So it has been two days of disassembling, designing, cutting, welding, test fitting, soldering, painting, you get the idea…
Although I quite enjoy custom fabrication work, sometimes I just want to fast-forward to the results portion of a project. This time was no exception.
The struggle with this installation was to keep the quality of work top-notch and to use the available space in the most effective way possible. While there is plenty of cargo room and cabin space in an FJ Cruiser, I thought it best to keep the radio portion hidden as much as possible. By installing the radio in a stealth manner, I hope to minimize the visual impact of the mobile station, and to mitigate any risk of physical damage to the components.
After dismantling the interior of my vehicle, the first step was to determine the mounting locations of the various station components. Here is a view of the rear cargo area of an FJ Cruiser without the interior panels in place. As you may notice, there are large voids over the wheel wells – though they are tempting mounting locations for the radio, I wanted to have access to the body so that it could be removed without having to dismantle the vehicle.
The passenger’s side (as pictured to the right) boasts a 100/400W inverter and the associated power receptacle (installed in the interior trim). This will be the power-distribution side of the vehicle since it is already a source for 110V. It is my intention to add additional circuits in this location.
My layout is as follows:
- radio body: driver’s side rear “C pillar” cargo void
- control head: front console, below drive-line and accessory switches
- power source: 0-gauge supply wire, 4-gauge ground direct to auxiliary battery
- NMO mount VHF antenna mount: rear door lip-mount on driver’s side
- control cables: run along driver’s side door sill / kick panel
I ran 0-gauge power cable from the auxiliary battery (from my custom dual battery install) to the passenger side “C pillar” since I intend to use that location as the power distribution hub for future projects (ie. 1000W inverter, 12v fridge/freezer, etc). The stock 100/400W inverter location makes an ideal location for adding accessory circuits and this swayed my decision to distribute the power on this side. Also, the auxiliary battery is on the passenger side of the engine bay, so this location reduces the wire-length by 4 feet.
What took the most time was definitely making the custom brackets / mounting hardware that I am using in my install. I still have to fabricate a mounting structure for the control-head of the radio. This will be done in the near future. I custom made my bracketry to mount the radio body in a way that will allow me to remove it from the vehicle to operate /P or at my home when desired. The mounting position also considered heat dissipation and connector ergonomics, which greatly increased the difficulty of the installation.
I am fortunate to have access to an excellent MIG welder which is owned by my brother Geoff. Such equipment has made many, many custom projects possible for me – including an indestructible winch bumper for my 1985 Suzuki Samurai rock-crawler. To undertake this project without access to welding equipment would have made for an extremely frustrating (and likely poor quality) installation.
The wires poking sloppily out of the switch console are a temporary nuisance. I am working on making an RJ-45 jack face-plate and a speaker extension (3.5mm audio jack) face plate. The speaker extension is easy, its the RJ-45 plug that will be a challenge. I may have to bottom-up fabricate the face plate using short-hair fiberglass or moldable epoxy.
My plan as it stands is to test the station setup under various conditions for sources of noise. I already know that I need to add grounding straps to a myriad locations, which should include:
- roof rack
- rear door
- exhaust system
- engine block
My antenna is mounted strictly on a temporary basis until I decide how I will mount a more permanent solution. I used adhesive-backed cabling “saddles” (which can be found at most electronics supply stores) to secure the cable in its temporary position.
It is my intention to fabricate an electrical tilt up/down antenna mount to facilitate parking in low-clearance areas without the need to remove the antenna(s). This is a future project and will require sourcing a linear actuator which is waterproof (read: costly). Ideally, a single linear actuator will raise and lower two antenna systems:
- VHF/UHF antenna
- ATAS-120A HF antenna
I also plan to make an SO-239 to 3/8″ adapter to run an NVIS antenna using a 66′ length of wire attached to the center post of the 3/8″ mount. This idea was first described to me by Bob (VA3QV) and I am excited to try it out portable some time in the near future.