Bob Thornburg, WB6JPI
September 10, 2001
I have been mobile Transmitter hunting on two meters for over 25 years. I have worked my way from a simple loop stuck out the window, to a modified L-Per orthogonal switching system, to a doppler, to a rotating beam. The radios ranged from crystal controlled radios with S-meters, to SSB synthesized with exotic post processing readouts and fractional dB low noise preamps. The attenuators included 50 ohm pots, switched commercial units and those clever devices built into the radios themselves.
But the most important part of all-day transmitter hunting is the vehicle itself. All day hunts seem to be unique to Southern California and represent a sort of ultimate in the sport of mobile hunting. They have no rules, often are several hundred miles in length, are most always off-paved roads and sometimes really off-road. Usually takes more than 12 hours and sometimes more than a weekend to find them all. So you are in your vehicle for a long time. You are far from your cozy home shop and repair department, both for the vehicle and for the radio equipment.
I started with the family car, a 1972 Chev station wagon. Momma and the kids soon grew tired of running around after the elusive T, and without their participation they relegated me to the commute car, a 1971 Chev sedan. This car was upgraded in turn to a 77 Sunbird, an 80 Toyota Tercel, with my first hole-in-the-roof and after 180,000 miles, another 80 Tercel, and in 1988 I invested in a 1985 Suzuki Samurai that would be dedicated to T-hunting and little else. This fine little 4WD car went everywhere (well almost…see Jippy's Great Adventure) and after 12 years of very faithful service it had put 75,000 miles into some very loveable hunts.
Zook was and is still fine but….I'm getting old and brittle, fat and brittle. Zook would only go 60MPH on the level, creep up hills, bounce your teeth loose and was not air-conditioned. The heater blower became terminal in 1992 and the transfer case locked up in 1997, fixed in 2001, but still no Air. I found that no one would ride with me…not that I am the most pleasant person for a couple days squashed into a little 2 seater.
The desert folk were invited to hide a transmitter last July and where did they hide?…Palm Springs…110 degrees…I got stuck and had to winch my way out of a wadi in that heat…..got a mild case of heat stroke and went home after only 250 miles and one of 4 transmitters. That caused me to really consider another vehicle. This is the story of that vehicle, its selection, purchase, repairs, modifications and performance.
The zook was pretty good at getting over the ?roads? that were used in most hunts. It has a short wheelbase and although no great ground clearance, it was adequate for the wheelbase. No horsepower, but geared low enough to climb a stump. Has nothing underneath to get mashed by the rocks (I had pounded everything under the Tercels flat including the muffler, cat and tailpipe….it was quite amazing to see). So usable ground clearance became one of the driving factors. I began peering under all SUVs and such, seeking something with good looking ground clearance. There are not too many vehicles with uncluttered undersides. They have hanging shock mounts, or flimsy struts or some dangle or two that would really not survive my driving. I've spent 2 years looking up exhaust pipes and nearby gadgetry. I found that some SUVs put the gas tank in the rear, right where I seem to pound the biggest rocks. Others stick the Spare tire in the rear.
Speaking of spare tires, most SUVs today have micro spares..little tiny tires that are totally unsuitable for offroad use. What do you do if you get a flat in east nowhere and have to drive out? Dumb.
Anyway, I know they say to drive over rocks verrry slowly, but this is a T-Hunt, and I am not too loaded with patience so the rear end takes a beating when it crashes down on rocks. This means I need something behind the rear wheels that can be mashed…like a spare tire and/or a trailer hitch assembly.
What about trucks…pickup trucks…they are small enough and they are cheaper than SUVs but what use is the bed. If you leave it open, the stuff in it gets stolen and/or very dirty or wet. If you have a cap or bed cover or whatever still leaves the area semi inaccessible and whatever is in the bed is not air-conditioned….hard on most stuff.. The weight distribution on trucks is not good for off road in that they are too light in the rear without adding weight…now why would you do that? I have a truck and it just isn't the kind of vehicle I want for T-hunting…Back to SUVs.
What about size? There are big things like the Hummer that are great, but just way too big for the roads/tracks that we seem to have here. You would only have two wheels on the road and two in space on some of the cliffs we go on. Even the full size truck type SUVs are too big. What is needed is the small to middle sized SUVs. I cant find any small ones that meet the important needs so that leaves the midsize SUVs.
OK, so here is where we stand…
Air conditioning, Power like in V6 or V8 12 inches or so of good looking Ground clearance (nothing too serious above that) Full sized spare 80 or 100 amps alternator no gas tank in rear rear Cheap, yet reliable
This limited the search to the Ford Explorer, Range Rover, Cherokee, Pathfinder and 4Runner. The explorer has a little spare and messy rear shock mounts, the Cherokee has the gas tank in the rear and a plastic radiator, The Range rover is never cheap.
This leaves the Pathfinder and 4runner. These are almost identical in all features so either would do. I bought a 1993 4Runner. I found out that these things are not cheap either. This one with manual transmission but every other bell and whistle originally costs $26,000 and with 180,000 miles and 8 years later is still over $11,000 in the Kelly Bluebook. It was very clean, had all of its service done at a local Toyota agency and I paid $5900 for it and put $1500 into repairs and maintenance at the gitgo. It doesn't have optimum tires, but they will do for a while. V6, 150HP, 5 speed, 4WD, Auto hubs, moonroof, roof-rack, running boards, 80A alternator, PS, PB, PW, Power door-locks, Security, Tinted windows, remote mirrors, trailer hitch, and seating for 4 or 5 depending on how well they know each other.
Now you might have other interests and other drivers and end up with a totally different solution. One of the other allday hunters gave up his VW bug after 30 years of hunting and commuting in the green bug and after a lot of consideration ended up with a 96 4Runner with a moon roof for both hunting and commuting.
Well now we have it and what happens next. First, To get the 4Runner up to snuff. Fix the air conditioning, a new power steering pump, a lube and tune up and a timing belt. Now it runs pretty good. A quick install of a floor mount and a board in the moon roof hole to hold the 10 element cross polarized beam from the Zook and with the computer on the seat and the S-meter box stuffed in the glove compartment, the preamp and polarization relay under the passenger seat, I went on the August all-day. A short under the seat took out the 12 volts from the radio that fed the Pol switch, meter lights and preamp with a cloud of smoke. Found 2 of the 4 Transmitters and quit at dusk as I had hardly no antenna (it was about 2 ft too high and was eaten by most every tree) and no preamp and no meter lights. But, the 4Runner worked great although I never got into any 4WD situations. Now to do it right.
MODIFICATIONS AND SUCH:
First a plan…. Well sort of a plan.. I will put in everything the Zook had and go from there. This includes a fluxgate compass; a GPS; a laptop computer driven with another GPS for mapping; a clock measuring seconds; the beam and bearing readout using a PalmPilot; The main radio; an all mode Kenwood TR 9000 modified for external S-meter; the talking radio, a Kenwood TR 241A; the 160 watt amp, the 300 watt inverter for the computer and whatever other 120VAC thingy may be found; indoor/outdoor thermometer; remote controlled spotlight; map lights; off-road lights; remote controlled attenuator; 0.5dB NF preamp; and wiring for the winch in both the front and rear. Stuff all this into positions where it can all be operated from the drivers seat and yet leave room for 3 passengers. The front seat passenger should have access to most of the gadgetry. A desirable goal is to not modify the 4runner very much. I don't know why as I have no intentions of selling the thing until it dies and is beyond any practical value. It's just that it is painful to butcher up a car that is not otherwise maimed.
Modifications planned for the car itself are mostly to find space for the stuff. The radios, main antenna, the computer and GPS, the inverter, and amplifier were the main consideration. The inverter and preamp were to go under the passenger seat. The main off-rode lights would go on the roof but be fed through the moonroof plug. The remote control spotlight would go on the plug. Let me present the considerations that went into the moonroof plug.
There are at least three ways to do the moonroof hole. Don, KF6GQ, made a clear plastic plug and drilled a hole for the antenna mast. This allows the antenna eating trees to be observed while they are ripping your antenna to shreds. He once hit a tree limb and shattered the plug, spraying him and his naviguesser with plastic chips, but Don glued it back together and with some reinforcement, it has served for several years.
Doug, WA6RJN, built a very fine "house" that fit over the moonroof hole. It sticks up about an inch to 4 inches or so above the 4Runner roof line. It is made of ¾ in plywood and is contoured to get a fine seal to the roof. It is clamped on the inside. Doug has added a lot of gadgets on the inside of the "house". This install looks good and seems to function very well in the few hunts Doug has been on since it was installed.
I chose a third way….well sort of a combination of Don's and Doug's moonroof plug. First I must mention some factors not obvious. The first is that I use a 10 element antenna, five elements in each polarization, and it not only weighs a bunch, it has a high wind load and seems to attract every tree in the world. Second, the 4 runner's moonroof doesn't depend upon a seal between the moving window and the roof to keep water out of the inside. It has a water collection trough that runs around the perimeter and four drain pipes to remove whatever water seeps though the window seal. The house concept used by Doug is very hard to construct as the roof line is a three dimensional mess and Doug said it took a long time to get a fit. The temporary plug that I used seemed to work very well as long as the crack on the back was sealed to keep the air input down. I said temporary as it is made of junk plywood and not suitable for outdoor exposure (for very long. I haven't yet found any ¾ inch marine grade plywood with a nice smooth outside and inside.
The Main Antenna Mount:
The mast is anchored to the floor with a pole mount used to hold a pipe to concrete. The mount is located on the floor directly behind the center arm rest/ rear seat heater. Two lag bolts hold the pole mount to the carpeted floor of the 4Runner with a carefully shaped wooden wedge to let the mount be vertical. A piece of pipe and a level showed where the hole in the roof plug should be. The hole was drilled through the ¾ roof plug and also through a ½ inch plywood reinforcement board. It is a snug fit for the 1 ½ inch fence post I use for the main section of the mast. The hole in the mount is 1 ¼ in as is the inside diameter of the fence post pipe. A wooden clothes pole is 1 ¼ inch and is used for the connector between the pole and the mount.
The mast is divided into several parts. The bottom 28inches can be removed and the remaining part of the pole fits in the mount. This distance is just right to lower the antenna so the vertical elements just clear the roof rack with the lower section out and the antenna is at 13 ft (top of vertical reflector element). The turning handle is moved from the bottom of the top section to the middle of the top section. Marks on the pole, the roof and handle allow the antenna and handle alignment with out getting out of the vehicle. The upper section of the mast is 18 inches of clothes pole that is used to isolate the vertical elements from the mast. This is also where the fluxgate compass used with the palmpilot is mounted. The upper 6 inches is once again fence pipe so the antenna clamps don't eatup the wood pole.
This roof board is a great place to mount stuff, both on the inside and on the outside. The polarization select relay and the low noise preamp are naturals to put on the inside. Also the dual map lights and the controls for the remotely controlled spotlight, which is mounted on the outside of the roof plug. Now for a strange and experimental installation. I put the attenuator control switch (0-70dB in 9 steps…preamp on, nothing, 10 dB….70dB) The reason this switch is on the roof is that the beam turning handle is very near the roof and it is easy to move from turning the beam to switching the attenuator. The beam doesn't drift much in the short time it takes to move from turning to switching and back again. I also put the polarization switch on the roof just because it is handy.
Radios and Stuff:
I mounted the Kenwood all mode TR-9000 on the pedestal between the front seats. The remote controlled attenuator on its very short coax (to reduce leakage) is located under the passenger seat. The radio has been modified to disconnect the internal S-meter and to run meter wires out to an external meter.
The external meter used in the Zook was a 100uA tautband 4 inch meter. It has worked faithfully for 12 years. But it is too high for the 4Runner dash. It is important to have the meter on the dash so the driver can see it while driving without taking his eyes off the road. The meter box from the Zook blocks the view of the road just in front of the 4Runner, a critical location for tire tracks and finding side roads. I had to build another meter box. I chose to build the Joe Agrillo 40 led linear meter and package it in a very low profile box. The box is 1 inch high and also has four LED to indicate the position of the 70dB remote attenuator.
The LED meter was tested and found to be inadequate and somewhat incompatible with the 9000. If it was calibrated for the low end to show real sensitive low signal (one or two lights lit on noise), then it was really no use for the big signal. If calibrated for the big signal, then it was useless for small signals. I added a switch to the meter box that changed the input signal in four ranges, each about 1/3 scale from the previous range. This seemed to solve the problem but gave me one more knob to worry about. Future plans are to replace one or two of the LM3914 linear 10 LED drive chips with the logarithmic version LM3915. The 3915 has 3 dB per light for a total range of 30 dB. One stage of the 4, the upper stage, would be log and the lower three would be linear. I should know about this before this "book" is finished.
The Computer Table:
For a couple years I have been using a laptop computer and Delorme's Street Atlas in various revisions. With the connected to the Delorme's GPS gadget, it will keep track of where you are and where you have been. This is most important for plotting bearings as this spot represents one end of the plot line. In the Zook it sat on the passenger's seat or when a passenger was planted there it was in his lap. This is not too good as the passenger seat is not really in the drivers line of sight when driving and with a passenger, his lap only lasts so ling and the computer is on the floor. What is needed is a table that allows the passenger a computer free lap and lets the driver see the display when the passenger isn't there. The 4Runner is not very free with available dashboard for mounting gadgets, so a table is required and is also a place to install various devices.
There is no place to put a table. So I made a place. First I removed the glove compartment. This is great, it comes off with just 5 screws. However it took the right dash speaker with it. Well who really needs 4 speakers anyway. The dash is supported with a 2 inch diameter steel tube. This tube is almost at the correct position and level. Wow, such luck Now how do you mount a table on a horizontal tube?
I built a 2 inch wide ½ inch plywood board that is just long enough. I t is held to the tube with three hose clamps. A 6 inch wide board is screwed to this clamp board and a piano hinge mounted on the edge that is now about 2 inches in front of the dash. The shelf itself is mounted on the hinge so the passenger can simply raise it up to get his knees more comfortable. Actually this wasn't necessary. Now the shelf is not sturdy enough to hold a 8 lb computer when the car is airborne. Actually, it when the car stops being airborne is the real problem. What to do…what to do….Aha, ..I found a drum set cymbal holder thingy at a yard sale. Cost me a buck…has two steel, chrome plated adjustable legs with pivots (and a few other goodies for later). This solved the stability problem.
Now I mounted the other GPS on the non-hinged portion of the table and the PalmPilot (used with the fluxgate mounted on the antenna mast) on a lower angled board that can be swiveled for the passenger or driver to see.
All of the wiring was tied up under the dash using Velcro strips and those wires going to the roof were directed under the door sill. It is so neat…I just sit there and look at it.
Test Run numbers 2, 3 and 4:
Now the all day T-hunt comes along and the 4Runner was ready. The hunt started at Palos Verde at 10:AM on Saturday 9/22/01 after a fine breakfast at Kings Hawaiian. I was alone at this breakfast, and only three teams showed at the start (this was the first hunt after the 9/11/01 catastrophe). The hide was done by Deryl,N6AIN and Steve, N6XFC and was found to consist of 5 transmitters on 146.565 located in the Angeles Forest. No 4WD was required and the hunt was over by dark. I didn't win, but did come in second (my idea of winning) at 120 miles. The 4Runner ran great, sucked up a respectable amount of gas and never got to 4WD although I did get in about 5 miles of dirt road. The radio and it's new metering worked well although the sun caused some problems seeing the LEDs. The computer didn't do well, but the palmpilot did good until the batteries died (the back light was on all day) and the GPS was OK.
Next week end was a hunt in San Diego. A timed hunt. I normally don't go on timed or short hunts, but the San Diego bunch is a fun bunch and a few of them come up to LA for the all-day, so it was only fitting I should go. I arrived at the start and BSed with many hunters until the transmitter came on and they all disappeared. Oh, it's a timed hunt…So I got it all going and got lost getting out of the start point. The computer/Delorme/GPS died or at least wouldn't work. Showed up at the transmitter 20 minutes behind the winner, but beat all the other LA teams and a couple of San Diego teams. Ate three hamburgers and swapped lies for couple hours and went home. On the way home the Digital S-meter quit. Typical T-hunt day….
All this activity put me way behind with my "work." So I took three weeks off of messing with the 4Runner to catch up. Didn't fix what's broke and didn't even open the doors for three weeks.
Getting ready for test hunt number 4. Fixed the LED s-Meter, got the computer program fixed, but the GPS wouldn't work…messed with it for several hours..still didn't work. Tried to buy another one, but nobody has one on the shelf…even called Fry's late Friday and they thought they had one for $200…I could wait. The internet has them from Delorme for $85.00 and I could order it and it would be here for the November hunt.
Got everything else running pretty good and bright and early on Saturday morning the 4Runner and I went on the trek to the starting point in Palos Verde, some 90 miles away. We got there by way of King's Hawaiian restaurant breakfast and was the first of four or five hunters. But, low and behold, the GPS had started working a King's. At the 10:AM start time no signal was heard…by 10:45 we had a direction that seemed to be right. Go east toward San Jacinto. During the search for a signal at the start point, I broke the handle off of the antenna mast. When I washed the car some water seeped into the mast hole and the plywood expanded causing the mast to bind. Some WD-40 would fix it right up, but I broke the handle off, so a stop at Home Depot was called for to get some new PVC pipe for the handle. It was 20 years old.
Took off from the start and went east. Stopped at Fry's in Anaheim and looked at their GPSs. Didn't buy anything, but it put me about 15 minutes behind the others. When going east, the next good check point is at the Green River off ramp in Corona. I was pulling off of the freeway at Green River when a disaster happened.
The 4 Runner quit. Smoke and noise and the motor slowed and quit all in about 100 feet. I pulled off onto a side road alongside the off ramp and there was Tom taking his bearings. We looked under the hood and found that the pulleys that connect the fan, water pump, air conditioner, power steering, and what else might be hidden under there, were not going around. The pulleys were stuck. The belts were trying, but all they did was make smoke and screech sounds.
I called AAA and they came and towed the poor thing off to Toyota. It seems that Toyota has some strange parts policies. It cost $650.00 to replace the idler pulleys. That is just the parts. I got a new pulley, shaft bearings a big aluminum casting and a fan thermostat for that. It only comes as an assembly. It cost another $300 to install it. While the surgeons were in there, I had them change the water pump and the timing belt idler, which I had neglected to do when I replaced the timing belt. Got out of Toyota for a mere $1500.00 at about 5:00 PM. I wasn't feeling too good so I went home rather than continue the hunt. I think I was suffering from sticker shock. I have send Toyota a letter asking if it is common for this failure to go undetected when they changed the timing belt. Perhaps even caused by the part cleaning associated with that work and to bitterly complain about the necessity of having to buy a whole front of the engine to replace a worn-out bearing. So much for test 4.
Test Run Number 5:
I was mad at the truck (note, that it is "The Truck"). I ignored it for the entire month. I didn't even clean out the cooler. On the Friday before the Last-Saturday-Hunt I tried to start the engine and the battery was dead (the alarm and the original small battery just wouldn't last the month). I swapped the battery with the Zook battery which although a few years old, is 100 Amp-Hours and a deep-discharge. I started The Truck and ran it a few minutes to charge the battery and noticed that The Truck was leaking coolant. Great. The hunt is tomorrow and The Truck is leaking. It was out of the back of the engine and very hard to reach to do anything about. Off to Toyota once again. It was the heater hose. As it turns out, the heater hose is custom, unique and not in stock. They found one at another Toyota and by noon The Truck was on the road again.
The flux gate compass did not just have dead batteries, but was full of water. I cleaned it off, as this worked before, but not this time. No time to fix that. I did note that Precision Navigation no longer makes this unit. Phooey. I tried starting the computer mapping program, but again it wouldn't work the GPS…Phooey. Now we call it TDT (That Damn Truck)
Went to the start place on Saturday morning after a nice breakfast with Tom and his San Diego team. At the start it began raining. I was in shorts and a T-shirt. We heard two hidden Ts at the start and left after a lot of chat with not only the hunters, but the hider showed up as well. Jim, AF6O and Pete, WA6TQQ both have a number of preset transmitters, and so they had set them out before Saturday and before all the rain.
Rain in Southern California causes a total removal of any driving skill as if it could be washed off. The 75 miles of Freeway to the vicinity of the transmitters was a 20 MPH stop-and-go affair. TDT was leaking water on me and the radios. I shudda been more careful in sealing the plug. It didn't leak if I was moving, but sitting near still on the Freeway was a constant drip drip drip. The heater worked and the defrosters kept the windows clear, the radio played some good jazz that matched the drip drip drip. In a fit or boredom, I got off the freeway and drove the Ridge-Route, an abandon road (18 miles of unkept concrete 2-lane) that is now full of rocks and mud. Lots of sliding around in 4 inches of mud in a pouring rain..fun. TDT did very well. The hidden Ts were not there, but it was fun driving. Came out the other end and got gas and food in Gorman and went east toward the Ts. Got lost, well not lost, but on the wrong road and spend some additional time getting over where I wanted to go. The computer would have caught that error very soon, but it was still not functioning. Got on track and finially showed up at the main T that I heard at the start. It was on a muddy road, in fact the same road the ran up to Libre mountain described in the "Great Adventure" that the zook and I took 11 years earlier. TDT worked very well in the slipper stuff with the tires shedding well and really had traction all the time. Scott's tires weren't so good in that when I saw his truck the tires had 4 inches of mud cake on them while mine had empty treads. TDT did good. Found the second T nearby and went on to find the third T about 50 miles away on the route home.
This Transmitter was on a bump in the desert near Mirage Dry Lake and I drove up one of the rock peaks (200 ft mountains), but it was the wrong one and I put the spotlight on the correct one and walked over to it. This was simple although the wind was blowing at 60 MPH and the temperature was about 40 degrees. The Truck (note the name has changed back) did flawlessly in climbing these 4 wheel drive roads and it was sure nice not to have to get out in the mud to lock the hubs.
I skipped the fourth and fifth T. I was pooed after only 350 miles and 12 hours. I have been recovering from surgery and am not up 100%, so I feel good about the hunt and the truck did very well. I got into one spot where I drove into a place where I could have turned the Zook around, but the 3 ft bigger 4Runner wouldn't fit and I had to back it out. The tinted windows and poor backup lights didn't help this process much in that I couldn't see where I was backing. Need some back lights that light up the world.
I guess I will go back to calling the truck a 4Runner and spend some effort to get the systems running.
Lights and more Lights:
I like to see where I am going especially at night on narrow twisty dirt roads. This takes lights. The 4Runner has merely good lights, not great lights. To start with I intend to mount 4 x 250,000 candle power running lights on the roof rack, just behind the roof plug. They will be spread out to clear the remote spotlight which is mounted about 2 ft in front of the roof rack. The main intent is to illuminate the sides of the road, not way off in the distance. When offroad, you don't go fast enough to get ahead of the normal lights, but they sure don't put enough light on the side of the road to spot those little tire tracks of some hider. You have to mount the lights back far enough they don't illuminate the hood or you will get too much glare. The spotlight does illuminate the hood, but it isn't really intended to be a main source of light while in motion. I selected running lights rather than normal offroad lights as I was looking for more angle coverage and less penetration. The 25 Amps is supplied from the 100 Amp buss under the passenger seat through a pair of 20 Amp relays. The relay control is through the high beam switch of the 4Runner and a dash mounted switch. The high beam control allows for fast shut down for on coming traffic and the dash switch allows the lights to be turned off.
Now when stuck with backing up on narrow roads or trying to turn around, without backing off of a cliff, you need a lot of lights in the rear. Now two more driving lights mounted on the back of the roof rack and peering over the rear window deflector. They are controlled by the 4Runner backup lights and another dash mounted switch.
I didn't think drilling mounting holes in the roof rack to hold the lights was a good thing to do. I built three aluminum box sections two for the front 4 lights and one for the backup lights. The channels are clamped to the roof rack with hose clamps in the rear and screwed to the plug in the front.. All wiring is up through the roof plug and has disconnect connectors so the plug can be removed and the moon roof closed. I mounted two relays on the inside of the plug and these relays controlled the front and rear lights.
I also installed two mini road lights in the grill. This was after the last hunt where I noticed that the main lights were kinda dim. I also changed the main light bulbs for some with a few more candle power.
Mini Control Panel:
I have had problems with leaving the running lights on in zook and driving on the road. This is not good with so much lights. There fore I wanted to wire the roof, dash and backup lights through the 4Runner's lighting system. The roof and grill lights would only function when the highbeams were on and the backup lights would only work when the 4Runner's backup lights worked. Well, this is not easy. The highbeams have a relay and a switch, one on each leg of the lamp and the backup lights have a switch in the transmission somewhere inaccessible. I dug wires out of the tail gate and off of the left front head light and ran them to a minipanel built into the dash under the AM/FM radio. Here I installed five toggle switches, one controlled the rear tailgate window whose switch had been covered up by the Kenwood radio, and four light switches ,one for the grill, roof and backup lights and a spare. Lots of lights…now for the test.
It is the night before the January 2002 hunt and I finally got the lights wired in pretty good and need to try them out. They aren't pointed too good, but we will see. The fluxgate was rebuilt by my son-in-law Andy over Christmas and not only does it now run on 12 volts from the 4Runner, but is completely sealed and resealed. I mounted it on the mast and it is working fine. The mapping computer seems to be mapping…well everything seems to be working. I found my Doppler system that I built a couple years ago (I have two of them) and stuck it on the roof behind the beam and in front of the 5/8 wave. This might be too close as the 5/8 wave runs 180 watts and is a bout 18 inches from the nearest Doppler antenna. I cant find the instructions for the Doppler and I don't know how to set the controls, but it is installed on the passenger seat and we shall see what it does or doesn't do.
Test Drive number 6:
Got most of the lights and stuff hooked up and every system except the doppler was running. Off to the start and a lone breakfast at Kings and arrived at the start in time to touchup a couple things like calibrate the fluxgate compass and set the radio's frequencies and hook the doppler up. A lot of people showed up and we had a great time at the start talking and swapping lies. The T came on at ten and it was 10 dB of attenuation, real strong. Got a bearing up the 5 FWY toward Bakersfield and off I went. No signal after I left the hill and no signal until I got to Mulholland. It was the same north as the start so I just kept going. And going and going…no signal in the valley. Now that is strange no signal anywhere ..I begin to worry, but not enough to do anything. I keep ging up the 5 FWY no more signal and I finally give up some 90 miles later at the bottom of the Grapevine. Hello..Turned around and went back listening carefully. Went clear back to Mulholland and took a very careful bearing this time. It was west of the 5 FWY. So at least I now had somewhere else to go. When to Piru had some signal and on over to Filmore. The transmitters were north of Filmore in the mountains. I found all three of them, but had the highest mileage. It was a success. All systems were working when I finished. The lights really lit up stuff in the front and the Backup lights need adjustment but, they lit up the world. The fluxgate and computer didn't hiccup once. Great. I lost one of the doppler antennas, but that is no problem. The doppler is last of the 4Runner systems to get going.
Test drive number 7…The Doppler I rebuilt the doppler antennas using 1/8 inch brass rod 18 inches plus about ¾ inch of mounting sleeve. This antenna is mag-mounted so I can do some spacing tests sometime to use in the design of a portable doppler. The Sunday start-anywhere hunt seemed like a good place to mess with the doppler so I went on it. No signal until 15 minutes before the short hunt was over, so I had no test of the doppler. It was a hunt where I live 50 miles outside of the area and I started 15 minutes before the 2 hour hunt. Another failure due to poor operational decisions.
Well it's been a year and many hunts. All systems seem to work except the cruise control quit, the heater water valve is still semi functional and the doppler doesn't make any sense. It is a work-in-progress..