This is my ham radio installation. Don't see it? Good. Lots of ham's cars look like porcupines and the gear is piled everywhere but I prefer a lower profile.
Here we are with the cubby door open and the microphone in place.
Incredibly, the Yaesu FT-350R I purchased for this new vehicle is an interference fit in the cubby. I do have an L bracket on the back to maintain the angle. No mounting is really necessary other than just jamming it in there. Sweet!
Except for the antenna, the rest of the installation was also very easy. The radio was mounted on the driver's seat under-seat bin cover by drilling a couple of holes and screwing directly into the cover. I keep my seat near the top of its adjustment and there is no interference (I don't have ventilated seats). The radio mounted in its mount may slightly limit the down travel of the seat. I considered mounting the radio in that bin. There is plenty of room but no ventilation. A 50 watt radio needs ventilation.
The radio was wired directly to the battery under the front passenger seat. Much easier than the typical chore of having to find a way to penetrate the firewall.
I thought I was at least going to have to drill a hole in the cubby for the control head, but no, that area is accessible from above when you remove the radio bezel and I was able to just tuck the control cable up into the side plastic of the console.
That brings us to the antenna. That wasn't very easy. To get access above the headliner I removed a lot of trim along the sides and in the back of the vehicle. That allowed me to loosen the headliner some but not enough to see the area of interest, right in the middle. Adding to the difficulty are all the airbags right in the way. I finally ended up pushing a safety cardboard box up between the roof and headliner with some garden hose. I wanted some space there so I wouldn't drill through the headliner. I had a tether on the box so I could pull it back out.
I started drilling cautiously with small diameter bits first. When I got the hole large enough I could see my box right there and that I had enough clearance for the final drilling with a unibit to 3/4 inch for the NMO mount.
I routed the coax over to the left side of the Jeep and OVER the side airbag then down through the B pillar which is right there by where I had the radio body mounted. Tada! In business.
There are some places to avoid for antenna mounting. There are steel doublers right around where the stamped stiffeners end. The smooth area in the middle of the roof is a good location, RF wise and structure wise.
The only real damage done was a blood smear on the headliner from a wound of battle. I did short one of the courtesy lights while trying to unplug it but I dodged a bullet and it still works fine.
I have my own aesthetic. The main reason I got the sharkfin antenna is that I didn't want a slanted antenna and a vertical antenna on the same roof. I really like the way it came out. I think both the antennas together are less noticeable than a lot of stock antennas. I painted the sharkfin to match the flat black of the amateur radio dual band antenna.
I have been incredibly lucky:
I wanted the sharkfin for reasons mentioned above but knew that it would involve compromises. No compromise noticed with my non-metalics painted sharkfin.
I originally wanted Quadra-lift, partly because I feared there was going to be a clearance problem with my amateur antenna going into my garage. I tried to do the calculations but there is really not enough information available to really figure that out. I have about 1/2 inch of clearance, without Quadra-lift.
One advantage of the FT-350R radio is that it has the APRS tracking system built in. That removes the need for an entirely different radio and modem and antenna that I had been using. The trouble is that the GPS unit and antenna that are needed for that system are on the BACK of the control head that is buried at the very bottom of all the equipment in the center console. I thought there was a chance it might sort of work part of the time and that I would at least give it a chance. It works perfectly! I don't understand why.
I hoped that the Yaesu radio would fit in the cubby and did lots of eyeballing. It fits so perfectly that no mounting is necessary.
Just a bit of clearance in the garage.
Up til now it has been lots of planning and installation chores. Install the Lockpick then update the firmware. Program the amateur radio. Buy and install the new size towing hardware. Buy, paint and install the sharkfin antenna. Buy the tow straps and tow shackle. Get new tire chains. Transfer all the digital music then grab a handful of CDs on every trip to rip the ones not previously ripped.
Now after the latest big chore it is time to just enjoy. Everything is cleaner. Previously I carried a separate inverter that was noisy and had low capacity. Now I have a quiet 150 watt inverter built in. Previously I carried a bunch of stuff for Skywarn weather chasing that I don't need to carry anymore since I have everything integrated into one radio. Different antennas can be installed in about 10 seconds and different radios can be accommodated with a coax loop I maintained.
I think I'm going to like this.