David Bowyer's Off Road Centre
Woodworking Village Workshop
David Bowyerís radio interests
Since joining the Torbay Amateur Radio Club (TARS) in 1994 and gaining my transmitting licence I have really enjoyed learning and getting into proper radio. I say this because I played with radio when I was a lad, but never got in to it, I wished I had now.
Back in the mid 70ís I was into HiFi which led me into Broadcast Radio with a very nice Rotel tuner. On the back of the garage I installed an amazingly large beam antenna on a rotator and had great fun listening to Broadcast stations over a very large area. I was able to pick out the low power stations through amplifying their signals.
In the early 80ís I became interested in CB radio and I soon installed one in my Series One Land Rover which became very handy when I started what we now call Green Laning with like minded friends.
By now I started to get very involved with The Land Rover Series One Club that I joined in 1979 and we were organising the 35th Anniversary of Land Rover in 1983. This was to be a convoy of Series One Land Rovers departing from the Land Rover Lode Lane factory in Solihull and driving all the way to Anglesey mainly on the old A5. This was where the CB came in very useful as a number of the 68 entrants and other support vehicles also had CBís fitted, so I was able to communicate with many of them on the way.
Looking to help keep track of everything happening on route, I would be at the front of the convoy one moment, then dropping back to the rear, and at another time I was in the middle staying on channel Ď39í.
It was in fact an amazing day that I shall never
forget. Having been flagged off on our way in the Land Rover car park by Tom
Barton the designer of the original Land Rover and Tony Gilroy, Land Roverís
Since then and still now, I always use CB with like minded people to communicate between vehicles on not only whilst Green Laning that I still enjoy, but also during our Social Mornings at the Centre and DRDís (Drive Round Days).
When I joined TARS, I realised that I should have got into the Amateur Radio scene long before as there are so many interests from building equipment and accessories (mind you these days itís nearly all black boxes, but there are many members who take great pride in building and experimenting) to contesting from home, club or field days, joining in on club nets and experimenting with aerials. My interest is with the last two activities, plus the social side of course.
So combining my interests of Land Rovers and radio, I now have on board in what I call my New Build Land Rover (my totally rebuilt Land Rover 90), an Icom 706 MK11G which I have had for many years. The head unit is installed on the dashboard alongside the CB and the transceiver tucked away in the vehicle via a separation cable. Iíve got my antenna mountings in the middle of the roof for VHF and UHF, but as hard as I tried I could not find a successful way of running HF. I tried all types of whips, loading coils, mountings and brackets, but nothing suited what I actually wanted.
Yes of course, I took portable fibreglass masts and long wires on Land Rover holidays and tied things to fence posts, but I wanted something that I could slip onto a bracket, screw in an antenna whip, quickly connect up and tune up ready to have in place for when needed.
At one of the Radio Rallies I met an Amateur with an ICON AH-740 HF Automatic Tuning Antenna mounted on a substantial bracket standing upwards from above his rear door mounted spare wheel on his Vauxhall Fronterra 4x4. I thought that looks the business, I found the owner and he was very pleased with itís performance.
So eventually I bought one of these super duper Military style units from Radio World in the West Midlands and considered how I was going to install it.
Like so many things over the years Iíve enjoyed developing components like special winch drum supports to be eventually made in either cast or billet aluminium by making them out of plywood first. Needless to say, sometimes it took several Ďgoesí to get it right before machining from billet!
Looking at the gallery of pictures here you will see what I achieved with the help of a TARS member Peter, G4VTO. Peter and his Son, Simon run an amazing fabrication and engineering business. They took my wooden template and cut the aluminium plates to size and did most of the drillings and fitted the swivel platform and pin. I finished it off, getting the components anodised and assembled it all with some nice locking pins, fixings and hollow square tubing to support it on, all in stainless steel.
The support tubing is now permanently fitted to strengthened heavy duty brackets welded directly to the roll cage by Simon. I have used security fittings to lock the tube into place. When the antenna platform is slid onto the tubing, Iíve have made it pretty secure with padlocks.
To install, I lift the antenna mounting base into place by standing on a platform that I have fitted over the tow ball to secure it. When I am feeling strong enough I can in fact assemble the antenna mounting base to the aluminium platform first, and then lift it all up together.
I can then hinge the unit backwards to face down at an angle to enable me to easily screw in the substantial whip. It is then easy to reach up and adjust the fully assembled unit to either face forward for travelling, vertical for stationary operating , or backward to 45 degrees for operating carefully on the move. At each stage the hinged platform is held in place with two locking pins each side.
Itís great to use, tunes up extremely quickly on all the HF bands by simply pressing the ĎTuneí button on the 706 head unit.
There is a lot of work involved in making one of these units, so I wonít be offering to make any more, but if it gives you some ideas, especially if you are an engineer, then I am pleased. Like most of us Radio Amateurs, time doesnít count when you are doing something like this. Itís the enjoyment, and the achievement that counts.
Finally, why did I need HF Radio on board? Well apart from radio being an interesting hobby, I also enjoy driving off road sometimes into the middle of nowhere.
And being in the middle of nowhere, should help be needed, one cannot always rely upon mobile phones and although I also have VHF (and UHF come to that), in a valley between mountains you may not be able to get Ďout on the airí to raise help. This is why having HF can be so useful as you are not reliant on anything like line of sight and more than likely to catch someone, somewhere, who will be kind enough to call the emergency services for you. Just make sure that you can pinpoint exactly where you are on the map. It may be that you need urgent help for some poor person that you come across out in the sticks.
Enjoy your Land Rover/4x4 and if you would like to learn something about Amateur Radio, google radio clubs, or send an email to me and Iíll point you in the right direction.
David Bowyer M1AEI
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