Attaching Displays and Equipment: More Details!

I recently shared a write-up about how I mounted my displays. A recent discussion prompted me to share even more detail. I’m asked fairly regularly, “How did you put that there?” Every make and model of car or truck has its own challenge for placing radio components. I prefer to use transceivers with detachable displays so that I can minimize how much real estate is used on my dash or other areas of the car. If you’ve poked around my website, followed me on Instagram, or watched my YouTube channel, then you know that I’m fond of Amazing Goop.” It’s an adhesive that holds well, but is flexible enough to avoid cracking or breaking, even in high-vibration applications. Best yet, it can be removed without a trace with steady pressure. Nearly all of my displays and microphones are held in place with Goop, either completely or with assistance. This article will share how I mounted all ham-related equipment, not just the displays. Continue reading

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Tower Trailer – Still a Mobile Station?

You may recall that I experienced a functional failure of my roof rack due to the extra leverage applied by its roof-mounted antenna tower. Read here for more info. Note that nearly any factory-installed roof rack is up to this task since they’re mounted with more hardware and attach to structural points along the vehicle’s roof. Having an aftermarket rack that attaches to a “naked roof,” I determined that there is no way to strengthen the rack in my particular application. Rather than abandon the idea of using a mobile tower for contesting, I opted to move the complete tower setup to my small utility trailer. It presents its own challenges, but also a few benefits. Here’s how I made the switch. Continue reading

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MFJ-1924 Screwdriver Antenna Controller

This review is way past due. I’ve had my MFJ-1924 screwdriver antenna controller for about three years. I bought it around the same time as my Scorpion Mobile HF Antenna. Later, I replaced it with an automated controller that measures SWR, memorizes antenna positions, and has a small remote control head. In the end, I felt that the tech in the automated unit was too temperamental in my particular mobile installation. It routinely failed to tune, had to be reset, or emitted annoying codes to indicate a problem. So, I reinstalled my MFJ-1924. Continue reading

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Mounting the Displays

I’ve been asked many times over the years how I mounted the various displays in my car. I’ve shared photos of a few setups on my other website and in YouTube videos, but I had not shared details on which mounts I chose or how they work. If I jump to the end of the story, I’ll say that the backbone of all of my mounts begins with three different mounts from ProClipUSA. They split their products into two main sections: mounts for your car and mounts for your devices. Find a mount for your car first because they’re not going to stock anything specific for your radio. The radio attachment will have to start from a different direction. I’ll go back to the beginning to explain my journey. Continue reading

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Roof Rack Functional Failure: An Analysis

Even before I had improved my micro tower, shared here, I recognized that something was not quite right about my roof rack. I couldn’t find any damage, but could see one tiny sign that the rear crossbar was not quite the way it was when I mounted it months ago. The rack was still sturdy; so, I continued using it for my micro tower and other antennas. Later, I opted to strip everything off my roof so that the car would blend-in while parked unattended for a week. I also planned an inspection. That’s when I discovered a hidden failure. Continue reading

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Improving the Micro-Tower

NOTE: As I built this improved tower, I noticed a minor deformation of what turned out to be internal rack damage. As a result, this tower now rides on my utility trailer. Keep reading to learn about the tower improvements, then learn about the rack failure HERE.

I ran my original micro-tower on and off for about seven months. It had been to Orlando, FL and Raleigh, NC for exhibitions, roved through seven Maidenhead grid squares for June’s ARRL VHF contest, and been through hundreds of miles of road testing. The setup is effective and roadworthy, but I’m always open to learning ways to improve it or make it safer. Andrea, K2EZ, a seasoned contest rover and engineer, interviewed me for a YouTube video. We had a good discussion afterwards and she recommended improvements such as adding triangular supports to the tower legs and raising the thrust bearing a bit to improve support for the mast. Continue reading

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2023 CQ Worldwide VHF Contest

CQ Magazine’s Worldwide VHF contest takes place each July and seems to get mixed reviews. It takes place only on 6m and 2m, or 50 Mhz and 144 MHz. Those who like to work the higher bands often skip this contest. Most activity seems to take place on 6m FT8, a digital mode that hams seem to either love or hate. I roved with 6m and 2m loops by M2Inc during last year’s CQ WW VHF contest and achieved modest results with modest effort, making just 35 contacts from four grid squares. I have my larger Contest Module available in 2023; however, my car was scheduled for a shop visit after the contest to address an air conditioning problem. So, I opted to run with my Compact Module” (pictured) since it was quick and easy to remove after the contest. Continue reading

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June 2023 ARRL VHF Contest

My plan for June’s ARRL VHF contest was ambitious: 10 grids and 700 miles of driving! I started my rove at Red Wing Park in Virginia Beach, grid square FM26. That park is usually a bust for me; and that was true this time, too. Blowing a fuse (my fault) only to discover that my spares were not in the car didn’t help with my operating time! Regardless, I need to see if I can find a better spot in the relatively small area that’s publicly available for parking and operating in FM26. If you’re not aware, ~90% of FM26 is over the Atlantic Ocean while much of the rest is either privately owned or crowded, which is typical of a beach area. Continue reading

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VHF Contests – KE4WMF/R

Since 2022, I’ve taken an interest in VHF/UHF contesting. My interest isn’t with sitting at a desk and contacting stations all over the world. Instead, it was natural for me to try contesting as a “Rover.” Rovers are not just mobile stations. In fact, some rovers use portable setups that are not mobile at all. Rovers, whether mobile or portable, move from one Maidenhead grid square to another during the course of a contest.  Moving from grid to grid allows stations to work Rovers as a new station each time they change grids. A team of Rovers can accumulate quite a load of contest points by moving between the squares and working each other after each grid boundary crossing. This is called “grid circling.” For now, I’m the only Rover within a 100 miles or more. So, advanced techniques will have to wait until I’m discovered and connected with other rovers. Continue reading

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Auto Desk Replacement

I assembled the components for my mobile digital amateur radio station in 2021. I started with a RigBlaster PnP by West Mountain Radio and a budget laptop, traveling with it sitting in the passenger seat when not in use. Later, I picked up an AutoExec Reach front seat car desk for a tidier look and more secure travel. The desk features a swivel platform for the laptop, a section for files or paperwork, and a large area for what eventually held my antenna rotator controller and a pair of RigBlasters (one for each data-capable radio). I made good use of the desk for two years, but ultimately concluded that it’s too bulky and impractical for routine use, especially for my antenna rotator. Continue reading

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Compact Moxon Module

You may recall reading about my Contest Module,” used for VHF/UHF contesting and exhibitions. It’s quite large, heavy, and impractical for routine use. So, I built a “compact tower” after being asked to bring a VHF setup to a group “Parks on the Air” (POTA) activation near Baltimore, MD. I wanted better reach than what my “Loop Module” provides, but not the commitment of mounting and traveling with my 75-lb (34 kg) micro-tower with 11’6″ (3.5 m) of road clearance. My new compact tower is half the height of the micro-tower and has just two Moxons, one for 6m and another for 2m, which are my most commonly used 50+ MHz bands. Continue reading

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Guying the Tower

I built a road-going micro-tower for my compact contest rover. The complete setup weighs ~75 lbs (34 kg) and extends about 7 feet (2.1 m) over the roof of my VW GTI. The overall height is 11’6″ (3.5 m), which is plenty tall enough to hit tree limbs on urban roads with landscaping trees. Less likely, but still a concern, is the possibility of striking a large bird such as a turkey vulture as it’s fleeing a carcass in the road. My “Contest Module,” as I call it, is fastened to the roof rack with twelve 5/16″ (M8) carriage bolts. They’re more than strong enough to hold the load; however, the rack’s crossbars are held with just one M4 bolt at each corner. Even though each M4 bolt has a tensile strength of ~3500 lbs (1600 kg), I wanted additional retention options in case the worst was to happen. Continue reading

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2023 HamCation and Raleigh Car Shows

February was a busy month for my car and mobile ham station! I mentioned last month that I did not complete my station overhaul and tower project in time to participate in the January VHF contest. The pressure to finish the job was eased, but only a little. I was invited to take my mobile station to HamCation in Orlando, FL to display it with Emergency Communications (EmComm) vehicles. With a plan to leave Virginia on the Tuesday before the show so that I could visit friends along the way, I still needed to finish the overhaul and make the car show-ready as weather allowed. Sure, HamCation is not a car show, but I still wanted everything to be ready for a good exhibition! Continue reading

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Overhaul Phase 3: Amps, Feed Lines, and January VHF Contest

I had shared that the amplifiers I was shopping had been on perpetual back-order since 2020. The supplier continually moved the availability back another few months each time that their expected ship date approached. I found another brand of amps that is arguably better. However, I lack confidence in their follow-through since they haven’t responded to e-mails or catalog requests, seldomly answer their phone, and their website’s pricing info is sorely out of date. As luck would have it, I tripped over a deal on a used Mirage B-5018-G 160-watt 2m amplifier at HRO and made a new plan. Continue reading

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Rooftop Antenna Tower w/Rotator!

If you’ve been watching my site, then you’re aware that I’ve been slowly building a VHF contest Rover. I’m documenting my process on my new “Rover” page. My coverage there is brief; so, this entry will share more details about the project. “What is a rotator?,” you ask. Most are familiar with vertical whip antennas, which have omnidirectional radiation patterns. Directional beams allow operators to focus their emissions in a specific direction. Some Rovers use a temporary mast that’s set up at each operating position and then pointed by hand; others mount a permanent mast and then steer their vehicle to point the beam. A more sophisticated approach that’s adapted from home equipment includes the use of a rotator, which is a motorized device which points the antenna array in the direction that’s chosen by the operator. They can even be used while the vehicle is in motion. Continue reading

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Electronics Overhaul!

I receive a lot of compliments regarding the level of detail and workmanship on my electronics panel. However, something interesting happens over the course of time as equipment is either added or changed, in this car as well as two previous cars: The addition of new power feeds, control cables, and coaxial feed lines often winds up detracting from my clean installation and can eventually contribute to a convoluted mess, especially in areas that are hidden from plain view. For example, the compartments under my rear seat delete have become catch-all spaces for leftover cable that I didn’t take the time to organize. Over time, that area has become a bit of a rat’s nest. It’s long past-due for an overhaul. Continue reading

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Eurofest Maggie Valley with Growing Comms Exhibit

A few weeks ago, I shared an update which shared recent amateur radio activity as well as my plan to attend more car shows with my communications exhibit. Eurofest at Maggie Valley, NC was easily the largest VW show on my schedule. Its distance from my home was far enough to warrant extending the trip to add other destinations along the way. I added a run on the Tail of the Dragon as well as three Parks on the Air (POTA) activations. My only concern about this trip was a weekend forecast with rain and thunderstorms. I decided to take a chance! Continue reading

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Adapting the Factory Antenna Hole to NMO

When it comes to automobiles and ham radio, there are those who will do whatever it takes to make their radio station operate at its best and those who will compromise the radio’s performance for cosmetic reasons. With my Mk3, my line leaned a little more toward radio performance since the car was older and had more of a utilitarian look. Here’s a photo of my Mk3’s “antenna farm.” I didn’t want to cut a hole in my roof; but the trunk lid was fair game since it’s a replaceable part. My GTI does not have a horizontal trunk lid. That left the roof as my only option with a ground plane. I’m unwilling to cut holes in the roof. Instead, I chose to find a way to use the existing hole in the roof. Continue reading

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Ham Radio Updates

I’ve been neglectful, but busy. I’ve enjoyed making YouTube videos and publishing every week. However, spending so much time making videos meant that the writing on my website had fallen behind; plus, the more time I spend creating, the less time I spend actually DOING the things that inspire content. So, I took a break from publishing so that I could actually DO some things. I’ve said it before: My content will follow my interests. Since 2020, I’ve taken a deeper dive into ham radio than I ever imagined for myself. I’ve shared some details on a dedicated page, but my subscribers are only informed when I publish “posts,” not “pages.” So, here’s an update… Continue reading

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My First POTA Road Trip

I’ve been doing a lot of upgrades to my amateur radio setup. The year 2020 drove many social changes. In my case, I dove more deeply into ham radio. I’ve been enjoying my local club’s daily Coffee and Radio Net,“ working a little HF, and building a contesting “Rover” setup for occasional VHF contesting. But one pursuit that I’ve been enjoying on a small scale is Parks on the Air, or POTA. Some hams love POTA, some hate it, and others are indifferent. POTA is not my lifeblood, but I do enjoy it. Continue reading

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