Category Archives: Ham radio

Ham radio and Mini Coopers

I spent the last few days at one of the country’s largest Mini Cooper enthusiast events, Minis on the Dragon in Fontana, NC. There were over 800 cars at the event, and I counted at least six hams. If you watch the video of the run in the this post, you will hear the chatter between the different people on the run using FMRS.

I ran into a group from California who were all new hams, and were proud to be using ham radio, rather than FMRS, to communicate within their group during runs. I heard them preaching the benefits, and ease of getting a license, to other people at the event. They said for their club runs in Northern California, FMRS doesn’t work very well if they get strung out, and they’ve found ham radio to be much better. They said they are working to get everyone in their club licensed. One of the three I talked to was really taken with ham radio, and planned to start studying for her General, but wanted to do it the right way by learning the answers, not memorizing them.

I gave them encouragement, and talked about how they could take it to the next level with APRS. How many car enthusiast/rally clubs are there out there who are using FMRS and would be excited about stepping up to ham radio?

Lining up for the group shot. I made it to the front row with my ham plates.

DX on mobile CW

Tuesday was a great day for mobile CW. On the drive into work I had a long chat with Marty, K1WC, in northern Maine. I’ve talked to Marty a few times and he has a great fist — that means he sends good code — and he’s a good conversationalist on CW. We talked for about 40 minutes of my drive in and then I turned off the radio and listened to NPR.

For the drive home, I listened on 40 meters but didn’t hear much on. So I switched to 20 meters, hit the tune button, and the antenna retuned itself for 20 meters. The first thing I heard was a loud signal, GR100MGY. From the G prefix I figured it was England, but that is a strange call so it sounded like something special. He also was working split — transmitting on one frequency and listening up 2 or 3 Khz. So I set up for split while driving 70 miles per hour — I turned the RIT on the radio to -2.50 kHz and tuned up until I heard the station. I knew I was transmitting up 2.5, but had no idea who else was up 2.5 calling him. So I started throwing out my call, and after about 10 tries I worked him. That’s neat to bust a pileup running mobile.

Then I tuned up the band a little, I didn’t hear much, so I called CQ. I was answered by WP4L. I knew that was Puerto Rico, and actually had a nice QSO with Angleo.

After that I tuned around a little and heard a faint CQ froom G0KDJ. I thought “why not try” and answered his call and worked Jim in Liverpool, England. So I worked three DX stations on the way home. Not a bad day.

When I got home I looked up GR100MGY. It was a special event station marking the 100th anniversary of the voyage of the Titanic. It was only going to be on 5 days, and had just gone on the air that day. Hence the pileup that I broke through.

Minis On The Dragon

I’ll be attending Minis on the Dragon in three weeks. My only regret is that I don’t have HF mobile in the Mini Cooper Clubman, so I’ll have to settle for 2 meters/440 instead. That’s ok, there’s a lot going on and not a lot of hamming time anyway and when you’re driving, you need both hands on the wheel in that area.

Testing one two three…..

Mike check. Seeing if link to facebook works.

More on Icom IC 7000 mobile installation

I promised more photos of the installation, and here they are. I was at the AES Superfest in Milwaukee yesterday and bought a mobile mounting bracket that bolts down on the floor using the bolt that holds the seat down. I used the passenger seat bolt for the bracket, and installed the head for the Icom 7000 on that bracket.


This is a much cleaner way to mount the control head -- no more coffee spills.

Earlier I had the control head Velcroed — I gues that’s a word — to the center console between the gearshift and the cupholder. That worked ok, but it was awfully low to look at while driving and worse, it was too close to the cupholder. I discoverd it was easy to spill coffee — or worse — onto the control head with it in that position. So I moved it up out of harm’s way.

Little Tarheel on left, 2 meter/440 on right.

While at AES I also picked up a new SMO antenna mount and replaced the 2 meter/440 antenna that I had on car earlier. It had seen several years of use on the Chevy Equinox I traded in, and one thing I’ve learned about antenna mounts living in the rust belt — they don’t last forever. I generally switch out antenna mounts every few years, and in between I check them often for corrosion. The new mount looks better, is much lower profile than the old.

So listen for me on 40 meters on Tuesdays and Thursdays from approximately 6:30 to 8 in the morning and 5 to 6:30 in evenings, CDT.


Mobile CW in Mazda 3

My log for this week. This is a great logging app for the iPhone.

The install in the Mazda 3 has been a big success. I made a half dozen good contacts during our short road trip to Nebraska., and have had nothing but good reports.  Last week Ihad two days where I did the long commute to Rockford and made a couple good contacts each day. I even worked some DX, Columbia, on Tuesday on the way home on 20 meters.

Today I did more work on the install, and will put up more photos tomorrow.

I have started using HamLog, an app on the iPhone to log mobile contacts. The biggest challenge on CW mobile is remembering who you talked to, their names, etc. With this app, I can easily get the call typed in while I’m listening to them, or I make a voice recording of the call and fill it in later.

This program is very slick. You can even e-mail an ADIF file to yourslef from it, so you can merge these contacts into your main log. It also has some cloud logging features, that I’m just starting to investigate. More on that later.



Mobile CW station is back

The Little Tarheel ready to go on the Mazda 3. I have a 2 meter/440 antenna on the right, but I’m not sure why I put it on the car. When you have HF mobile, why mess with 2 meters?

Last weekend we had nice weather, so I didn’t have any excuse not to get the Icom Ic7000 installed in the Mazda 3 and get back on mobile CW. I have finished the installation with only one hole drilled in the back of the back seat, and everything is working.

For an antenna, I picked up a Litttle Tarheel on eHam classifieds a month or so ago. It was brand new, it had never even been assembled. I bought a new Comet trunk lip mount and put it on the back hatch of the Mazda. I also purchased a N2VZ Turbo Tuner, which mates with the 7000 to automatically tune the antenna.

I’ve had good luck/bad luck with short screwdriver antennas in the past. I ran three different ATAS 120s through the years. Two failed, and I was still using the third when I sold my Mini Cooper and went off the air mobile a year and a half ago. I sold the ATAS, as I didn’t like the way it interfaced with the Icom 7000.

So it was with some trepidation that I hit the tune button on the radio after I got everything together. I could hear the antenna start moving, and in a few seconds it was tuned on 40 meters. I switched the radio to 20m hit the tune button again, and it tuned on 20 meters in a few seconds. I’m happy.

At that point I was running the radio off of an accessory power outlet in the car, which isn’t a good solution. This afternoon I wired it directly to the battery, so I’m 100 percent ready to go. I even found a nice little cubbyhole that the Vibroplex Code Warrior Junior paddle fits into.

Tomorrow morning I have the 80-mile commute to Rockford, so I’ll be testing it on 40 meters. Then Wednesday through Sunday I’m driving to west Nebraska and back — a 2,000-mile round trip — so there will be a lot of mobile cw time while cruising Interstate 80. Listen for me around 7025.

More reports on it next week.

The control head is held next to the gearshift with Velcro. That's the weak link in the installation at this point, I've had good luck with Velcro in some installations, but so far it doesn't seem to sturdy in this one. Note the paddle in the cubbyhole at the top of the picture. I can rest my hand on the gearshift while sendiing. Perfect.

Heathkit HX-1681

I picked up a new old radio, the Heathkit HX-1681 transmitter, which is the mate to my HR-1680  receiver. This is a fairly rare radio, produced in the late 70s as a kit by Heath. It is a cw-only transmitter, which is why it’s rare. Not many people were buying cw-only rigs when this came out. As a CW-only radio, it has a very slick system for full break-in with the matching receiver, so it makes a very nice little vintage CW rig. It is solid state, with two 6146 finals and is supposed to run 100 watts. This one is currently running about 20 watts, so a new set of finals are on the way from e-bay.

I did make a few contacts the other evening on 40 meters with it, and the 20 watts got out fine and I got very good reports on its sound

DX contest and bands are hopping

This weekend is a major DX contest, where stations try to work as many foreign stations as possible over a short period of time. Due to the increased solar activity and sunspots, the upper bands of 15 and 10 meters are active again after years of near silence. So it’s easy to sit in the basement on Saturday and Sunday morning and work hundreds of stations from around the world.

I didn’t make a big effort of this, as we had some company in town and after all, this is just a hobby. But for the few hours I operated, it was a lot of fun.

The line noise is back

After a lovely weekend with low noise and many, many enjoyable contacts, the line noise from hell has returned.