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Electric Radio – Celebrating a Bygone Era

I recently put in an order to AES for a few items I really didn’t need. Fortunately AES ships to APO addresses… while HRO does not. When stateside I prefer to order from HRO, having had great overall past experience with them. Quick delivery, no fuss, no muss. If I have a problem, I can call the store directly. I’ve also used HRO to give gifts (Father’s Day, Christmas, Birthday) to my dad, KD6EUG, and that has worked very smoothly. When I’m back visiting the folks in Sunnyvale, CA – I always try to stop by the HRO store there. It is near Fry’s Electronics – not far from Moffett Field. HRO also helped field the US Army Amateur Radio Society and the Baghdad Amateur Radio Society a complete radio setup, to include IC-7000, power supply, CW key, etc. HRO’s good people. However… they don’t ship to APO addresses, so I ordered from AES. Now AES will allow you to use a stateside billing address, but will send your order to the APO address. But here is the kicker – AES sends an invoice to your billing address… so the XYL gets it and finds out you have been ordering a bunch of stuff you don’t really need instead of saving money for our upcoming trip to Europe. But I digress. One of the items I ordered was the August 2007 issue of the periodical Electric Radio. What a wonderful little magazine! I’ve talked about other radio magazines in the past and lately I’ve taken a real shine to World Radio.

Electric Radio is a real jewel. Inside the front cover, the magazine states it’s intent upfront: Electric Radio is all about restoration, maintenance, and continued use of vintage radio equipment. So what does this have to do with me? I don’t restore or use vintage equipment. I wouldn’t know the difference between Collins, Drake, National, or anything other type of old, dusty metal cabineted stuff. Despite this, the magazine is still a joy to read. Page 2 talks about Electric Radio’s “Honor Your Elmer Contest” – how great of an idea is that?! Page 39 has an amazing article about the life of George Mouridian, W1GAC, SK. The magazine itself is the size of a church pamphlet with a nice sturdy color cover. The pictures inside are black and white – but what better captures the essence of classic radio than black and white photos. The gear is wonderful to see… massive tubes, huge dials, looks like some of the rigs could have easily of come from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. I probably won’t subscribe and you may not either – but I do recommend you pick up at least one copy to have a look for yourself.

Toyota Tundra Mobile Installation


Steve Clifford (K4GUN) on August 8, 2007

I recently purchased a new truck and installed two radios. The install went so well that I thought I’d post an article with details on what was used and how it went.

First of all, the truck itself really helped make this possible. It’s a 2007 Toyota Tundra 4×4 with the 5.7 liter V8. I chose the Double Cab model over the Crew Max for a couple of reasons. First, the bed is 6.5′ long instead of 5.5′ on the Crew Max. The Double Cab also has better storage under the backseat, as we will see shortly. The truck also has two small holes in the back of the cab that are covered with rubber plugs. The holes are not large enough to fit a 259 connector through and require unbolting the rear seatbelt and pulling off a plastic cover.

My first project was to install an auxiliary battery. For this, I chose an Optima Yellow Top size 31. I put it in a cheap battery box to which I installed a Rig Runner 5 outlet panel. To charge this, I needed a battery charging system. I did a number of searches and found one that is sold through an eBay store. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120146674911This is the one of only two parts that I didn’t install myself. I work at a car dealership and had one of my technicians install it. He had no problems and the instructions are very clear and simple. The kit includes everything you need to hook up the spare battery. The unit isolates the main truck battery for the first 5 minutes after start up before it allows current to charge the auxiliary battery.

The battery itself is mounted in a toolbox in the bed. I decided to get a steel box instead of the normal aluminum because of the weight. Steel boxes will rust quickly if scratched so I applied a coat of spray-on bedliner.

Battery in the tool box:

Battery isolator:

Next up are the radios themselves. I installed a Kenwood V708A and an Icom IC7000. Both fit in the center console of the Tundra. I’ve had people ask me about the heat from the Icom and so far, this hasn’t been a problem. I’ve been keeping an eye on the temperature indicator and it hasn’t gotten too high. If this becomes a problem, I’ll put another hole in the bottom of the console and install a fan.

The Icom head unit is mounted on the center console with a Portagrip model 717. For details, see page 38 of the current HRO catalogue. The Tundra has an auxiliary plug for audio and I ran a short cord from the head unit into this plug. The factory speakers make for very clear HF audio. The only down side to this is that I also have Bluetooth which interrupts the radio whenever a call comes in.

The Kenwood head unit is mounted in the overhead console. It’s also a Portagrip but the model 726, which is a much shorter arm. The wires are run through the overhead console and around the windshield. The Kenwood supplied cord was not long enough to make it all the way to the base unit. It turns out that this cord is nothing more than a modular phone line with a special plug on the head unit end and a regular phone connection on the base unit end. I used a regular phone line coupler and extension line to get to the head unit. Because regular phone line is not shielded as well as the Kenwood cord, I used a DX Engineering Ferrite bead. I don’t know if I needed that, but I have no RF issues so I’ll leave it. Because the Kenwood requires the microphone to be connected to the head unit, I had to drill a hole in the console to get the cord out.

Here is the Kenwood in the overhead. Since taking this picture, I have routed the wire inside the console. It doesn’t hang out now as is shown in the picture.

Here is the console with both radios, a storage bin and my other truck accessory

Here is another shot with the storage bin removed. The bin does not crush the wires. I drilled the hole to get the wires out.

The wires are routed to the back of the cab. The Tundra comes available with a storage bin under the back seat. I ran the wires under this and then routed them to the panels with the hole to the outside.

Next is the antenna system. For HF, I went with a Tarheel Stubby 75 with a fold-over for the 5′ whip. I originally had it set up with a Tarheel cap hat, but removed it when I discovered that I couldn’t tune 40 meters with it on. Strangely, I could tune 75 and 20, but not 40. I did not get any type of auto tuner for the antenna and instead just used the rocker switch from Tarheel. It works well and is easy to tune. I may eventually get a Turbo Tuner but am not in a rush for that.

I don’t plan on using the UHF or VHF very often on the Icom but I did want an antenna connected so I put a magnet mounted Diamond NR770 on the tool box. Because the connector would not fit through the hole in the truck, I had to cut it off and reattach it once it was routed into the cab.

The other antenna is a Diamond SG7900, which feeds the Kenwood. It’s a big antenna but actually looks small next to the Tarheel. It also has a fold-over for parking garages.

Last, let’s talk about the antenna mounts. At first, I thought I could get away with one of the rubber friction stake pocket mounts. I attempted to install one and quickly discovered that the stake pocket was just too big. I then contacted Geotool. Geotool makes several mounts and they are specific to different trucks stake pockets. The new generation Tundra takes the same mounts as the Ford so if you order from him, don’t get the older Toyota mount.

The Geotool mount is very solid. The coax is routed through the body of the bed and is soldered directly to the mount. It bolts to the bottom of the stake pocket and if you scrape off the paint, you probably don’t need additional grounding. I scraped paint but also installed grounding straps. Here is a link to Geotool: http://www.geotool.com/antmount.htm Be sure and tell him if you need this for HF or VHF use. The bases are different and I have one of each.

While I’m very happy with the installation, which is very clean and tidy, the real proof has been the performance. I’m still quite new to the hobby so I often don’t really know what to expect. I have a station in my house and have some power line noises that I’m trying to work out. I was stunned at how much I could hear on the mobile unit. Not only could I hear, I could be heard. I immediately started trying to jump into some DX pile-ups and was happy to see that I could get through fairly easily. In the first week, I hit Argentina, Ukraine, Moldova, Cuba and several Central American stations. I got signal reports from 5-8 to 5-9 with a couple reporting 10 over 9. I even heard a Japanese station, but didn’t have time to try and make contact. All of this while driving 70 miles an hour down Interstate 95 in Virginia.

This radio is working so well that I often will turn off the home radio and go sit in my truck for an hour or so. It doesn’t do much for my gas mileage to be sitting there idling for so long, but the joy of the hobby is worth it.

Cleveland, OH to St. Louis, MO

Another long day and lots of rain. I left the hotel in Cleveland around 8:15am and found a place to park near the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and put my antennas back on. I put on the 40M Hustler to see if it would make a difference with the problem I was having with the Icom AT-180 tuner. I rolled out and tested the radio with the Hustler antenna but encountered the same problem as before.

I headed over to the AES store in Cleveland. The store was well stocked – equivalent to what I’ve encountered in an HRO store, although I think AES had more magazines and books. I purchased an Icom AH-4 longwire tuner and a LDG 4:1 balun.

Back in the parking lot I disconnected all the cables on the AT-180 and then reconnected them. That seemed to have fixed the problem…. because 40M started working without issue. I had a nice QSO with Stan, W??JMV, who was operating from his attic radio room on the Jersey shore. I then checked into the ECARS net, the NCS had a nice solid signal. I then worked 20M talking to England, Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy.

When I was about 5 miles east of St Louis a tremendous rain started coming down – I had to pull over on the side of the highway. It was the worst downpour I’ve ever seen. Tomorrow should be an easier drive.