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« on: April 22, 2012, 12:15:17 AM »

Subject: Suggestions needed for parked station in a van

I've recently come into possession of an 89 Dodge van that I'd like to turn into a relocatable ham shack.  That means  I don't want to operate while driving. Instead I want to drive to favorable locations and operate while parked.

Instead of a compromise mobile antenna, I'd like to use a better antenna that I set up once I arrive at my operating location.

The target bands for version 1 are 20m and 15m.  For those bands a quarter-wave vertical mounted on the roof with a some sort of tilt-up base seems like a good way to go.  The base is permanently attached to the roof.  When I arrive at the operating location, I'd just slide the antenna into the base and tilt it up.  Minimizing the footprint of the antenna increases the number of places I can operate. 

I've thought about using a drive on mast with a beam like the spider beam, but as far as I can tell those take a long time to set up.  That might be fine for weekend camping trips, but if I can only get away for 2 or 3 hours during the week, I'd prefer to minimize setup time.

If anyone has any alternate suggestions, or hints on how to do what I'm planning, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks,
Art
KJ6ANT








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KB3HG
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Posts: 404




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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2012, 07:36:59 AM »

Your first  best resource would be to check out http://www.k0bg.com/

Tom Kb3hg
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K7RBW
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Posts: 379




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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2012, 08:40:50 AM »

Lots of options...

I have a similar rig that I use for kicking around.

1st  power: make sure you have enough battery to keep running and not run out of gas or battery. Running a 100w radio is like leaving your headlights on. Also, if you're going to leave the engine running, have the exhaust system checked out. An old van could have a leaky pipe or two.

2nd antenna: lots more options. At the low-end of the spectrum you could mount a 3/8" mag mount to the roof (as long as you ground it) and put up a vertical. My van works as a decent ground plane down to about 40m.

After that, you could mount a 3/8" antenna mount to the roof as a permanent mount. On an old van like that, drilling a hole in the roof is not a problem.

If you want to put up towers, you can get up to 20 or 30' with a trailer-hitch mount. Higher if you want to guy it (depending, of course, on the antenna and prevailing winds) . 2 10-foot steel conduit pipes can go together and go up in  10-20 minutes. Most of the time is spent futzing around with the antenna at the top.

If the van comes with (or you add) some sort of roof rack, you can go crazy with that.

My only concern with my old, high-mileage van is I'm afraid that as soon as I put a bunch of stuff on it, something expensive (like the transmission) will go out and it won't be worth the trouble to fix. So, I'd have to rip all the Ham Radio stuff out. (Of course, I've been using that excuse for the past 7 years. Smiley )

Have fun with it!
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W4JST
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Posts: 0




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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2012, 10:20:18 AM »

I would drill a hole (or multiple holes) in the roof for something like 3/8" mounts and use a hamstick or something on 20 meters etc. rather than a magnet mount.

Go to http://www.myalbum.com/Album=HLHAU4MJ

I made a hitch mount, this way it's sturdy, easy to remove, and I can use it on multiple vehicles.

At a low height, or with guying, I guess you could use a 3 element 10 meter yagi or something.

I use mine for VHF/UHF contests etc. and have had a 4 element quad for 2 meters on there, or a small 2 meter omnidirectional loop. If you look through those pictures, you will see an 11 element 432 MHz yagi at about 25' feet. That is the highest I have had anything off of it and at that height it started to lean back but a bungee cord was all that was needed to hold the mast straight again.

In a van like that, sometimes I'll just put a 6' folding table or a small table like you see in the pictures for temporary operating. For the radio(s) I leave in while driving down the road, I typically use the separation kit and mount the faceplate up front while attaching the main radio to the wall of the van in the back.
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 12789




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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2012, 04:16:52 PM »

A full-sized quarter wave vertical isn't a bad plan, especially if you can park near salt water.
I used to see an old van parked by the salt marsh beside I5 north of San Diego with a full-sized
40m vertical on top, guyed to the corners of the van.

It may still make sense to install a 3/8-24 mount to connect to the antenna - that would also
give you the option to use mobile antennas for any other band if you wanted to, and ensure a
good ground connection to the van's metal roof.

If you don't want the bother of getting out to switch antennas between the two bands you can
make a trap vertical that covers both bands, or even convert a 12 AVQ or half of a driven element
for a tri-band yagi to serve the purpose.

I've found that installing antennas and masts vertically is often faster and easier than tilting
them up into place (unless you can afford some of the commercial masts designed to be
used that way.)  For example, say you have a vertical of some sort that you want to install
on the roof.  You need a short stepladder that allows you to reach the antenna mount. 
Pre-install guys to the corners of the vehicle, which might include some shock cord if you
find you need it.  Assemble the vertical and lean it against the side of the van.  (This
shouldn't require more than one joint if you can carry a 12' piece of tubing in or on the van,
and you probably can adapt a mobile quick-connect fitting for this purpose.)

Clip the guy ropes onto the antenna at a pre-set point.  (Presuming you have tried this
out and gotten the guys set to the right lengths initially.)  Then stand on the step ladder and
pick up the antenna vertically until the guys are tight, and slide the base sideways over
the top of the van until you can set it down onto the feedpoint / bracket / or whatever.
You might need the guys a little loose (or the shock cord) to get the base of the antenna
up high enough to fit in the bracket, but with careful design it shouldn't be more than an
inch higher - you'll have to see if that adds too much wobble to the antenna.  Worst case
you could cinch down one of the ropes.  And start operating.


Once you get a support above about 20' or so, a horizontal antenna is likely to work
better than a vertical (unless you are parked by salt water.)  There are telescoping
fiberglass masts that go to 30' + and support a 20m quad loop of light wire that
will work on both 20m and 15m with a tuner (though the impedance will be high
on 15m).  You do need to tie out the ends to stakes or bushes (or a spreader
mounted on the mast) but it is a quick solution:  if the antennawire is attached to
the mast already, just put the mast in a bracket and extend it up, raising the antenna.
With a 2' length of pipe welded to the bumper you should be able to stick the base
of the mast in it and hold it up.


I take an old TA-33jr tri-band yagi out to Field Day each year, and it really isn't that
difficult to set up.  This has a 12' boom and I have to stick it out the window of my
van along with the longest element pieces (a roof rack would be better).  I use a
roof tripod for a TV antenna to assemble it, but you could make a suitable mount
on the roof rack.  I have to bolt the three elements to the boom and the end sections
on each elements - color code them to avoid confusion and make sure you can't
lose the hardware or you have spares.  I support the beam with several of the aluminum
military mast sections at 28 or 32 feet.  We put it on the ground using guy ropes, but
you could make a suitable mount off the side of a roof rack:  something that comes
out sideways with a 2" hole or bushing that will pass the mast.  Stack two of the
4' mast sections so the top one is through the bushing.  Pick up the assembled beam
from on top of the van and put it on the mast.  Don't forget guy ropes, feedline, and
an "Armstrong rotor" (piece of rope tied to one end of the boom so you can pull it
around to point it.)  Then pick up the mast + beam and slip the next section in
underneath.  Repeat until the antenna is at the desired height.  This will work with
any sort of antenna, but in windy conditions and/or with a beam you may want
the assurance of three guy ropes out to stakes.  Not that this is necessarily the best
beam to use, but it could be put up by one person without taking a lot of time.  A
Hex Beam or similar can be built to fold up like an umbrella with all the wires
attached so it is quick to assemble, and would be lighter to raise on the mast.

With some practice and advance planning you can put a reasonable antenna
in a fairly short amount of time.


Probably the best advice, however, is to start simple and get it working, then
continue adding other options.  You may find that some antennas work better
than others in different situations (desert vs. beach, for example), and having
several possible antennas may be handy when you are camping out for a weekend
rather than just operating for a few hours.

But perhaps that is phase 2...
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KQ6Q
Member

Posts: 951




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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2012, 01:02:17 PM »

A simple and effective solution for you would be to drill a hole for a 3/8-24 mount, and put a foldover hustler mast, the three-way adapter plate, and hustler resonators for the bands you want to use that day - 10-17-15, or whatever. If your want to work 30, 40, or 80, use just a single resonator, without the adapter plate.
when you park, you can put the foldover mast on the antenna mount, and with it folded, put the resonators on it. Since you've drilled a hole in the roof, you've already got a good counterpoise, and the coax is inside the vehicle to connect to the rig. You might be able to do the antenna hookup standing in the open side door, our you might prefer to carry a small folding stepladder, or you could put a van-accessory ladder on one of the rear doors. 

enjoy!

Fred, KQ6Q
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ONAIR
Member

Posts: 1722




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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2012, 01:12:38 AM »

Lots of options...

I have a similar rig that I use for kicking around.

1st  power: make sure you have enough battery to keep running and not run out of gas or battery. Running a 100w radio is like leaving your headlights on. Also, if you're going to leave the engine running, have the exhaust system checked out. An old van could have a leaky pipe or two.

2nd antenna: lots more options. At the low-end of the spectrum you could mount a 3/8" mag mount to the roof (as long as you ground it) and put up a vertical. My van works as a decent ground plane down to about 40m.

After that, you could mount a 3/8" antenna mount to the roof as a permanent mount. On an old van like that, drilling a hole in the roof is not a problem.

If you want to put up towers, you can get up to 20 or 30' with a trailer-hitch mount. Higher if you want to guy it (depending, of course, on the antenna and prevailing winds) . 2 10-foot steel conduit pipes can go together and go up in  10-20 minutes. Most of the time is spent futzing around with the antenna at the top.

If the van comes with (or you add) some sort of roof rack, you can go crazy with that.

My only concern with my old, high-mileage van is I'm afraid that as soon as I put a bunch of stuff on it, something expensive (like the transmission) will go out and it won't be worth the trouble to fix. So, I'd have to rip all the Ham Radio stuff out. (Of course, I've been using that excuse for the past 7 years. Smiley )

Have fun with it!
  The good news is that those old RWD vans are cheap to keep on the road.  My friend has an '85 Chevy van that he had the tranny rebuilt ($500) and the engine replaced from a wreck ($1500) and it now runs like a champ.
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K7RBW
Member

Posts: 379




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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2012, 06:32:28 AM »

The good news is that those old RWD vans are cheap to keep on the road.  My friend has an '85 Chevy van that he had the tranny rebuilt ($500) and the engine replaced from a wreck ($1500) and it now runs like a champ.
Indeed. And nowadays with gas over $4/gal, the gasoline is the most expensive part of the van. Sad
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KK4IKO
Member

Posts: 67




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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2012, 10:23:26 AM »

As far as the battery situation goes, check out dual charging systems, which let the alternator charge two batteries, but keeps the vehicle starting battery isolated from the other.  A deep cycle trolling battery would be a good choice for the radio.  These dual battery systems are used in bass boats, off-road vehicles, RV's, etc.  That way you only need to run the vehicle when the deep cycle is too low to run the radio, conserving your gas. 

The main caveat I can think of is you have to devise some way to keep the radio battery from charging with people in the van.  Maybe construct a battery box through the side of the van, with outside access and ventilation, and sealed to the inside.
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KJ6ANT
Member

Posts: 2




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« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 09:48:23 PM »

Thanks for all the suggestions!  Things have gotten super hectic at work since I posted this, so I'll be forced to start simple due to limited time but I'll post to the forum as I make progress. 

Art
KJ6ANT
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N6AJR
Member

Posts: 9793




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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2012, 12:41:07 PM »

A friend of mine has several small solar panels  rubber mounted on his roof to keep a second deep cycle battery charged for the back battery. he also has a switch to charge it while running from the alternator while driving. he can operate low power, for a couple of days from the battery and if it dies,  he has the car battery to start the vehicle.

I would put a 2m/440 antenna on the roof for day to day FM repeater use, and then what ever you want for  the HF side.  a big screwdriver, on a fold over mast, or a Hustler 5BTV  and a drive on mount, or something hinged to the bumper on the drivers side  that can fold down along the side of the van in transit and then pop on the antenna and stand it up when parked, . also make it comfortable inside  and  easy to use, so you don't mind  getting out and using it.

 I also reccommend you put in a 800 or 1000 watt 12v to 120 volt inverter off the battery, and use it for  ac power to your laptop for  logging, and even a pot of coffer while working.  110 v while mobile is handy , and lets you use all the normal stuff in the van  with out needing special 12 v cables and converters.  I'm just saying, I find it handy.
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