The Shack

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 a “mobile-only” operator. 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. My car packs a lot of capability, which is my ongoing goal.

My primary radio is an Icom ID-5100A D-STAR radio, which features dual transceivers. The remote touchscreen display is HUGE and very difficult to place in a tightly organized interior. At first, I mounted it in front of the gear shift. It made for a great photograph, but I occasionally touched the display when shifting. I moved it to a center air vent, then eventually to a side vent, shown below. All cabling is routed through the ventilation duct. Visibility is great and the touchscreen makes selecting functions or surfing through menus a breeze!

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 UHF transceiver that fits in a Raspberry Pi3 (RPi3) microcomputer. I 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 mobile hotspot and a direct Ethernet connection to provide Internet access to the RPi3. With an Internet connection, the digital signal from my ID-5100A or handheld ID-51 is sent to other D-STAR stations worldwide via the D-STAR network.

I also have a Yaesu FT-891 HF all-mode transceiver for long-distance communication. It’s mounted in a repurposed 5×7″ index card box with my ID-5100A. The box acts as a visor to protect the displays from direct sunlight and excessive heat. The display is slightly larger and easier to read than that of the FT-857D it replaced. It’s fantastic for Parks on the Air! I opted to keep my FT-857D instead of selling it. It’s worth more now than when I bought it since compact HF/VHF/UHF multi-mode transceivers with detachable displays represent an almost-absent portion of today’s new radio market.

Later, I became interested in VHF/UHF contesting. ARRL’s “Limited Rover” category works within the 6m, 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm bands, or 51, 144, 232, and 432 MHz. Bringing my old FT-857D out of the box was easily the least expensive way for me to get into VHF/UHF contesting. I still need a 222MHz transverter to maximize my success, but the FT-857D has my foot in the door! An additional benefit to having it reinstalled: It can serve as a back-up radio for either of the other two, with the exception of D-STAR capability.

Let’s face it: Most of our friends, family, and acquaintances are NOT into ham radio. When convoying in separate cars, it’s fairly convenient to just use cell phones for short discussions. But, for 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, which features an “all-in-handset” control head.

My “antenna farm” has become complex enough to warrant its own page. Feel free to learn more about my growing list of antennas on this page. There, you will see how I cover frequencies ranging from 3.5 MHz to 928 MHz using FM, SSB, and digital voice modes. Oh, I cannot forget about the cellular signal amplifier! That extends my cellular coverage and Internet connection while on long trips. Some have said that all of these antennas have blown my “Stealth GTI” appearance. It recently dawned on me that perhaps my setup is so “stealth” that it’s becoming difficult to see a car beneath my communications station. 😉

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 fail 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. winky Hams are always the first to establish communications when disaster strikes. Examples include just about every hurricane, earthquake, and other disaster worldwide in the past 100 years, even recent events in developed cities. I believe most ham stations are capable of operating without external infrastructure… at least mine is since it’s mobile.

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 on a separate page, 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.

Calling Mars,

Scott, KE4WMF


Icom ID-5100A D-STAR VHF/UHF Transceiver
Yaesu FT-891 HF Transceiver
Yaesu FT-857D HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver
Midland MXT-275 MicroMobile 15W GMRS Transceiver
Mirage B-5018-G 160W Amplifier w/Remote Control for 2m
Toptek Communications PA-80U 80W Amplifier for 70cm
Orbic Speed 5G Mobile Hotspot
WeBoost Cellular Signal Booster
Raspberry Pi DV-Mega D-STAR Access Point w/D-STAR Commander Image
Electro-Magwave NMO Combination Mount w/GPS Antenna
Diamond NR770HBNMO or NR73BNMO Multi-band Antennas
Yaesu ATAS-120A Active Tuning Antenna System
M2Inc Horizontal Loop Antennas for 6m, 2m, and 70cm (SSB/FT8 Ops)
Directive Systems “Rover Special” Yagis for 2m and 70cm*
SAL Electronics SE-6MB Moxon for 6m*
SAL Electronics SE-2MC Moxon for 2m*
Yaesu G-450ADC Rotator System w/39-inch “Micro-Tower”*
Scorpion SA-680BW Mobile HF Antenna w/W8UZZ Caphat*
MFJ-1924 Screwdriver Antenna Controller*
Comet Diplexers for Antenna Sharing
Heil Pro7 Headset (busy times while parked only)
*Occasional Mounting Only

X2Power SLI48AGMDP Premium Group 48/H6 AGM Battery
Stinger 4-gauge OFC Wiring to Trunk; 8-gauge afterwards
APRS World APO3 Voltage-Controlled Switch
100-Ah Fortune LiFePo4 Battery w/120-Amp BMS
Orion-Tr 360W DC-DC Charger by Victron Energy Systems
Wagan 400-watt Pure Sine Wave Voltage Inverter