My “antenna farm” was once just a single antenna. Eventually, I decided to throw discretion to the wind and just go nuts with my selection of antennas. Here’s the list, which never seems to stop expanding:
My choice of antenna depends on how “cute” I want my car to appear. My most discrete antenna is a 19-inch Tram BR-179. When I want better performance, I mount a 1/2-wave Diamond NR770HBNMO that’s 40 inches tall. Either option allows me to blend-in without being noticed as a communications platform most of the time. Mounting the BR-179 allows me to fit into any parking structure.
I use a Scorpion SA-680 Black Widow for HF. It is one antenna that stands above them all, literally. The SA-680 can accept full legal power, has excellent adjacent frequency rejection, and stands up to the abuse of road vibration. I’ve added a 35-inch, 8-spoke capacitance hat by W8UZZ, which increases antenna efficiency and allows me to extend less coil. Mounting on the hitch isn’t ideal, but it’s my best option when considering my usual driving routes. So far, my most distant contact was to Slovenia, over 4500 miles (7200 km) away. I can work 17-80 meters with the W8UZZ caphat or 10-80m with its 67″ whip. I cannot work 6m with the Scorpion. So, I have a Comet CF-360B to send 6m signals to a separate antenna. See my latest Scorpion video here.
I started leaving my roof rack mounted full-time when I began planning a VHF contesting setup. I added antenna mounts to the ends of each crossbar to expand my capability. My new antenna mounts currently include a Type N mount for 906 MHz, an NMO mount for my choice of either CB or GMRS, an SO-239 mount for my ATAS-120A, and a 3/8″ stud mount for my WeBoost Drive Reach cellular signal booster antenna (not shown). The antenna mounts are attached to the crossbars using Yakima’s M10 T-bolt. See examples in the photo album below.
“Why an ATAS-120A antenna?,” you ask, when I have a Scorpion SA-680? I bought my ATAS in 2007 as my first mobile HF antenna. While it’s not the best screwdriver antenna on the market, it’s very convenient and a breeze to learn. Today, it’s an “easy button” for when I don’t want to mount the huge Scorpion. The ATAS also tunes 21-54 MHz, which my Scorpion cannot touch with its caphat mounted. As a result, the ATAS is still useful even when I have the Scorpion mounted. I use remote RF switches to choose between the ATAS and the Scorpion. The ATAS comes standard with a thin whip that bends easily at highway speeds. I replaced mine with a black Larsen whip by drilling-out the ATAS whip mount just a hair.
My last antenna is something that’s not often found on passenger cars: a WeBoost Drive Reach cellular signal booster. The WeBoost uses an outside antenna to bring cellular signals inside for amplification, and then retransmits through a smaller antenna inside the car. It does the opposite with signals from my phone. It can make the difference between no signal in the car and a good signal in some areas. Even in my populated area, the WeBoost has proven very useful for maintaining my connection with the D-STAR network when driving in low-lying areas with intermittent 4G/5G coverage. I can use either the large antenna shown here or a smaller sharkfin antenna whenever the roof rack is removed.
I have a vertical VHF Yagi setup that I use when supporting event communications from the fringes of my club’s repeater coverage. I use a PVC mast to ensure that there’s no detuning of the vertical antenna. The PVC mast is not roadworthy; so, it rides inside another PVC pipe that’s bolted to my roof rack. When erected, the mast is clamped within a Yaesu rotator, mentioned below. The end result is an 11.5-ft high steerable, vertically polarized 3-element beam that yields ~7.8 dBd of gain, or about 250W ERP from my Icom ID-5100! That’s a huge help at the edge of repeater coverage. I set up my ID-5100 for cross-band repeat and then access the repeater while on foot with only 100mA from my HT. Both my HT and car’s aux battery easily lasts an entire day!
In 2022, I decided to try my hand at VHF contesting as a “Rover.” I mounted horizontally-polarized loop antennas for 50, 144, and 432 MHz. Properly polarized for SSB activity, I’ve gained ~20+ dBd of signal strength when compared to my vertically-polarized antennas. I’m told that I’m outputting a much better signal on local SSB nets. I added a rotator and Yagis in 2023. CLICK HERE to learn more about my growing Rover setup. See the photo album below for a closer look at some of the mounts. I’ll leave you with this photo of most of my antennas mounted to the car. It’s not my typical practice to operate with all of these mounted at once. However, there has to be at least one simply ridiculous photo of everything mounted at once! There WILL be more as the setup continues to grow. HAHA!
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