2004 Chevrolet Impala

I purchased this 2004 Chevrolet Impala from Don Brown Chevrolet in November, 2003. I was able to order it with exactly what I wanted, and leave off what I didn't. All I really cared to have was the bigger engine (3800 V-6) with a fold-down rear seat so I could put my bicycle in back. I did NOT want the spoiler and "sport appearance" package you normally get with the bigger engine. Fortunately, they were able to order my particular options and leave off the rest, resulting in a bit of a stock-looking "sleeper".

My friend David is the fleet dealer at Don Brown, and normally orders police Impalas for the various police departments around town. He was able to get me a special radio stand, the Jotto Desk Contour Console, for the Impala that could be used to mount the amateur radios in the new car. This resulted in a radio installation that is more orderly in appearance than the Lumina. As an added bonus, he threw in a Jotto Desk computer mount for the Impala. I normally do NOT have this in place, as it's pretty unwieldly. However, I keep it in the trunk so it can be pulled out if needed, such as a ham radio event, etc.

New Car, Same Old Radios

We transferred the radios from the Lumina to the Impala, resulting in basically the same configuration and VHF/UHF capabilities as before:

  • Kenwood TM-D700A 2m/70cm radio
  • Comet SSB-2 2m/70cm antenna on a Comet GR-5M stainless steel trunk mount (for the TM-D700A)
  • Comet SSB-1 2m/70cm antenna on another Comet GR-5M stainless steel trunk mount (for the scanner)
  • Rand McNally "mouse-style" GPS for the GPS feed to the Kenwood
  • Radio Shack PRO-2046 scanner (now permanently installed in the Contour Console)
  • Garmin GPS III Plus unit (optional, for mapping while driving)
This combination lets me hit the local repeaters within a decent range. The scanner has not been used that much lately, and may eventually be replaced for another two-way radio.

I beacon the position of the car via APRS using the callsign WØBSH-1. This helps keep my friends amused as they watch me drive on trips. When I drive into an area with poor APRS digipeater coverage, the position doesn't update, and then they worry that I ran off the road. Fortunately, that hasn't happened yet. :-)

Installation Details

The installation of the radio equipment was considerably different for the Impala than for the Lumina. Once again, I was able to enlist the help of my friend John Helterbrand, who parked my brand new car in his garage and then calmly proceeded to strip apart the interior in front of me, all while assuring me that he remembered "where everything went". (Fortunately, he did!)

Antenna Installation
The Comet antennas are mounted to the trunk using Comet GR-5M stainless steel trunk lip mounts. The SSB-2 is on the left in the photo, and is used for the Kenwood; the SSB-1 is on the right (driver's side) and is used for the scanner. A few reasons I really like this mount are because 1) it is low-profile, 2) it is made of stainless steel, so it shouldn't rust, and 3) it has four set screws, not two, to help hold it down better.

The mount was screwed to the trunk, and the coax fed under the package shelf into the passenger compartment. With the back seat out, we were able to then fish the coax under the rug till each lead popped out in front, so the coax runs going to the console are completely hidden.

GPS Setup
Since APRS is all about sending out your position, a GPS unit is necessary to keep track of the Lumina's location. I chose the Rand McNally GPS unit, which is a small unit with no screen that resembles a computer mouse. KØSTL had been using the same unit for his setup and said that it worked well and pulled very little current, so I picked one up at a Rand McNally store in St. Louis for use with the Lumina. After the Lumina was retired, the GPS moved to the Impala.

The unit has a long data cable attached that terminates in two ends. The first end is a standard 9-pin DIN connection to send the data, and the second is a PS/2-style mouse connector for the power. I purchased a PS/2 extension cable and chopped off one end to provide access to the wires, which I then wired into the car to provide a power lead for the GPS to plug into. The GPS is located on the rear package shelf, attached with some velcro tape. The data/power cable runs under the rug with the antenna coax cables, and pops out in front behind the Contour Console.

The GPS unit is left on all the time. The current drain is so miniscule that I have never had a problem with the battery being drained, not to mention that the GPS usually maintains a satellite lock since it's always on.

Contour Console and Radio Installation
The Contour Console required some assembly before it could be used. One thing we had to do was figure out which radios should go where in the unit. It has three slots for radios, and custom face plates are available for various radio types. I had the face plate for the PRO-2046 scanner, and a blank face plate, but they do not offer one for the Kenwood TM-D700A radio, so John made a custom one. The final setup we decided on (from the top) is:
  • TM-D700A control head mounted on blank face plate
  • PRO-2046 scanner and face plate
  • TM-D700A radio mounted in custom face plate
Building the console required a bit of cutting and welding, especially for the face plate. Once it was finished, though, it worked like a charm! Now both driver and passenger can see the TM-D700A's display since it's centrally mounted, which was not the case in the Lumina. The GPS cable mentioned earlier also runs right into the TM-D700A to enable its APRS capabilities.

The microphone plugs into the front of the TM-D700A unit, and hangs on a hook mounted on the right side of the Contour Console.

The police model of the Impala (the 9C1/9C3 versions) normally include an extra wiring harness that can be used to run the radios, lights, etc. that are typically placed in police cars. The civilian Impala does not have this harness, but the fusebox does have the taps where they would plug into.

Using a wiring harness from a wrecked Impala, John was able to fabricate a custom harness and then wire it into the fusebox. This then runs behind the Contour Console, where the leads come out to be plugged into the various electronic gear. Since the highest power the TM-D700A transmits at is 50w, this does not strain the regular alternator in my car.

The Contour Console also include two 12V receptacles. Since console installation requires the removal of the Impala ashtray (where the 12V receptacle normally is located), this is a nice feature and gives you an extra receptacle to work with.

The Finished Product
After installing the Contour Console, the seats were placed back in the car, and this is the finished result. The console makes it easy to access all the radios. When I use the Garmin GPS for mapping while driving, I place it on top of the TM-D700A radio body. It usually stays in place quite well.

My friends now affectionately call the Impala the "cop car"!

Last modified: June 17, 2007