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Antennas and Truck caps (camper shells)

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If one wished to install antennas on a fiberglass truck cap (aka camper shell) what would be the best way to establish the ground plane? I recently purchased a new truck and it is time to get it all radioed up. My plan is to have a camper shell/truck cap installed and then mount my antennas to this. Were it not for the sunroof I would just drill the roof.
 

SteveC0625

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#2
If one wished to install antennas on a fiberglass truck cap (aka camper shell) what would be the best way to establish the ground plane? I recently purchased a new truck and it is time to get it all radioed up. My plan is to have a camper shell/truck cap installed and then mount my antennas to this. Were it not for the sunroof I would just drill the roof.
I'm a bit surprised that you haven't tried an internet search or even a search here on RR. The topic has been discussed many times over. People do it all the time to caps, boats, raised roof vans, and more. I answered this question within the last couple of weeks here on RR.

The short answer is: You get a thick surface MNO mount. I like the 3/8" ones, but they're also available in 3/4". Then you install a ground plane on the underside of the fiberglass. You can use a variety of materials: steel or copper window screen material, aluminum HVAC tape, or even a round metal disc of some kind. It needs to be a minimum of 1/4 wave dimension in all directions so round is generally the way to go, but if it's larger than a 1/4 in one or more directions, it won't matter.

If it was me, I'd probably use screen material and then cover that with some kind of rigid plastic sheeting to protect it. Another option would be to encase it in a coating of epoxy resin.

The NMO has teeth on the underside that bite into the ground plane material.
 

SteveC0625

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#3
If one wished to install antennas on a fiberglass truck cap (aka camper shell) what would be the best way to establish the ground plane? I recently purchased a new truck and it is time to get it all radioed up. My plan is to have a camper shell/truck cap installed and then mount my antennas to this. Were it not for the sunroof I would just drill the roof.
)Since you've probably already read my reply, I will add a post rather than edit my earlier one.)

If you're doing multiple antennas, it might be a good idea to get a really wide piece of window screen (metal of course), and do the whole underside of the cap so that you can place antennas where ever you want.

Again, you'd want to protect the ground plane. Either a full liner of some kind, or get a bucket of fiberglass goop and do the whole thing. Just remember that your mount needs to make good contact with the ground plane material.

One other thought... Check with the truck cap maker. They might even offer this as an option.
 
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#4
If one wished to install antennas on a fiberglass truck cap (aka camper shell) what would be the best way to establish the ground plane? I recently purchased a new truck and it is time to get it all radioed up. My plan is to have a camper shell/truck cap installed and then mount my antennas to this. Were it not for the sunroof I would just drill the roof.
What frequency will the antenna be for?
 
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Thank you for the helpful information SteveC. And for your information I DID do searchES for the information but came up empty. If you didn't want to respond you could have refrained but none the less thanks for the information.

What frequency will the antenna be for?
Dual antenna system covering HF to 70cm. I will being running a SBB-5 to support my Kenwood D710 and a an ATAS-120A to support the Yaesu 857D.
 

W9BU

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#6
I Googled "mount antenna fiberglass roof" and got several hits.

That said, this is a general radio installation problem, not specifically an amateur radio antenna problem. Thread moved to a more appropriate forum.
 
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Dual antenna system covering HF to 70cm. I will being running a SBB-5 to support my Kenwood D710 and a an ATAS-120A to support the Yaesu 857D.
If you haven't purchased a truck cap yet, look at the various options.
Some are bare fiberglass on the inside. This might make it easier for installing a ground plane. Others have a carpeted interior, which may make installation a bit harder. Carpeted interiors are nice if you ever camp out of the back of your truck. Being inside moisture will build up on the interior and can condense and drip down on you. Carpet lined interiors don't suffer from this problem as much.

For the 2/70 antenna, you only need a 1/4 wave ground plane. You can accomplish this pretty easy with adhesive backed foil tape if you have the bare interior, but the adhesive may fail over time. Sheet metal, thin aluminum, window screen (as mentioned above) are all good options.

For HF, you are going to need to ground to the truck body, so figure on some braid running down to the truck bed, probably in all 4 corners.

If two antennas are all you plan on installing, then I'd give serious though to installing the 2/70 on the center of the cab roof. NMO mount permanently installed will work very well.
As for the HF, mounting an antenna that big to fiberglass is going to take some work. I'd be concerned about stress fractures in the gel coat over time. One tree branch hit will probably do some serious damage.
I think I'd go with a mount off the side of the truck bed, bumper, grill guard (like the Australians do), or something similar.
 
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#8
If you haven't purchased a truck cap yet, look at the various options.
Some are bare fiberglass on the inside. This might make it easier for installing a ground plane. Others have a carpeted interior, which may make installation a bit harder. Carpeted interiors are nice if you ever camp out of the back of your truck. Being inside moisture will build up on the interior and can condense and drip down on you. Carpet lined interiors don't suffer from this problem as much.

For the 2/70 antenna, you only need a 1/4 wave ground plane. You can accomplish this pretty easy with adhesive backed foil tape if you have the bare interior, but the adhesive may fail over time. Sheet metal, thin aluminum, window screen (as mentioned above) are all good options.

For HF, you are going to need to ground to the truck body, so figure on some braid running down to the truck bed, probably in all 4 corners.

If two antennas are all you plan on installing, then I'd give serious though to installing the 2/70 on the center of the cab roof. NMO mount permanently installed will work very well.
As for the HF, mounting an antenna that big to fiberglass is going to take some work. I'd be concerned about stress fractures in the gel coat over time. One tree branch hit will probably do some serious damage.
I think I'd go with a mount off the side of the truck bed, bumper, grill guard (like the Australians do), or something similar.
Using the cab of the truck is a no go. Roof top space is limited due to the sun roof not to mention the obvious issue with less material for the ground plane. And like you said one tree branch and problems can ensue. I'd rather rip a hole in my camper shell then roof.
 
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#9
Properly installed, a dual band antenna isn't going to harm your roof. I've installed permanent mount NMO's on several vehicles with sun roofs.
I understand what you are saying, though.

I think the key would be to provide enough strength under the NMO mount to spread any load out. I have an ARE shell on my F150. It's fiberglass, but the center of the roof looks to have a piece of 3/4" plywood inside the fiberglass for strength. I'd probably feel comfortable with a sheet of aluminum or steel on the underside to act as the ground plane. Using short screws, you could probably safely screw into the underside of the shell. Other option would be to just through-bolt using stainless steel hardware and appropriate RTV/silicone type sealant.
I've done a similar install on a Polaris Ranger UTV plastic roof. A piece of sheet metal was part of the ground plane and foil backed tape was added to make it a bit larger.

You'll need an NMO mount suitable for probably 1 inch or so.

If you had an antenna with a base spring, you might be OK, but I'd still be cautious about parking garages and low branches. Other than that, it should work well.

The HF antenna would be a challenge, though. I've got a friend that mounted one of those ATAS-120's on top of a Mini-Cooper. He removed the stock AM/FM satellite antenna and put an SO-239 in its place. Worked really well, but on a car that low it wasn't so much of an issue. It did, however, look like a bumper car with the big base and whip sticking up off the back.
I think I'd still lean towards mounting off the side of the truck bed. On top of the truck you'd really be putting it at risk. Down a bit lower the whip would probably be the only thing sticking up above the shell. It would make the ground connection easier. If you did mount it on top of the shell, you'd still want to bond it to the truck body really well.

Seems like an interesting project. Some good challenges involved that would be fun to tackle. Let us know how it turns out.
 
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