WØJT/Rover (?)

Photos and words from the ARRL UHF contest,
August, 2004

Photo 1
This is the WØJT Rover, Mark IV. For the first time, my vehicle was a 2000 Lexus RX300 mini-SUV instead of a 1992 GMC Safari Van. Like the Safari Van (Mark I through Mark III rovers), this vehicle has 4-wheel drive for good traction in marginal circumstances. Unlike the Safari Van, I chose to not mount a heavy antenna array on the roof, but instead mounted it on a cargo carrier that slides into the trailer hitch receiver.

This is a view of the vehicle parked at the end of my driveway, a spot from which, unfortunately, it did not move. More about that later. There is a Yaesu G-450 rotator mounted to a steel-reinforced wooden platform (same as on the Mark III vehicle), a short tubular aluminum mast, and a Yaesu thrust bearing with guy straps to the four corners of the vehicle. Above the rotator is an all-new H-frame for mounting the antennas. (Actually, I designed and built the H-frame for a planned rove in a prior January VHF Contest, but when the whole rover setup was almost complete, I became ill and had to cancel the rove.) This is made out of square tubular steel stock that is perforated every inch with a hole on each face, perfect for bolting sections together like an Erector Set®. The main problem with this design is that it is pretty heavy. In this configuration, I mounted antennas for 222, 432, 902, 1296, and 2304 MHz. There is also another square tube that slides into the existing vertical section to allow an extensible push-up mast section for 50 and 144 MHz use in VHF+ contests, which was not needed for this UHF contest.

Photo 2
Side view of the vehicle shows that the antennas are not tilting downwards as much as the previous picture's perspective makes it appear, but they definitely do point down in front. The problem is that the rear guy straps don't have much to connect to, and the whole cargo platform is able to move up and down in the hitch receiver a bit. Lacking any better solution on short notice, I planned to drive with the forward guy straps pulled tight and the antennas tipping down, and when I arrived at an operating location, to loosen the front guys enough to level the antennas. A better long-term solution would be to eliminate the slop in the receiver to cargo platform attachment.

Photo 3
Front view of the antenna setup, where it is easier to see the individual antennas. On top, from left to right, are antennas for 222, 1296, and 432 MHz. Below them, are antennas for 902 MHz (left) and 2304 MHz (right).

If you are thinking that the 902 and 2340 MHz antennas are awfully close to the roof of the vehicle, I would say I agree with you. There was an aluminum tube nested inside the main lower tubular mast, but after all was assembled, I was unable to slide it up as planned. The fit was too snug.

Photo 4
My grandson, Ben, "helped" me with the final set-up chores.

Photo 5
This rear view makes the antenna mounting arrangement more clear, but the wide-angle lens and close position of the camera gives a "distorted" perspective.

Photo 6
Another view, this time from the right rear quarter of the vehicle. Trying to find the ideal angle to show off this creation.

Photo 7
With the front guy ropes pulled tight for travel, the down-tilt is pretty considerable, even with my grandson sitting on the cargo platform!

Photo 8

Photo 9
Closeup of the thrust bearing, guy ropes, mast, and H-frame.

Photo 10
This view shows the cargo platform inserted into the trailer hitch receiver, with the wooden baseboard and (rusty) steel reinforcement sheet, through which the Yaesu G-450 rotator is bolted.

Photo 11
Another view of the antennas.

Photo 12

Photo 13
The operating position is in the left rear seat. The right rear seat is folded down, and a home-made shelf unit is set onto the seat back. These shelves would hold the radios, transverters, amplifiers, etc., facing the operator's right side. This is not the most convenient arrangement, but seems to be workable. None of the equipment is installed at this point.

Photo 14
As has happened numerous times before, my preparations took longer than the amount of time I had available to perform them, due to (again!) having most of my vacation cancelled on short notice to deal with a staffing shortage at the hospital where I work. So I didn't get any photos of the interior of the vehicle with all the radios installed.

Shortly after the start of the contest period, I jumped into the vehicle and tried to start it up and hit the road for my first operating location. Much to my surprise, the ignition switch broke, and I was unable to even turn the key or remove it! No amount of jiggling of the steering wheel or key would free it up. I was dead in the water, or should I say, dead at the end of my driveway. Since I couldn't even get the key out of the ignition, I could not even turn off the car's electrical system, and so even though I turned off everything I could, I resigned myself to the notion that the battery would likely be dead by the time the tow truck could arrive on the following Monday.

So, with an immovable rover vehicle, parked in a valley and surrounded by many tall trees, it was obvious that I could not even hope to sit in my stationary vehicle and operate from there. The only way to get on the air was to disassemble the rover (which needed to be done before Monday's tow to the repair shop anyway), and re-assemble my home station.

This photo shows most of the rover components after removal from the vehicle, laid out on my front lawn.

With the hurried dis-assembly of the rover and re-assembly of the home station, I ended up with a non-functional 222 system that could hear just fine but didn't put out any measurable signal on transmit, normally functioning 432, 902, and 1296 systems, and no 2304 system (no antenna at home and no place to mount it on the current tower configuration). And since I was in my aforementioned low-lying spot surrounded by heavy foliage, 10 GHz was not going to play either. Bummer, 3 bands instead of six, and by the time I tore it all down and put it back together, and got a little nap, the contest was nearly over before I could get on the air. So my big plans for Rovermania I were a bust. Oh well, at least I made a few QSO's with the other folks who were more fortunate than I was.

Last updated 08/01/05, only a year late, and still unfinished!