TV News Van Conversion

Discussion in 'On the Road' started by KG0EW, Oct 9, 2019.

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  1. KG0EW

    KG0EW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Everyone,
    I just purchased a retired TV news van; it is a Ford E350 with a Wilburt 42-ft mast, Onan 6KW generator, and two deep cell batteries for DC power. The cargo area is split into a operator area and the generator/mast compartment. there are three 19" racks built into the divider separating the two compartments. I'm currently pulling out many pounds of cut wires and 75-ohm coax, and fixing a few quirks with the mast and electrical distribution.

    I'm looking for ideas on how to outfit the van for ham radio operation - primarily HF, though I will probably also operate VHF contest as a rover or from rare(er) grid squared. Wondering about the value of putting in an APRS radio, installing 12V computer monitors for dual-monitors with a laptop, configuring for two operating positions, etc. What non-ham equipment is worth installing (in addition to a coffee pot!)?

    While the van is wired for 120VAC with the generator, I'd prefer to focus on 12V DC operation, so that I can minimize running the generator. Anyone have experience with a conversion like this? Comments and suggestions welcomed!
    David KG0EW
  2. AG6QR

    AG6QR Subscriber QRZ Page

    Cool! Our club had a news van donated. A member of our club had retired from a local TV station, and was able to suggest to his former employer that they could make a charitable donation of the van to an organization that would put it to good use. We use it for public service events, as a net control station for bike rides, hikes, races, etc. in areas where no cell service is available. We currently only have VHF/UHF gear in the van.

    The nice thing about it is its huge pneumatic mast, and the great power system it has. We have hilly terrain, and the mast can often help in lifting a signal out of a valley. With the generator and the huge battery bank, we never worry about running out of power. It is well outfitted with interior workspace, lighting, etc.

    But realistically, its most practical value is probably as a public relations thing. We have graphics on the side with our club's name and logo, and the big mast draws attention. The rear of the van is a reasonable operating position for one person, maybe two, but it's not big enough for more. Because we're usually dealing with many people on-site including casual passers-by, we normally set a table and canopy just outside the van, and operate from folding chairs outside, leaving the interior vacant. We've set up a radio with a detachable head that we can put outside on a table. As a practical matter, we could usually set up a station just as effectively by bringing the table, chairs, canopy, radio and a couple of big 12V lead-acid batteries to the event in a pickup truck. Usually, a mag-mount on the roof of any vehicle would reach the repeater just fine; a portable mast would work in the few cases where height was needed.

    The mast would make a nice center support for an inverted Vee for HF, but we don't use ours that way. If I had my own personal van like this, I'd outfit it for HF.

    Our generator works well, but it doesn't smell good, and it's a bit noisy. We typically use it to power the air compressor for the mast as we set up, but after things are deployed, we turn the generator off and run strictly off of batteries. In the unlikely event the batteries ever die, we'll fire up the generator for a while, but that's never happened.
  3. KG0EW

    KG0EW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the comment! I'm planning to install a rotator and an HF beam, plus some cross-arms for dipoles. Ideally, I'd like to be able to set everything up by myself, which may limit my options for a beam, and will take some careful planning on a easily installed and removed mounting plate on the mast. VHF FM will be mostly used while I'm driving; will probably have 6m and 2m SSB and CW for VHF contests as well. At least, that's what I'm planning!

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