SITREP as at August 2013
the truck has been at home for two months. It has been fun so far – I have spent the time getting bits and pieces done, both radio and mechanical, and putting some time in to building a shed for it.
Reaching Mechanical Stability
After a looking over, very few jobs really need doing. There are a few small oil leaks, although these look more like porous gaskets between mating faces rather than seals. One seal that is weeping is the rear nearside axle oil seal, so this is on the list for replacement. My view generally is that at least when you can see a drip you know there is oil in there. I will need to change the filters and oils, and have pencilled in some time in September to do this.
The heater in the pod is not working and will need some investigation. It runs off the diesel tank but I have not had time as yet to get into the detail of how they work. It is made by a well known form so there should not be a problem. Apart that is from the cost of spares – a replacement controller is in excess of three hundred pounds.
Radio Power Supply Concerns
My biggest concern so far is the signals batteries. There are four fairly large capacity gel mat units that connect to give 24 volts. These are charged either by a separate generator on the vehicle or an external petrol unit. The vehicle charger is working and surprisingly gives a good charge at tickover. The problem seems to be that the batteries are not building up to full charge. I am working on a number of solutions – I tried to charge the pack as a single unit but that did not give the result I wanted. I have given each unit a charge and this has again produced a patchy result so I have now obtained a fairly powerful pulse charger and am bringing them up individually. I have one unit that is showing green and two others which are getting up to 10-11v in stages so I hope that with this and a bit of work, they will recondition.
Restoring the Paint Work and other Household Chores
There is a little bit of rust in places, mainly on the surface, so I am rubbing that down and painting it. The paintwork is very faded, which is a problem with the infra red reflective green that the Army used at the time. I am using a similar colour without the reflective element, so in future the question of fading should not arise.
The major job on the bodywork so far has been cleaning it. I assume that because of the electronic in the back that it was not possible to get into the nooks and crannies, but it was absolutely filthy. I have used about five buckets of a Flash/Dettol mix and each one has ended up looking like a brown pond. On the other hand the whole thing now smells cleaner and is much nicer to sit in.
Getting on Air
The radio side is also coming along. My first task has been to get some form of communication going with the VRC 321. I was lucky in that there was a mounting which took the set, but it was surrounded by a frame which did not allow the Tuning Unit to clamp on the top. This became a problem later. I managed to get power from the distribution board to the set, and connected the set to the Tuner. I replaced the seals in the mast pump so that I could raise the mast pneumatically, and obtained a junction unit to connect together the two arms of a dipole as well as a 20m coaxial to connect the Tuner Unit to the dipole junction.
Field Trials – Commencing Mobile and Portable Operations from the New Station
One sunny morning a friend and I decided that we ought to go out and see whether we could raise anything on the set, so we drove up on to the Moor. Caradon Hill is about 1200 feet above sea level and apart from the height, the view on a clear day is spectacular. You can see Bodmin Moor, the sea at Looe as well as the northern part of Dartmoor and if line of sight is the key, the propagation should be terrific.
We arrived and set up the antenna in an inverted V centring on the 14MHz band. The mast went up to about 25 feet, and all looked good until we came to look inside at the radio. During the trip up the Tuning Unit had fallen off and managed to break the coaxial connection between the transceiver and the tuner. Normally I have a couple of spare bits in the truck but not on that occasion. All we could do was to pack up and go home slightly disappointed.
Expensive Little Fuse Problem
Getting the 321 to work was not as easy as all that. I remade a connection cable and fitted that, but even having done that it did not seem to want to know. The first problem was that a fuse in the front of the set kept blowing. The set showed that there was 28v getting there but as soon as the tuning unit kicked in the fuse blew. Looking at the fuse it was an original 1 amp NATO fuse, so I tried to find another. I did find a supplier, but at a cost of over five pounds each. Given that I did not know the source of the problem, I thought that this would probably be an expensive diagnosis so I bought some cheaper 1 and 2 amp car fuses. A friend suggested that it may be that the relays and capacitors in the set may be stuck through lack of use, so I connected the set to a 12 volt battery overnight. The following day I tried the same with exactly the same result. After about five or six fuses, I realised that I was really getting nowhere. At this point I contacted Stuart who put me straight with regard to the actual fuse rating. Success! The set burst into life and once it had warmed up I was able to receive a transmission from France. That was a really great feeling, as I was beginning to wonder whether I had bought a heap of junk.
A couple of weeks later I tried again to receive from the top of Caradon and this time it worked very well. I tuned into VMARS and managed very good reception, better in some cases than the net controller. I did try to get on to the net but did not manage to do so.
Fitting the 2xVHF Sets
The next stage was to try to fit the VHF sets, but this has proved to be tricky because of the racking already installed. I have not been able to get a mounting plate on the radio table and I do not have any cables that are long enough to get from the set to the units. On the positive side I have managed to fit the TUUAM properly as well as the ARFAT to pre-existing mountings. I have also managed to get the special rubber mountings for the TUUAM. The antenna base fitted onto the outside fittings, and running the cable from the base to the TUUAM was very easy. Because of the problems with the cables I have not managed to fire the set up yet, but a dry run outside the vehicle suggests that there should be no problems once they are properly connected. I have now managed to salvage some cables from within the vehicle which I can use to create the links and this is what I will be doing over the next couple of weeks.
Removing “Surplus” Racking
I have also stripped out much of the racking and fittings that I will not be using. This revealed the radio tray which I have found is pre-drilled for four radio mountings. I have managed to clean and paint this and am having the base plates to take the shock mounts made. Until then I have bolted the carriers straight to the table to make sure that the radios do not come adrift and to give me the distances to run the cables.
I have had one disaster. I bought a Sankey trailer at the same time and it is in reasonable condition. These are very heavy, and have an over-run braking system that is controlled by the movement of the towing eye against a cam which activates the brakes. In order to reverse you have to lock the towing eye so that the brakes are not activated. Guess who forgot to do this? The problem is that the truck has so much power that you just do not notice the resistance of the trailer and I managed to jack knife the whole unit. Unfortunately this pushed the trailer up against the bodywork and the result was a rather large dent in the tub. I am irritated by this as the trailer itself was pretty straight and now I have to work out how to get the dent out. Luckily the body of the truck was not damaged.
Armed Forces Day – Plymouth Hoe
I have also had one outing. We were invited to Armed Forces Day on Plymouth Hoe as part of a small group of vehicles organised by the MVT. I set up the HF set and mast to receive the VOLMETS broadcast from the RAF. This sounded vaguely military and created something going on. At the same time I tested the transmission using the PRC 320 and found that the 321 was not transmitting. Trial and error identified the problem to the handset as swapping the handsets between the 320 and 321 also swapped the problem. I’ve since obtained another couple of handsets.
Success on Air
My final triumph happened a couple of weeks ago. A friend from the radio class has been badgering me to transmit. I have problems with the Yaesu set up and although you can hear it the range seems very limited. To keep him quiet we agreed a time and frequency and I set the 321 up. Imagine my surprise when I managed to get a contact – admittedly only over about 20 miles, but a contact none the less. Given that the antenna was only roughly to size and we are down in a dip using very low power I thought that it was an achievement. At least I have one contact to boast about.
Amateur Licence Upgraded – Successfully
In terms of the radio licence I have now completed the intermediate course and will take the test on Monday. I passed the mock, although the technical questions were a bit of a mare, so with a bit of revision and a following wind I should be 2E0 and able to wind the 321 up to 25 Watts.
Summary of Progress So Far
So two months on there has been progress across a number of fronts. The radio fit is coming on, the mechanical side is under control and the painting has begun. There is a vehicle meeting locally in a couple of weeks which I hope to attend and will take some photos. I have a friend in the area who is also in to military radio so I might be able to set up a net between his Larkspur Rover FFR and the Clansman RB44. That would be fun.