1996 Chevrolet Lumina
(former KCJOW-1)

This 1996 Chevrolet Lumina was my daily driver. By November 2003, it had 136,000 miles on it, and I sold it to my friend's parents who now use it as their main transportation for trips to the casinos in Tunica, MS. It still runs great today! The rest of this page describes the car from when I still had it.

I purchased this car new from Don Brown Chevrolet in St. Louis in 1995; it was my first new car. It has covered many trips to the backwaters of the Midwest and East Coast.

Radio Equipped

When I got my ham radio ticket, it was a foregone conclusion that the Lumina would get some radio gear put in it. It now sports a typical VHF/UHF mobile installation:

  • Kenwood TM-D700A 2m/70cm radio
  • Comet SSB-2 2m/70cm antenna on a Comet GR-5M stainless steel trunk mount
  • Rand McNally "mouse-style" GPS for the GPS feed to the Kenwood
  • Radio Shack PRO-2046 scanner (not always installed)
  • Larsen 2m antenna in trunk (used when scanner is installed)
  • Garmin GPS III Plus unit (optional, for mapping while driving)
This combination lets me hit the local repeaters within a decent range. I only put the scanner in when I know I'm going to be beaconing on the D700's band A and talking on band B, and need something else to scan frequencies (mainly when chasing trains).

I beacon the position of the car via APRS using the callsign KCJOW-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

Here is some information on how this equipment is installed. Many cars these days are so ergonomically designed that it's hard to find a place to put anything. The Lumina, however, has enough nooks and crannies that everything fell into place VERY well, making the system pretty convenient to use. (Clicking on the smaller photos below will enlarge them.)

Antenna Installation
The Comet SSB-2 is mounted to the trunk using the Comet GR-5M stainless steel trunk lip mount. 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 into the passenger compartment. Luminas have a small hole in the metal structure under the package shelf, which provides a perfect entry point for the antenna wire. The first time you do this, it is necessary to remove the back seat so that you can lift the package shelf up to gain access to the hole, then you can pull the wire through. However, I've done this enough times with this car that my back seat is now limber enough to just pull it forward without having to unmount it!

Once the coax was fed through the hole, it was run along the top edge of the back seat, then along the passenger side floor (under and around the trim) until it came out under the passenger seat. In some places, the coax is too fat to fit under the trim, so I just run it next to it.

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. KSTL 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.

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 along the back seat and down the passenger side, same as the antenna coax cable. The data connection hooks up to a null modem cable from the TM-D700A radio by the rear door (it ain't pretty, but it works), while the power connector hooks to the modified PS/2 cable coming from the fusebox.

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.

TM-D700A Radio Installation
The Kenwood TM-D700A radio is a popular 2m/70cm unit which includes built-in APRS capabilties, which is why I chose it for the car. The radio uses a remote control head, so the actual radio unit can be tucked away somewhere. In my case, I placed it under the front seat, where it had easy access to the antenna and GPS cables. The power cables run under the floor mat on the passenger side, but that hasn't really proved to be a hindrance.

The TM-D700A includes a mounting bracket for the remote control head. I mounted this in the eyeglass cubbyhole the Lumina features on the left side of the dashboard, which turned out to be a very convenient location for the driver to use it. Of course, my ham radio passengers grumble about not being able to see the display because it's on the "wrong" side of the dash!

The microphone also plugs into the front of the TM-D700A unit, and hangs on a hook near the glove compartment.

My car is a stripped-down model, with the only power accessories being power locks, air conditioning and a radio. This worked in my favor when it came to wiring in the equipment. My friend John Helterbrand helped set up the wiring for the radio, GPS and scanner to attach to unused circuits in the fusebox. It turns out the circuit for the power windows (which are not present in my car) was a perfect fit for the D700 to plug in to, power-wise.

In the picture of the fusebox, the radio, GPS, and scanner are hooked to the rightmost three fuses in this order:

  • TM-D700A - 15 amp
  • GPS - 10 amp
  • PRO-2046 scanner - 10 amp (not inserted in picture)
John ran the wiring from the fusebox to the power leads of the accessories. Since the highest power the TM-D700A transmits at is 50w, this worked out perfectly, and was cleaner than having to run a wire through the firewall directly to the battery.

The Finished Product
Here you can see the dashboard with everything installed. The TM-D700A remote console is on the left, the mic is on the right, and the scanner would go below. The Garmin GPS used for mapping while driving sits on the pull-out beverage holder, which almost seems like it was designed for it.

Last modified: June 17, 2007