I earned my Technician Class Amateur Radio license in 1995 and then upgraded to a General Class license in 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. Technologies, such as D-STAR and System Fusion, 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 using D-STAR. My HF radio provides the ability to communicate worldwide via “sky waves” enabled by the atmosphere.
Related to the ID-5100A, I added a DV-Mega to give me private access to the D-STAR network. The DV-Mega is a mezzanine circuit board with a 70-cm transceiver that fits in a Raspberry Pi3 (RPi3) microcomputer. Rather than the Pi-Star image, I chose to run an older image, called “D-STAR Commander,” which allows me to use RF commands to execute various D-STAR and RPi3 functions. I use an Orbic Speed 5G hotspot and a direct ethernet connection to provide internet access to the RPi3. With an internet connection, the digital signal from my ID-5100A is received by the DV-Mega and sent to other D-STAR stations worldwide via the D-STAR network.
Let’s face it: Most of our friends, family, and acquaintances are NOT into ham radio. When convoying in two separate cars, it’s fairly convenient to just use cell phones for short discussions. But, for groups of three or more cars, the ability to have group discussions or convey directions is fantastic. That’s where the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) band shines. GMRS shares some frequencies with the Family Radio Service (FRS) bands. However, GMRS allows the use of external antennas and more power, which greatly extends the range of communication. I have a Midland MXT275 15-watt GMRS radio installed. It features an “all-in-handset” control head. I mounted its chassis under the driver’s seat. Update: Midland has released the MXT575, which outputs up to 50 watts. I have not “upgraded” since GMRS is not a primary communications tool for me. But it’s an option.
Since I also have a GMRS radio, I chose wide-band antennas that work on 2m, 70cm, and GMRS. My primary antenna is a 19-inch Tram BR-179. It’s just a 1/4-wave antenna, but it’s also discrete. When I want better performance, I mount a 40-inch Comet CA-2X4SRNMO, which is a 5/8-wave antenna. I’ve shared a photo in the album below. Both antennas are wide-banded and work well between 140-160 MHz and 435-465 MHz. The CA-2X4SR’s primary drawback is excessive noise at highway speeds. I’m limited to a 1/2-wave Comet SBB-5NMO ham-only antenna if I have a rooftop cargo box mounted. I created a solution that allows me to mount it to my roof rack so that it can coexist with the cargo box (photo below). However, that mount can use only “no ground plane” antennas.
Connecting three transceivers to a single antenna port is where things get a little tricky. An antenna switch is the simple solution for sharing a single antenna with the ID-5100A and GMRS radios. But that would cut-off the the ham radio on the rare occasion that I want to use GMRS. Instead, since 70cm and GMRS are both UHF frequencies, I use diplexers so that I can still use 2m/VHF while connected to my GMRS radio. The two CF-4160’s split the VHF and UHF signals, send UHF to an antenna switch near the driver’s seat (selects between 70cm and GMRS), and then recombines the VHF/UHF signals before routing to a CF-706A that’s on the backside of this panel (the red marking is the output to the antenna). The CF-706A adds 6m to the mix. I work only 6m from the roof. All lower frequencies go to a Scorpion antenna, described below. See a video about this diplexer arrangement here.
My Scorpion SA-680 Black Widow is one antenna that stands above them all, literally. I chose an antenna that can handle full legal power, has excellent adjacent frequency rejection, and stands up to abuse. The SA-680 is arguably the best mobile HF antenna that money can buy. It’s expensive, but should last a lifetime. In fact, it has a LIFETIME warranty! I’m using a 35-inch, 12-spoke capacitance hat by W8UZZ, which increases antenna efficiency and allows me to extend less coil. My mounting position isn’t ideal, but it was the best to satisfy my desire for a temporary solution so that my “hot hatch” could maintain its sleek appearance when I’m not using the HF rig. So far, my most distant contact was to Slovenia, over 4500 miles (7200 km) away. I’m tempted to install a 500-watt amplifier. Perhaps that will give me just a tad more “punch” to be heard in the distance. But pulling an additional 80 amps through my car’s electrical system would possibly introduce a new set of challenges. I can work 17-80 meters with the W8UZZ caphat. I install the 67″ whip when I want to work 10-15 meters. I cannot work 6m with the Scorpion. So, I have a Comet CF-360B to send 6m signals to the roof. See my latest Scorpion video here.
My last piece of communications equipment is something that’s not often found on passenger cars: a WeBoost Drive 4G-X OTR cellular signal booster. This particular model is designed for over-the-road trucks. It is also popular with RVs and overlanders. I figured “Why not a passenger car that travels on remote roads?” The WeBoost places an antenna outside the car, a high-gain antenna in this case, brings the signal inside for amplification, and then retransmits through a smaller antenna inside the car. It does the opposite with signals from my phone inside the car. It can make the difference between no signal in the car and a good signal in some areas. With the antenna shared here, I limit myself to using it when I have a cargo rack mounted. But I also have a smaller antenna that I leave mounted full time. You may have noticed it in the photo of the EM-MG11006-SP mount, shown a few paragraphs up.
The photo album below may show installation details that were not evident above, namely the 100-Ah lithium battery that I built and its DC-DC charger, both of which enable me to run my transceivers for extended periods while parked. I’ve shared details about the battery on my 12V power distribution network page. I have addressed the physical attributes of the electronics panel and my subwoofer upgrade on separate pages, too. 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.