Building your rig - An instructional view

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by B. Dean Berry, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    In the coming weeks, I will be committing to a build of the "rig" I will be using for the foreseeable future. This build will feature multiple technologies, from ancient to current, and this thread will be laid out in an informative and instructional manner. There will be lots of photos, and potentially some videos. Like my Radio Communications thread, it's meant primarily to teach the newest among us how to do this sort of thing, and can offer a view to those established and familiar with their own methods that there are other potential options out there.

    A bit about the car itself:

    The base of this build will be a 2013 Ford Taurus SEL AWD. It's a civilian-model (retail) Taurus, that has some features of the police model, and by some features, I mean the intelligent all-wheel-drive system, slightly beefier electrical system, and the body style. That's about all that crosses over, even though this same model is still used by some police agencies for detective purposes. Basically, this is not a police car, and is never intended to appear as such, even though there are some similarities.

    Secondly, I have long since served in various capacities in the fire & EMS services. When I first acquired this vehicle last summer, I was a lot more heavily involved in volunteer fire than I am now. As such, it was previously outfitted with warning lighting, a siren, and public safety communications. All of the visual and audible warning equipment was removed from the vehicle several months ago. Accordingly, some installation groundwork has already been done, and a switch panel still needs to be removed. I will provide photos of the existing power supply system for those unfamiliar, but will not bother with showing removal of existing wiring, as it will clutter the experience, and likely prove to be confusing.

    For those wondering, I will not be installing nor using any form of amber lighting apparatus, and this thread will not cover them. At all. In any way.

    I hope this thread proves informative and inspirational. We are nearing the end of winter, and like a lot of you, I have been cooped up inside too long.

    Major Thread Restructuring

    The site I was using for image hosting decided to throw a bunch of wrenches in the works, so I had to switch to Google Photos.

    I will be adding a build-up portion to the current end of the thread to showcase the process up until now.
     
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    #1 B. Dean Berry, Feb 10, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  2. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Starting out

    From my square-1, I have quite a bit to do, but quite a bit has been done already. The car currently has the following features installed, that will be remaining:

    - ProClipUSA AMPS mounts already in place on the driver's side dash vent and the passenger's side console trim.
    - Uniden BCD996T digital trunking scanner mounted on top of the center dash panel.
    - Cobra 75WXST CB radio (will be getting moved).
    - Motorola XTVA Convertacom unit for XTS3000 radios with W3 control head (primarily for my work radio at the ambulance service).
    - Motorola XTS3000 UHF portable radio with RF adapter kit
    - 4 NMO antenna mounts with coax (3 on the roof, 1 on the rear passenger fender).
    - Tram NMO scanner antenna
    - Browning NMO CB antenna
    - RAM double-socket arms with diamond & AMPS bases (x2)

    Dug from storage

    I have retrieved the following items from my storage room that will be installed:

    - Larsen Special NMO UHF quarter-wave antennas (x2)
    - Larsen Special/SureCall NMO 4G LTE antennas (x2)
    - NMO mounting kit with FME female connectors (x2)
    - FME to TS9RA adapters (x2)
    - MFJ diplexer (2.9-170/222-520 version)
    - Sierra Wireless S754/AT&T Elevate WiFi portable hotspot
    - 12VDC to 5VDC USB power supplies (x2)
    - Kyocera Torque Android smartphone in a Ballistics case (disused)
    - AdvanceTec speaker/mic/PTT for Kyocera phones
    - Slipgrip molded phone mount for Kyocera phones, RAM diamond-base pattern
    - 3/8"x24 CB antenna spring
    - Various cables

    Waiting on the postman

    The following items have been ordered, and are awaiting delivery:

    - TYT TH-9800 quad band (10M/6M/2M/70cm) mobile radio. This install will make use of only the 6/2/70 ranges.
    - Baofeng GT-5TP dual band portable radio. I don't normally swing Chinese, but this is cheap and effective.
    - Opek VH-1220 dual band whip antenna. This one is an odd combo, 2 meters/6 meters, but exactly what I need.
    - Firestik channel mounting apparatus, for the VH-1220.

    A note on programming

    In case anyone is wondering, I am using a diverse software suite, and various cables, for programming all of the radio equipment.

    For the Uniden scanner, I am using Butel ARC-996 software with a Uniden cable.
    For the Motorola portable, I am using Motorola XTS3000/Astro Spectra CPS (Win 98), and a RIB box with standard cable.
    For the TYT mobile, I am using RT Systems ADMS-9800 software and USB32 cable.
    For the Baofeng portable, I am using Baofeng UV-82 VIP software and Radioddity cable.

    Out of the 4, only the Baofeng software didn't cost money, but the ARC-996 is available with a time-limited trial. I know some use CHIRP to program, but I find CHIRP to be highly restrictive, and can brick a radio if not careful.

    What to take as inspiration

    Everyone's tastes, equipment loadouts, and needs, will differ. I am not a high-plains chaser. I'm mostly a local storm spotter, I occasionally will chase a decent setup west into Ohio, or in Virginia and points south if it's looking good, and just mostly a hobbyist. I depend heavily on radio, and this build reflects that, although your needs can and will vary. My original inspiration was, and continues to be, Daniel Shaw's US-dwelling chase truck that spends most of the year in a storage unit in the desert southwest, even though it differs significantly from mine.

    The point is, some people's "rigs" aren't for everyone, and no two are ever alike, but one thing does seem to permeate the automotive side of our hobby's culture, and that is emulation.
     
  3. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Emergency/survival kit

    One thing not to overlook in your rig build is the ability to help yourself and help others. At the risk of getting all "saving lives"-ey, you really should be able to do so. I myself am an Emergency Medical Technician in my state, and have been one for about two decades. Beyond helping others, a proper emergency and survival kit can help you out in a pinch.

    One thing to note - on this list, you will see several items of basic or advanced medical necessity, depending on your state protocols. If you don't know what something is, or don't know if you are allowed to use it or not, definitely check. Do not exceed your Scope of Practice. Ever.

    Also, I don't get into political arguments or safety arguments. When it comes to force protection, decide your own plan for yourself based on your ability, training, politics, and local/state laws. I have a current range qual, have been trained in the use of firearms, have a valid license to concealed carry, I lean right, and I live in a state with rather permissive gun laws. YMMV.

    My kit contains:

    Personal Survival
    - Two folding camp chairs
    - Two-person tent
    - Queen size air mattress
    - 12VDC inflator
    - Sheets for mattress
    - Pillow & case
    - Two heavy blankets
    - Tent stake hammer/puller
    - Several cans of ready-to-eat soups
    - 1 Case bottled water
    - Road flares (great for drying out wood and starting fires)
    - Battery lantern
    - Flashlight
    - Trash bags
    - Extra shirt, pants, socks, underwear, fleece, and shoes in sealed bags
    - Cold weather balaclava
    - Baby wipes
    - Basic toolbox
    - .40 S&W semi-auto handgun with proper holster & magazines

    Personal Protective Equipment
    - Wraparound eye protection
    - Work gloves
    - MSA Metro fire helmet
    - NIOSH N95 masks
    - Nitrile exam gloves

    Medical Equipment
    - Full BLS trauma bag, including several commercial tourniquets
    - Normal Saline 1000ml bag with IV dripset (GREAT for making eyewashing stations)
    - Full airway kit with nasal & oral airways and BVMs
    - D-size oxygen cylinder with regulator
    - Pulse oximeter
    - Lifepak 500 AED

    Most of these items fit inside of a large plastic tote that I keep in the trunk. The oxygen cylinder and camping gear are in a void space between the tote and the back seat, and the medical bag sits neatly on top of the tote. One thing about this car - even with all of this equipment, there is still plenty of trunk space left over.
     
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  4. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    A bit of a mid-course update, and testing out image linking (something either with my image host, or with the boards here, is broken).

    This is where this build is, right now.

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    Trunk space - Cleaning chemicals, car care products, portable chasing equipment backpack, car care towels, camera bag, emergency survival kit, EMS jump bag.

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    Front cabin - Cobra radar detector, Auto Drive AD-161 drivecam, Fuji Finpix XP95 digital camera on RAM arm mount, amber Chinese LED dashlight, Uniden BCD996T scanner, Google Nexus 7 Android tablet in custom mount, TYT TH-9800 ham radio on CD slot mount, Cobra 75WX ST CB radio on ProClipUSA mount.

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    Passenger side floorboard area - 2 3-outlet boxes, extension speakers for CB and scanner.

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    This rear angle shows the NMO mounts across the roof, containing 2 custom-made 4G LTE antennas and a Tram scanner antenna, an amber ProStrobe Lighthouse LED throw beacon, Tram 244 body-side mount with Opek VH-1220 50MHz/144MHz dual band whip antenna, two NMO mounts containing a Tram CB antenna with spring and a Larsen Special UHF quarter-wave, and a Pilot dash cam in the upper right corner of the back glass.

    I am waiting on brake hardware, performance pads/rotors, black wheel paint, red caliper paint, Weather Tech advanced floor liner for the rear floorboards, and a Tram 5/8 wave gain antenna with spring to replace the quarter-wave on the right rear QP. More is in the cards, but this build has nearly been completed at this point.
     
  5. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    Nice setup in the cabin. I would have expected a remote head for the 996, but it looks like a nice spot for it there. If you don't mind me asking, what kind of bracket is the 996 in on top of the dash?

    I'm looking from my phone at the moment so I can't really zoom in and see everything all that well. I have a similarly sized Uniden CB that I need to figure out how and where I'm going to mount it.


    Sent from my iPhone using Stormtrack
     
  6. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    The 996 is in it's factory bracket. I isolated the radio from vibrating by placing a rubber grommets between the bracket and dash panel, one around each screw.

    I would have done the remote head for the BCD996T, but BC-96RH units are out of production now, and incredibly expensive.
     
  7. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Major Thread Restructuring

    The site I was using for image hosting decided to throw a bunch of wrenches in the works, so I had to switch to Google Photos.

    I am adding a build-up portion to the current end of the thread to showcase the process up until now.
     
  8. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Tablet Mount

    The secret to the best tablet mount in the world is this crappy $10 mount right here:
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    When you pop off the headrest stalk mount, there is a standard tripod-sized 1/4"x20 threaded hole under it. I used a RAM AMPS mounting base, RAM arm, and RAM camera mount, and formed this amazing tablet mount, which stands on a ProClipUSA dash mount.
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    Internet Connectivity

    I use two WiFi hotspots on the road, one Franklin Wireless R850 Sprint hotspot, and a Sierra Wireless S754 Elevate AT&T hotspot. Each hotspot works through one NMO-mounted rooftop 4G LTE antennas that I made out of a pair of Larsen Special NMO bases and a pair of magnet-mounted Black Cats.

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  9. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Scanner

    The scanner I use is a Uniden BCD996T digital trunking scanner. It's mounted with a bail bracket to the top of the center dash cap. The antenna is an NMO-mounted Tram all-band scanner antenna on the roof, and the scanner uses a Motorola extension speaker, mounted in the passenger side footwell.

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Ham Radio

    I use 3 bands of a quad-band mobile ham radio on the road. The TYT TH-9800 comes with a remote head kit, and is capable of 10 meters, 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70cm. I am using 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70cm. The radio body is mounted under the driver's seat, and the head is mounted to center dash on a CD-slot-mounted phone holder. The antenna system is an MFJ diplexer, leading out to an Opek VH-1220 6M/2M dual-band antenna on a Tram 244 body side mount, and a Larsen Special UHF quarter wave on an NMO mount.

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  10. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    I'd figured that you'd had the 996 for a while so I wasn't sure on the remote head. Same era as the GRECOM scanners that I bought a decade a go if memory serves me correctly.

    Still, that's a nice setup even with the full radio up there. I've been contemplating a car that did better on fuel for setups in areas where I don't necessarily need my 4x4 pickup. Maybe a sedan or an 4x4/AWD crossover. I just hate how most of those vehicles are all about sunroofs, which i would prefer to avoid.
     
  11. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    The 996T is of that generation. The XT came after, and the P2 after that. I'm going to be replacing it with a P2 here in a little bit.

    Did some more stuff today and yesterday.

    Brakes and Coatings

    Here in the Northeast, if you don't stop rust, rust will stop you. The past 2 days have been dedicated to breaking some bolts loose, drilling stuck bolts out, and scrubbing away and covering up rust. I also took this opportunity to take care of multiple chips on the wheels that were starting to corrode, and change the look of the vehicle completely.


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    This is a little of what we deal with up here in the Rust Belt, and this car is only 5 years old.
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    The calipers were done with 2-stage red epoxy coat caliper brush paint. The brackets were done with epoxy-coat black caliper paint, and rust recovery was accomplished by scrubbing with a wire brush, then coating with rust converter/preventer and Rustoleum flat black.
     
  12. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Continuing on. I coated the wheels with 20+ set/stage passes of high-gloss black polyurethane wheel paint, knocked out the Ford center caps for reinstallation afterward, and reinstalled everything. I also took this opportunity to black out the grille to match the new wheel color.

    I know this isn't typical chase rig fare, but if you don't take care of your rig, it won't take care of you.

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  13. Mark Blue

    Staff Member

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    You appear to be quite the DIY guy Dean! I like the calipers and wheel combo you customized. What’s next a radio to NASA where you can say ‘Houston we have a problem’!?
     
  14. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Funny enough, the International Space Station has a repeater and ham radios with multiple different VHF and UHF uplink and downlink frequencies, and I have those frequencies in my radio. I have talked to them before, just not from this car. Generally, you have to have a circ-pol Yagi handheld beam antenna, but contact can be made off of a regular vertical.
     
  15. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Next might be a Midland MXT-275 mobile GMRS radio, when they finally debut. That unit uses a handheld control head, with all of the controls and screen on the microphone itself. That's a big if/when, though, as Midland has been promising the MXT-275 for about a year now, and no new news forthcoming.

    https://midlandusa.com/product/mxt275-micromobile-two-way-radio/
     
    #15 B. Dean Berry, Apr 23, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
  16. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    And for those (on the Discord) asking when I was going to wash and wax it again with the new look?

    Did a little photo shoot for those guys today.

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  17. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Constant hot power source

    I got tired of the chargers for the Sprint hotspot and the tablet always going dead when the car is not running. I went to do some road tests today, and found both completely dead. This will not do, and I was getting tired of exposed cables snaking all over the car. Not pro, not sexy, not cool.

    What's a man to do? I'll tell you what he does. He installs a constant-power A-Lead and a USB charger for his stuff.

    Start with an A-Lead. I used 8G copper-strand insulated automotive cable, and a 50-A maxi fuse. This lead will carry more than just the one charger in the future.

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    Brought that A-Lead across the shock tower bar with the ignition-switched A-Lead, down the fenderwell, under the fender liner, and up through a grommet into the passenger side footwell. Sadly, this is the only way to get wires from the cab to the under-hood area on a 6th gen Taurus.

    Brought a smaller gauge dual-cable out to the driver's side footwell, and terminated it with a power outlet. The black wire is grounded to the metal near the entry point.

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    Then, this handy 2.1/1.1 amp USB car charger provides the USB power for the devices.
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    With everything tucked into/among the trim panels, it went back together very slick and pro, and now the Franklin Wireless R850 Sprint hotspot and the Google Nexus 7 tablet have constant charging power. The second cable visible on the hotspot is the primary external cellular antenna coax.

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  18. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    So, a lot of changes have occurred as of late, and the build is continuing to change as I find things that work, things that don't work, and things that need adjusted.

    I replaced the Uniden BCD996T with a BCD996P2, for scanning more advanced systems, moved the TH9800 control head to a small L bracket on top of the dash, and got a Gripper 115 camera mount.

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    The car was subject to the installation of a Westin Elite Series brush guard, and 5" LED flood and fog lights. I also installed a Curt 12296 receiver hitch.

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    I have ordered a sheet of black ABS plastic to replace one of the top covers of a console panel, to mount the new 3-switch Carling Contura switch panel I have also ordered.

    Coming along nicely.

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  19. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    New data/hotspot/smartphone configurations

    I switched to Sprint a couple weeks ago. In that time, I gained a new Kyocera Duraforce PRO, which is a phenomenal smartphone. I use it for Radarscope, Baron Critical Weather Intelligence, and Twitch streaming. Also, in switching back to Sprint, I was able to activate my Kyocera Torque and pay nothing for it's unlimited plan. I use the Torque for my mobile hotspot needs, as well as for RadarAlive! Pro. The Duraforce is in a windshield-mounted Scosche grip mount, and the Torque in it's Ballistic Case rests in a custom-formed SlipGrip phone holder on a RAM ball mount and arm.

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