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Author Topic: What Car or Truck Would Make the Best Mobile Platform?  (Read 17108 times)
K1OC
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Posts: 68




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« on: October 22, 2012, 09:56:10 PM »

If you were buying a new car or truck, or a "pre-owned" one of recent vintage, what would you get if you wanted to optimize the choice for mobile operating, and why?  I'm talking about casual operating, not contesting or rovering, although some DXing within the inherent limitations of operating mobile would be desirable.

Recognizing that "best" is subjective and everything about operating mobile involves a compromise . . . . What would give you the best options for mounting an antenna, in terms of effectiveness but also ease of installation? How about mounting the rig?  Running coax from the rig to the antenna, and power and control cables to a tuner or tunable antenna? Power to the rig? Cables to a remote head?  What about the least noise and interference (or what vehicles would you avoid because they generate too much)?  Which are the best/worst bonded (or the easiest/hardest to bond) or provide the best/worst ground?  Any other factors you'd consider? Would your answer be any different for operating HF versus VHF/UHF? 

The vehicle would have to be reasonable personal/family transportation, in terms of cost and utility, but assume some flexibility to make mobile operating a priority.

Thoughts?

Thanks and 73,
Tony K1OC
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K1CJS
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Posts: 6045




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« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2012, 03:53:36 AM »

I believe that very few people would buy a vehicle with only hamming in mind.  Most buy the vehicle without even considering ham radio, if the questions asked here on these forums are any indication.
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KG4RUL
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Posts: 2737


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« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2012, 06:11:27 AM »

I have a 2010 Suburban with the following: Yaesu FT-7900 VHF/UHF; Yaesu FT-8800 VHF/UHF; Alinco DX-SR8t HF; Midlands CB; Uniden BCD-396XT Scanner; MFJ Programmable Screwdriver Antenna Controller; Ameritron Remote SWR/Power Meter; Gap Hear-It DSP Amplified Speaker; Lil Tarheel II Screwdriver mounted on the tailgate w/Lip mount; VHF/UHF antenna mounted on the tailgate w/Lip mount; CB antenna on magnetic mount in center of roof; Larsen NMO scanner antenna on luggage rack mount over front passenger door; Comet VHF/UHF antenna on luggage rack mount over driver door.  In my case, no kids to worry about, the third seats are removed and all the radio chassis, with the exception of the CB, are in the third seat, foot wells.  I specifically looked for an LS model to get the bench seat.  I removed the cushion and seat back for the middle seating position which left me a nice base to mount the gear on.  The radio control heads, the antenna controller, the control for the SWR meter and the amplified speaker are mounted on a finished piece of Birch plywood cut to fit on top of the console.  A 12VDC distribution box, utilizing PowerPoles, is in the console.  I also included a dual PowerPole assembly in the top panel for accessory connections, as needed.  All connections from the console to the radios exit the console along the transmission tunnel and are covered in a split, woven wire loom (I didn't want to bury them under the carpet and make them difficult to service).  And, yes, this vehicle was bought with Amateur Radio in mind.
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KC7YE
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Posts: 97




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« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2012, 06:42:13 AM »

My take is "modern" car/trucks have cured some of old problems but introduced others ( that I had not considered). My Subaru Forester works but has incurable noise from fuel injectors. As have well over 100K on her will be replacing in next couple years. Final check will be putting small HF rig and mag mount on car and listening to what's there. At least will drive sales person nutz !
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WX7G
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Posts: 6136




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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2012, 07:06:47 AM »

I had a Smart car and it's like it was built for mobile operation. There's a good spot on the front of the dash to mount a radio and it's close enough to reach without moving ones body. The car battery is two feet away under the passsenger's feet so power cabling is a snap. Right next to the steering wheel is a little cubby hole that perfectly holds a paddle for CW. And mounting and antenna on the top rear of the vehicle is easy and the coax can be routed through the rear hatch opening.

For mobile operation it's ideal but not ideal for driving.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2012, 07:11:42 AM by WX7G » Logged
N6AJR
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Posts: 9910




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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2012, 12:59:26 PM »

If you look up my call on QRZ, you will see my pickup.  I have 4 antennas on the roof and 4 more on the bed rails. I have 900m,Hz, 1.2g, 220, and a 2m/440/6m tribander  all on nmo through the roof mounts.  I have 2 more uhf and vhf  on the bed rail passenger side,  and a ATAS 120 and a DK-3 screwdrivers  on the rail on the drivers side.  in the cab I have a tribander(742) with the 2m/440/1.2g, and FT 857 d (all band all mode) a dedicated 2 m radio,  a dedicated 220 radio and  the bottom of the stack is a Motorola  900 mhz spectra.  I also  have a dedicated  APRS rig ( tiny track ?) with a mag mount when I want to leave my positions  while traveling on the air.  I also have an 800 watt power inverter so I can run my laptop and a coffee pot while doing some rover contesting. 

I actually Bought this truck ( used) as  a radio toy. It has taken several years to get it "just right"  but I do enjoy it now.

My reccommendation is to buy almost any pickup, use a small  HT to listen to the motor run  for static, and mount your antennas on the bed rail. easy to do, and for larger antennas  use  a line forward to "hold" it against the wind while at speed.  Any other vehicle can have an antenna  mounted to a rail fastened under the rear of the car and sticking out the drivers side rear , sort of like a trailer hitch.  bolt or weld to the frame.
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KCJ9091
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Posts: 0




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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2012, 02:37:00 PM »

Another for the Suburban/Tahoe family.
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20611




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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2012, 02:46:29 PM »

My first choice would be a motor home. Wink

Of course, they take more space to park than a car and usually guzzle more gas.  Not the most economical daily commuter, but lots of space and the antenna possibilities are endless.

Look up Gil, N2GG and see what he does.  What an incredible mobile signal he has.  Of course his antenna is a "trailing long wire" supported by a tall vertical mast, which he does indeed use while in motion.  He's stronger than many home station operators are from any area he happens to be passing through.

Art W6OBB always had an amazing mobile signal from his motor home, too: He had a dual loop antenna above the roof about 80 feet in perimeter (x2, since it was a double loop) supported by PVC standoffs.  Nobody using a whip, even a big screwdriver that barely makes it under highway overpasses, generates a mobile signal like that on the lower bands (like 75 meters).

So, for the ultimate in mobile ops, that's what I'd want. Smiley

Next choice would be a good van.
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KK4IKO
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Posts: 67




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« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2012, 04:42:13 PM »

I like my old (2000) Jeep Cherokee Sport (not Grand Cherokee).  Potentially better mileage than the monster Suburbans, Tahoes, etc.  Nice big steel roof for antennas, real steel body attached to real steel frame.  No battery sensors or other advanced electronic monitors to work around.  I have not experienced any ignition or other engine noise on my radio.  4WD goes anywhere.  I believe 2001 was the last year for the regular Cherokee.

Bruce, KK4IKO
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KI4SDY
Member

Posts: 1452




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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2012, 06:08:16 PM »

Make sure you take a magnet with you when you buy a vehicle so you know that possible antenna mounting locations are metal instead of plastic. You don't want to end up with a plastic car that won't be good for your purposes. We have seen that mistake recently and it will get worse.  Wink 

Myself, I think a pickup truck is best for the most antenna mounting options.  Grin
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K1OC
Member

Posts: 68




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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2012, 08:30:27 PM »

Great responses, gents, thank you! Lots of really good information and advice.  I appreciate it.  My purchase decision is a little ways off (I hope), so anybody else should feel to chime in.


Thanks,
Tony K1OC
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K0BG
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Posts: 9879


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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2012, 02:26:06 PM »

I take a different tack. You can mount just about any antenna on any vehicle if you're willing to drill holes. If you're not, then your choices take a sudden nose dive. Pickup trucks are popular because of the large bed, but nowadays not all of them are metallic.

Heavy duty electrical systems are nice too, and most trucks have larger stock ones than passenger cars. Ford and others have what they call Up Fit packages which include predrilled holes in the roof. They happen to be 3/4 inch ID, meant for signage (think taxi service), but are perfect for an NMO mount. Getting cabin switched heavy-duty circuits are difficult, but Ford and Chrysler offer them in their cargo vans. Interestingly enough, Ford's Up Fit wiring also includes a 220 amp alternator, and a breadbox-sized battery. Wait until about March, and you'll be able to buy a Ford Transit Van equipped with their Eco-Boost V6. Then it will become a real hauler!
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AD5TD
Member

Posts: 113




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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2012, 09:03:36 PM »

I have a 2010 Suburban with the following: Yaesu FT-7900 VHF/UHF; Yaesu FT-8800 VHF/UHF; Alinco DX-SR8t HF; Midlands CB; Uniden BCD-396XT Scanner; MFJ Programmable Screwdriver Antenna Controller; Ameritron Remote SWR/Power Meter; Gap Hear-It DSP Amplified Speaker; Lil Tarheel II Screwdriver mounted on the tailgate w/Lip mount; VHF/UHF antenna mounted on the tailgate w/Lip mount; CB antenna on magnetic mount in center of roof; Larsen NMO scanner antenna on luggage rack mount over front passenger door; Comet VHF/UHF antenna on luggage rack mount over driver door.  In my case, no kids to worry about, the third seats are removed and all the radio chassis, with the exception of the CB, are in the third seat, foot wells.  I specifically looked for an LS model to get the bench seat.  I removed the cushion and seat back for the middle seating position which left me a nice base to mount the gear on.  The radio control heads, the antenna controller, the control for the SWR meter and the amplified speaker are mounted on a finished piece of Birch plywood cut to fit on top of the console.  A 12VDC distribution box, utilizing PowerPoles, is in the console.  I also included a dual PowerPole assembly in the top panel for accessory connections, as needed.  All connections from the console to the radios exit the console along the transmission tunnel and are covered in a split, woven wire loom (I didn't want to bury them under the carpet and make them difficult to service).  And, yes, this vehicle was bought with Amateur Radio in mind.

So...... Where do you sit?

:-)
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WD5GWY
Member

Posts: 403




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« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2012, 04:53:45 AM »

I have an older Dodge 2500 3/4 ton pickup with a Cummins diesel engine. No interference
from anything on it. That particular year and the first part of 1998, they had not added the
electronic fuel injection system. So, it is extremely quiet. (well, radio wise, but the diesel
engine can be heard for 1/2 a mile according to my wife!  Grin  )
The only negative to those trucks is the top part of the dashboard. For some reason, they
tend to become brittle and break up. Dodge won't fix it either. (they will sell you a replacement
that is built of better plastic, but, otherwise, you're out of luck)
There is plenty of room for mounting antennas and radios.
As others have mentioned, take some sort of portable radio with you that will work in the
bands you are interested in and do a sniff test for noise from the vehicle. That will save you
a lot of grief later on.
james
WD5GWY
 
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M6GOM
Member

Posts: 945




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« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2012, 06:42:05 AM »

Wait until about March, and you'll be able to buy a Ford Transit Van equipped with their Eco-Boost V6. Then it will become a real hauler!

Nice to see you're getting one of the best vans from Europe. Shame it'll come with a V6 engine instead of the TDCi diesel which is just about better in every single way - more torque, better fuel economy....
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