Last week, I found a new vehicle and like anybody that get’s a new vehicle, I’m really excited about the possibilities ahead. I had been “in the market” for a used conversion van for a couple months. I used to own a 1984 Ford conversion, and for some reason (probably gas mileage… it had a 351 Windsor), I traded it off about 15 years ago. I loved that old Ford, and all of the space that it had inside.
Over the past few years, my wife and I have been taking vacations to various places, for the purpose of “getting away from it all”. We would drive our crossover (Acura MDX) and sleep in a tent at various campgrounds. We had also become pretty good at boodocking in the back of the SUV in rest areas along the way. We love the mountains and forests of western Montana and northwest Wyoming. There’s a lot of other places that we plan to visit (and re-visit) in the future.
Anyway… last week, I bought a 1992 Ford Econoline conversion van. We had to drive about 300 miles to pick it up, then drive both vehicles back home. The van runs great, although it could use a tune-up. For a full-sized van, it gets amazing gas mileage, too (still working those numbers out). There are some mechanical things that I have planned, like a new exhaust (or, at least muffler), and some new tires before next summer’s trip. I also need to work on some of the van’s electrical “quirks”. Virtually everything in the van is “powered”… locks, windows, seats, interior lights, the bed/couch in the back… everything. Some of the coach electric is a little “weird”, though, so I’m going to run through all of the grounding points before I start eliminating some of the circuits, altogether. Bad grounds can cause some really strange things to happen in vehicles. Eliminating some of the circuits would be good, though, since I want to run things my way.
Before I bought the van, I had a couple mobile radios in my Dodge Dakota. Before I got the van, I thought about how much more room I would have to work with when it came to installing radios. I really liked the idea of a larger cab and more space for the electronics (not to mention the extra interior room in the back… that’ll be another post, down the road). What I really didn’t think about was the height of the van, and how that would effect the way I installed antennas. This past week, I’ve been thinking about different ways I could mount antennas, but none of the alternatives seems to be as optimal as mounting them with an NMO mount on the roof. I was just worried about the height, if I did that.
Tonight, I stepped outside, at work, and was thinking about it, again. That’s when I looked over to the corner of the parking lot and saw a Herzog rail testing truck. I realized how much higher the truck was, compared to the van, and realized that I actually have nothing to worry about. The Herzog truck, itself (with air conditioners) is 12′ 6″ high. On top of that, there were a couple antennas. My van is about 7′ tall, so even if I add an antenna that’s 5′ tall, it still wouldn’t be as high as that Herzog truck. It really just made me realize that I don’t need to think about any other way to mount antennas, as long as I am aware of the overall height of the vehicle with the antennas up there. A 5/8 wave 2 meter antenna or a full size K40 for 11 meters would work just fine.
Down the road, once I upgrade my ham license, I may want to add a screwdriver antenna, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I already have ideas about that, though, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. From some of the things I hear on 3840.00 kHz, though, I won’t be pushing myself to upgrade, too fast. It’s like the “CB” frequency of ham radio… but then again, so is the 147.435 repeater in SoCal, at times. With as quiet as it is on our local 2 meter repeater, I sometimes tune in to listen to the “Los Angeles Renegade Repeater”, but then I realize how nice the peace and quiet is. I can only take so much of that.
Anyway… I’ll have more to come on the progress of the van. I plan on doing so much more that just add radios. I actually plan on converting it into a vacation and weekend camping van. Right now, it’s pretty much a stock Waldoch conversion. In the future, it should have most of the conveniences of home. My wife and I plan on living in it for about three weeks out of the year, during our vacations, so I plan on making it as comfortable as possible. Among others, I’ve been following Seth’s blog (check out this post and others) and his YouTube channel. From everything I’ve seen, I actually like the way he’s done his van build more than any others out there. I’m sure that I’d change a few things (due to the radios), but his setup really makes use of the space available. My only different consideration would be the windows that are in my van.