Communications

I earned my Technician Class Amateur Radio license in March 1995 and upgraded to a General Class license in March 2007. I do not have a ham station in my home. I have always been “all-mobile all the time.” My VHF/UHF radios have a respectable range with the use of repeaters and even the Internet. Repeaters receive signals from distant or weak stations, amplify them, then retransmit the signal for greater range. Relatively new technologies, such as D-STAR, enable an amateur radio operator’s signal to be carried to distant locations via the Internet. I’ve made nearly effortless contact with stations in Europe with just five watts and a mobile hotspot. My HF “multi-multi” rig provides the ability to communicate worldwide via “sky waves” enabled by the atmosphere.

I wasn’t sure if I’d opt to install my ham radio equipment in my GTI. I like its clean lines. However, the completion of the 12V power distribution network in the trunk, as well as my status as a tech-addict, compelled me to install my existing equipment when I bought my GTI. My primary radio is an Icom ID-5100A D-STAR radio, which features dual transceivers. The display is HUGE and very difficult to place in a tightly organized interior. I originally mounted mine to the center dash opening (see QSL card above). I switched to a higher position in front of an air vent a couple years later. After that, I moved to a side vent, shown here. The visibility is great and the GPS locks on quickly.

ham_dstar-systemD-STAR is a digital voice and data protocol with access to over 700 D-STAR repeaters in the U.S. alone, with thousands worldwide. Many are linked together via the Internet. My commute takes me out of the range of local D-STAR repeaters. So I assembled a “DV Mega” that’s based on a Raspberry Pi 3. Using my smartphone as an Internet gateway, the DV Mega allows me to use a D-STAR radio to use the D-STAR network from anywhere with 3G/4G access. I spoke with someone in Israel the first day I used my DV Mega.

I also have a Yaesu FT-857D HF/VHF/UHF all-mode transceiver installed. I don’t use it very often because I usually have a small VHF/UHF antenna mounted. My commutes are hectic and too brief to justify mounting my Yaesu ATAS-120A antenna and scrolling through the HF bands while in rush hour traffic. But it’s good to have the capability and flexibility to mount an HF antenna on the weekends to check band activity. I may also find a way to use the available VHF/UHF port for APRS activity, just so the radio is doing SOMETHING when it’s on.  😉

I didn’t want to drill any new holes in the roof or use a lip mount on my hatchback. My goal was to preserve as much of the GTI’s good looks as I could. I chose a Breedlove NMO mount and installed it in the existing “sharkfin” hole. Click here to see how I did it. It’s not as slick as the factory sharkfin, but it’s not too obnoxious, either. I’ve lost my CarNet and Sirius capabilities, but I never used the services, anyway. The Breedlove mount allows me to easily mount a variety of antennas, including small screwdriver antennas such as a Yaesu ATAS-120A, a Diamond SD330, or a Little Tarheel .

I use a Comet SS-460SB dual-band antenna, which is ~18 inches tall and yields decent results. Although I stick with small antennas for aesthetic reasons, I use an NMO mount so I can mount larger antennas when desired. I have a 38-inch Comet SBB-5NMO, a 55-inch Comet SBB-7NMO, and a 63-inch Yaesu ATAS-120A that I can mount, depending on what I want to accomplish. I’m limited to the SSB-5 if I have a rooftop cargo box mounted. I created a solution that allows me to mount this antenna to my roof rack so that it can coexist with the cargo box (photo below). However, this mount can use only “no ground” antennas. I can work with my DV Mega, 2m, 70cm, or GMRS radio with this antenna.

Why the draw to ham radio with the proliferation of the Internet and cellular services? Well, the Internet and cellular are both services requiring arranged accounts with a fee. “Big deal,” right? They also need infrastructure such as commercial power and cable/phone services, all of which can be lost during a natural disaster or “a major mess-up downtown.” With ham radio, I own the equipment and the communications medium (our atmosphere) is still free until our government finds a way to tax that, too.  winkyHams are always the first to establish communications when disaster strikes. Examples include just about every hurricane and earthquake worldwide in the past 100 years, even recent events in developed cities. I believe most stations are capable of operating without external infrastructure… at least mine are since they’re mobile.

I’ve shared a photo album below to show some installation details that may not have been evident above. I have addressed the physical attributes of the electronics panel, my subwoofer upgrade, and a sophisticated 12V power distribution network on separate pages. All are complex enough to warrant their own pages. Feel free to ask any questions about my rather unusual setup. See a video presentation on my YouTube channel.

Calling Mars,

Scott, KE4WMF

 

2 Responses to Communications

  1. Marc says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’m a ham as well and looking to install my radio in my mk 7.5 gti. Did you need to run power directly from the battery or were you able to grab power from the rear somewhere? Thanks

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