My Mobile Station
The introduction of the HTX-10 transceiver from Radio Shack provides a low cost means for mobile operating. This rig pictured below is a 10 meter band transceiver providing SSB, FM and AM operating modes. Although definitely "low end" this transceiver provides good communication capability. When properly adjusted (which is not hard to achieve) I get good audio reports. The transmit power is approximately 25 watts. The receiver is useful, but the IF filtering is wide meaning there is often additional noise from adjacent channel signals. Still, this rig is effective for making QSO's. The rig can be tuned in 1kHz increments from the microphone. This is useful to scan the band to find signals - and many operators do transmit on even 1 kHz increments. When they don't, a fine tuning knob moves both the receive and transmit frequencies to smaller resolution. Its similar to an RIT control except it moves both transmit and receive frequency. Although the rig has a few bells and whistles (memories, scan, etc.) I don't find these useful for normal mobile Dx'ing although these might be useful for fixed operations. This radio is slightly larger than a normal 2 meter FM mobile rig.
My antenna is small whip about 0.9 meters in length, magnetically mounted to the roof of my Taurus wagon. This antenna is only about 1/3rd the size of a full-sized vertical, meaning it is not the most efficient way to propagate a signal. Still, I am finding it useful to make QSO's. So far I am pleased with the construction of this particular antenna since it is of rugged construction quality. It does have a spring at its base so it handles tree branches, etc. better than other mag mounts I have used.
My Operating Experience
With good propagation conditions around the peak of the current sunspot cycle (October 2000) this set-up is proving fun. My first QSO was with Kansas, probably sporadic-E over a distance of nearly 3000 kM. Amazingly, he was also operating mobile and we had pleasant operating conditions. In my first couple days of operating I have had 4 QSO's with Europe. I am finding that the fine antennas that these operators use from home make up for my "almost dummy load" antenna, but sometimes I am fooled by someone operating high power into a lesser capability antenna thinking they would be easy to work! I will not be jumping into any pile-ups, but this set-up does allow working some DX.
Ten meters is certainly a good band for using a low-end mobile station to work DX. At 28 MHz QRN is generally low, meaning folk can hear my low level signal, and there is lots of room to spread out so QRM is a little less. I am not noticing much ignition noise even though my vehicle has old spark plug wires, but the windshield wiper motors do generate some noise. Ten meters does allow a small antenna to be effective - but I would not consider anything smaller than what I am using! Those really short CB antennas would really be a dummy load!
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