Radio Installs February 2010

Since getting my ham ticket (KE7VUX) in September of 2008, I had wanted to put a better radio in Tigger.

The old Cobra 19 no longer had any working LEDs, so when you started the rig, you could rely on the radio defaulting to Channel 9, and then counting the beeps as you changed channel. This was fine, except sometimes during lunch the radio would reset to Channel 9 - and sometimes it wouldn't.

At the Glacier Waterton Hamfest in 2009 I picked up a pile of good CBs, including single-side-band (SSB) units which I had long lusted for, but now have no need for. Hams seem to sell these good old CBs for a song, since of course they have access to so much better technology and have moved on from 4w Chicken Band radios.

I also found that HRO was running a sale on close-out FT2800s, a 65w 2m mobiles with no fan. I wanted a dual band, and ideally, dual VFO radio, but for the low cost, no-fan, and ruggedness of the FT-2800, I figured I could always find at least one spot in one of my rigs where a 2m-only radio would be useful.

So then it was time to get the radios installed, and new antennas.

I've grown tired of the mag-mount CB antennas - always getting knocked off, and the coax gets destroyed by feeding through the door jam.

Time for new technology - namely, NMO.

You can pick up an NMO mount for $10-$15. It requires you to drill anywhere from a 3/8 to a 3/4" hole in your roof, then you install the NMO mount with O-ring, run the feedline (coax) to your desired location, and install a PL-259 connector.

You can then buy various antennas that use the NMO mount (even changing them out from time to time as needs change).

You can get cell phone, GPS, CB, 2M, 70cm, dual band, HF, and so on antennas all for an NMO mount.

So.. pick a spot, make your hole, and feed the NMO bit in place. I found a good use for a big triangle magnet to help me out since my arm wasn't long enough.

This is what it looks like top-side. I offset the CB antenna slightly from center, to get it away from the rib.

Ideally, you want about 8.5' of metal all around the CB whip, but that's not possible, so try to center it as much as you can.

You can see a small 2meter (144mhz, about 19" long) NMO antenna in the background, lying on it's side.

I also wanted to put an HF radio in, and decided to go with the gumdrop 3/8" stud style mount for strength when smacking trees with the antenna.

You can see the NMO mount for the CB antenna in the middle, and the gumdrop 3/8 mount for the hamstick in the right corner (driver's front corner of the roof).

While not an RF ideal spot (there isn't one, really) I chose this location so I can put a tilt-over mount on the antenna and lay it down along the roof, hanging off the rear slightly, but well out of trees' harm's way when folded down.

This will make the antenna work better to the passenger rear direction, thanks to more metal in that direction.

And with the CB NMO whip installed.

And from outside with the CB and 2m whips installed, but not the HF antenna.

I installed the 2m antenna at the rear, keeping it 19" from any edge, and as far away from the CB and HF antennas as I could.

And, of course, I mounted the radios.

Cobra 29 Classic on the left, FT-2800 over to the right.

The HF radio will go under the steering column, then use a microphone extension to keep the mic cord out of the steering wheel.