2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew - newsphotog rig v5

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newsphotog

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Previously: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.

I traded up my 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee for a 2016 Ford F-150 this fall. I liked the Jeep, but lately I've been finding myself in some situations where a truck would have been more useful. So far, I haven't regretted the trade one bit, it's by far my favorite vehicle I've owned. I can't wait for the snow to start flying.

So there were some new challenges I had to work around going from the Jeep to the truck in terms of the radio install. The number one challenge was clearance. I park in a ramp daily and I wanted to fit into my garage at home. On the Jeep, I used the Sti-Co nitinol Flexi-Whip antennas (guaranteed to bend but not break) and those worked fine, but on the truck these would scrape the drywall ceiling in my garage and they were so loud when I tested them in the parking ramp at work:

https://vimeo.com/191378594

Another challenge was roof real estate. It's a SuperCrew, so maybe it wasn't that bad of a challenge, but I wanted to make sure antennas were spaced apart per manufacturer's specifications and wanted to reduce the risk of desensitizing the scanner, so that antenna had to be somewhere else.

Here's the parts list:

  • Whistler TRX-2 scanner
  • Yaesu FTM-400XDR dual-band radio
  • RAM Mount 1" Ball Short Length Double Socket Arm with Diamond Base (RAM-B-103-A-238U) plus a 1" Ball Mount with 6.25" X 2" Rectangle Base & 2.5" Round Base AMPs Hole Pattern (RAM-B-111U)
  • Havis ChargeGuard CG-X-100 on automatic detection mode. The ChargeGuard senses the AC ripple voltage produced by the alternator and then turns the equipment on when the voltage has stabilized. It also turns the equipment off after a specified amount of time after the AC ripple voltage has stopped. The length of time is determined by dip switches, which I have set to 15 minutes so there's enough time to squeeze out another APRS packet or listen to the radios without needing to idle.
  • Comet 4160J duplexer that separates VHF from UHF between the radio and the two antennas
  • Laird ETRAB1440 Phantom Elite antenna for 144-148 MHz mounted on the rear driver's side
  • Laird ETRAB4303 Phantom Elite antenna for 430-450 MHz mounted on the rear passenger's side
  • Laird QWB8063 open coil antenna for 806-866 MHz, 3 dB gain, mounted upside-down in the grille
  • Sti-Co nitinol Flexi-Whip antenna cut for 430-450 MHz (leftover from the Jeep) mounted front and center
  • Two Motorola HSN4039 speakers mounted under the rear bench
Here is video of the SWR on the VHF antenna:

https://vimeo.com/185874759

and the UHF antenna:

https://vimeo.com/185874772

So... yeah, not that great, especially around the band edges. With these Phantom Elite antennas, you really are trading off performance for the low-profile design. The UHF antenna performs better than the VHF antenna. This is OK for me on most days, since a) I hardly ever pick up the radio, b) when I do, I don't talk long, c) I prefer UHF, and d) I can always swap for a regular 1/4-wave when I need better performance. My APRS beacons are a good indicator of performance -- I can rarely hit any digipeaters reliably near my house but always at a certain point on my daily commute, my beacons start to get picked up. Right now, the radio is hooked up to the front/center UHF antenna while the UHF Phantom Elite is just a placeholder and to balance out the antennas on the roof.

To resolve the desensitization issues between the radio and the scanner, the 800 MHz antenna was mounted upside-down in the grille. It works pretty well. It's right between the grille and the active louvers. The antenna fits perfectly length-wise. Any longer and it wouldn't have fit.

To get power into the cabin, a hole was poked in the rubber boot on the passenger's side and ran under the doorjambs to behind the back bench. Everything is mounted on plywood behind the bench. This works well, except the scanner bracket is just tall enough that I can't raise the bench seat up and have it close all the way which is mildly infuriating at times. The bench back is still able to latch to the back of the cab. Everything is grounded to the same ground bolt the rest of the truck uses on the back of the cab interior. The cables to the control heads and the mic are routed under the doorjambs, under the driver's seat, and up to the tranny hump. The RAM Mounts are attached to the hump with three sheet metal screws and is surprisingly sturdy.













 

sefrischling

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How does an antenna in the grill work?

The set up looks nice, but my question as a news shooter, is are you expanding the number of scanners you'll install? I run three scanners with five portables that have cloned local systems and departments.
 

newsphotog

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How does an antenna in the grill work?

The set up looks nice, but my question as a news shooter, is are you expanding the number of scanners you'll install? I run three scanners with five portables that have cloned local systems and departments.
Hi Stephen! I remember you from way back in the SportsShooter glory days!

The antenna in the grill works pretty well. I haven't noticed any difference between what it is now and the Phantom Elite ETRA8063 I had mounted on the fender of the Jeep.

I'm actually not in the business anymore -- I got out in 2010. But here in Iowa, I found it hard to justify the cost of adding additional scanners. Des Moines police/fire and the Iowa State Patrol are still on conventional VHF/UHF frequencies so I was able to tune one of my ham radios to their frequencies if I needed to monitor two things at once. It was a pretty rare occurrence.
 

sefrischling

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Thanks for the info on the antenna. Where I am is not nearly as flat as Iowa, I found low profiles didn't work at all. I wanted to use them and ended up with VHF 1/4 wave and dedicated 800mhz antennas. If I could hide one in the grill and still pick up the channels I'd love it.

Conventional UHF and VHF would be so easy. In my immediate coverage area I deal with three incompatible trunked systems, UHF, VHF, 33mhz, 46mhz and 800 conventional. Hell, one town (3 towns to the East) has three municipal PDs within its borders, operating on a UHF, VHF, 800 conventional and they communicate dispatch to dispatch on 45mhz. Within that town is also a sub base with Navy Fire and Police on a 380mhz trunked system. I wish these departments could just choose one freakin' system or band.
 

newsphotog

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Thanks for the info on the antenna. Where I am is not nearly as flat as Iowa, I found low profiles didn't work at all. I wanted to use them and ended up with VHF 1/4 wave and dedicated 800mhz antennas. If I could hide one in the grill and still pick up the channels I'd love it.
I got the idea for the grille antenna from the US Fish and Wildlife agents who do it in their trucks for their VHF radios in the federal band. I'm assuming it works well, but I'm not sure.
 

jim202

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Any antenna in the grill has to be very directional to the front. Bet you don't hear much at all from the rear of the vehicle. Might work real close to the tower, but can't see it working well at all out away from the tower, especially if your facing away from it. If your talking vehicle to vehicle over a short distance, it might work.

Bet the transmit SWR really sucks.
 

newsphotog

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Any antenna in the grill has to be very directional to the front. Bet you don't hear much at all from the rear of the vehicle. Might work real close to the tower, but can't see it working well at all out away from the tower, especially if your facing away from it. If your talking vehicle to vehicle over a short distance, it might work.

Bet the transmit SWR really sucks.
Directional to the front? Not that I can discern. Maybe it's because most of the agencies around me are now simulcast and the rest of the conventional systems are so saturated with their signal that I don't have any issues. Also can't speak to SWR since I don't transmit through that antenna.
 

03msc

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Great looking install! I have that exact ram mount and extension plate - how did you mount the 400XDR head to it? I'm using the call mount but it sticks out. Yours looks flush, which is what I'd like to do but haven't had any luck finding a way to successfully do that. What did you do? (And if it's extremely simple or obvious I'll kick myself for asking publicly...lol)
 

enine

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how well does that chipboard hold up compared to plywood, I would think the screws would rip out after a couple bumps.
 

newsphotog

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Great looking install! I have that exact ram mount and extension plate - how did you mount the 400XDR head to it? I'm using the call mount but it sticks out. Yours looks flush, which is what I'd like to do but haven't had any luck finding a way to successfully do that. What did you do? (And if it's extremely simple or obvious I'll kick myself for asking publicly...lol)
I took the control head and the mount with me to my friendly neighborhood hardware store and tried a few different bolts to find one that wasn't too long or too wide. I can't remember the size but the screw that came with the unit wasn't long enough since the RAM mount is so thick. It's bolted into one of the pre-drilled AMPS pattern holes.

how well does that chipboard hold up compared to plywood, I would think the screws would rip out after a couple bumps.
Everything is still holding strong, no issues, and I have banged the bench up against the board several times.
 
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