The old Rover

GippsTech 2019 happened last weekend. During the weekend, I was discussing some of my previous radio activity with some of those attending, which prompted me to write this post….

For many years I drove a 1997 Subaru Forester. I ordered the car in late August 1997 and it was finally delivered just a few days before Christmas that year.

It was a terrific vehicle for its time. It had reasonable ground clearance in comparison to other vehicles, plus my model had a dual-range gear box driving the All Wheel Drive drive system. With careful pointing and care in gear and speed selection, it went to many places. I would receive comments such as “How did you get that up here?”……

I also participated in the Summer and Spring VHF/UHF Field Day Contests for many years. I would enter the “Rover” category. The idea was that you could rework any given station once every three (3) hours after your last contact on a given amateur band. However, if either station had moved to a new Maidenhead Grid Square, then you could rework each other again, even if the three hours had not yet elapsed.

I spent some time considering my options and assembling the Rover station, refining gear and antennas over several years. Below is a photo of the Rover from the Summer 2011 VHF/UHF Field Day Contest.


The Rover station for the 2011 Summer Field Day

This photo was taken at an operating site in QF31 south east of Neerim South. There is a Grid Square junction near Neerim East, down in a gully system. But one can find reasonably elevated sites within a few kilometres, enabling one to work other stations.

I made an antenna holding “rack” which bolted between the two ski bars. Bolted to that rack were several antennas.

From left (rear of car end) to right attached to the rack:
Homebrewed Alford Slot antenna for 23 cm (1296 MHz) in a poly pipe radome
Three-slot slotted waveguide  antenna on 2.4 GHz
Eight-slot slotted waveguide  antenna on 3.4 GHz
Ten-slot slotted waveguide  antenna on 5.7 GHz.

The slotted waveguide antennas were purchased from Des Clift in SA, who used the name “Microwave Developments” to market these antennas. Unfortunately, Des became SK several years ago. I also have a similar antenna for 10 GHz, but it has so much gain that it must be perfectly vertical to be usable for distant stations, so I gave up using it and had a dish antenna in the back of the vehicle plus a tripod.

Also on the roof rack are the following antennas for the lower bands:
A homebewed Square Halo antenna for 6 m (50 MHz), guyed with rope to the front of the side rails.
A homebewed Big Wheel for 2 m (144 MHz)
A homebewed Big Wheel for 70 cm (432 MHz).

So the station had omnidirectional horizontally polarised antennas for all bands 6 m to 6 cm, plus the dish for 3 cm took only a few minutes to set up.

Equipment used was an Icom IC-910 for 2m, 70 cm and 23 cm, plus 2 x Yaesu FT-817 transceivers as drivers for the microwave transverters, one used for a 2 m IF driver and the other on 70 cm. The transverters were mounted in a rack unit which sat behind the driver’s seat. The IC-910 sat on the front passenger seat, strapped in with the seat belt.

In that year, I easily won the Rover Station, 24 hour section (Section F), even though I did not operate for full 24 hours – most activity was  done on Saturday afternoon, plus a few contacts on Saturday evening.

My score was 5029 points, with the winner of the Section A: Single Operator 24 hour section Ralph VK3WRE scoring 5014 points. The only stations with higher scores than me were the VK3ER and VK3UHF Multi Operator stations in Section C (Multi Operator 24 hours). Running in conjunction was a Microwave Challenge, where I comfortably won Section F with a score of 3828, not far behind Ralph VK3WRE. The best distance on 23 cm was my contact with VK5BC – see below.

I had a pleasant surprise later in the evening from Mount Tassie – a contact on 23 cm SSB with Brian VK5BC at Corny Point in SA, 933.7 km away. That contact used the station as pictured above: the IC-910 at 10 W to the Alford Slot antenna and still holds the National Mobile distance record.

The Forester eventually died in a rather spectacular fashion. See the story elsewhere on this site: An unpleasant surprise during a day of SOTA.

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2 Responses to The old Rover

  1. VK2TWR says:

    Remember it well pete worked you in many a field day good little blog about the old girl shame she went up in a puff of smoke pardon the pun

  2. Allen VK3ARH says:

    Well I was in Subie on a couple of occasions and also had trouble believing she got where she did. The new beast has big shoes to fill.

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