Updates, Consolidation and inertia
It is a few months since I last wrote; We are in the grip of a very wet spell at home and work has been extremely busy. These have all conspired to slow progress down across the board, but that seems to be the way that life takes you.
An outing to Plymouth Radio Rally gave me a chance to show the VHF sets in operation.
Internally the installations are now much neater.
Externally the VHF Antenna bases are now fixed both sides. I am looking for another to place at rear (Let me know if you have one going please ;-). (Penhawger at Hotmail.com).
The main area of progress has been on the trailer. This is now stripped down and mostly painted. There are a few areas that need finishing, but the condensation in the shed at the moment is hindering me.
I am surprised at the volume of water that collects on both the trailer and the Scorpion just through condensation and I need to think seriously about how I can prevent some of this. The RB44 does not seem to be as badly served, but yesterday the radios were covered in it. It should not be a problem; they are designed to work underwater after all, but it does not do some of the other equipment much good. Actually, I would be interested to see the rational behind the need to use radios under two metres of water – I would also like to see the specification for a radio operator that could survive in those circumstances. I suppose it is a bit like my wrist watch – it will carry on working long after I have drowned which is a comfort.
Radio Batteries and a modern approach to charging and conditioning them.
Anyway, my main efforts off the trailer have been to get the signals batteries conditioned and reliable. Research on the internet showed that the series/parallel system used was not as simple as it first looks and that there was considerable debate about the best way to connect them. It seems that it is easy to connect them to get the 24 volts required, but that the way they are connected can have ramifications when they are charged. If the charger is connected across the wrong points, then each battery will receive a disproportionate amount of the charging current. The result is that some of the batteries are not in fact charged properly at all and others risk overcharging. I re-arranged the cables to take this into account, and started the process of getting the voltages up. I am using an Accumate charger which is an intelligent float charger giving about 3.5amps at 24 volts. There are three stages. Bulk, Absorb and Maintain and an LED indicates where on the cycle the charger is. I have left this connected now for about six weeks, and my observations are that the overall health of the pack has risen. There is a voltmeter in the radio compartment which shows the current state, and this has now risen from about eighteen at the beginning to around 22 now. When the engine is running and the vehicle generator is connected they show well over 24 volts. Watching the charger, you can see that it is cycling properly and that the length of time spent on Bulk and Absorb is decreasing. At first the pack was on Bulk for over 10 days before it moved.
I replaced the vehicle battery with a new one, not because it was a problem but it was the same size and type as my tractor battery which needed replacing. I recycled the RB44 battery to the tractor and all are now reliable starters for the winter.
Installation and internal fittings
The inside of the truck has been rationalised and as many redundant cables have been removed as possible. The driver’s cab is free from wiring and apart from a few bits at the rear of the pod, there is little left. The VHF and HF radios are in their final positions and I have connected as much standing wiring as I can. I have added a couple of external connectors under a canvas flap so that I can operate with the rear door shut whilst still using the masts but I am having trouble getting C type female connectors to make up the final ones. I cleaned the whole thing out properly as well and threw in a cheap lavender air freshener. That sounds silly but it has made it a good deal more pleasant to sit in and I was surprised at the amount of muck that washed out. I assume that it had not been possible to get to a proper clean because of the equipment, but I am glad that it has.
The internal lights have been replaced following a real stroke of luck on eBay. Four, brand new units at £5 each meant that the deformed ones could go. These had melted during their service life and the bulbs had fallen from the plastic fixings on to the clear lenses. I am concerned that this will happen again and am trying to work out a solution. There are four lights, each individually switched. However, they appear to be in a series circuit as they dim progressively as each is switched on. I do not know whether the previous damage was caused by trying to overcome this by increasing the wattage of the bulbs or whether it was caused by only using one and because of the circuit it overheated. Ideally I would like first to solve the difference issue and then look at fitting appropriate bulbs to cut down the heat inside the unit.
Operating the Sets
So far I have concentrated on the HF side of the sets, probably because my first set was HF, and decided that I needed to look at the VHF side as well. In the RB44 this is catered for by 2x 353 sets, much in the same way as most Land Rover fits. I have one connected through the usual TUAM and ARFAT to a whip antenna and base on the outside but I thought that I would look at a different set up for the second one. As the vehicle is likely to be more static operationally say than the Scorpion, it seemed like a reasonable idea to look at improving the range of the VHF set by using an external antenna. The solution is the “Pineapple” – a broad band antenna that can be placed on an 8m mast and connected directly to the set in use. I managed to obtain one of these, co-incidentally shortly before the Plymouth Radio Rally, so I decided to give it a try there.
Having parked up I set the mast up on a patch of grass and placed the Pineapple on top. It all went together easily and the low loss coaxial with it was plenty long enough to run to the new connectors on the side of the truck. I connected it to the untested 353 and fired it up. A fellow club member agreed a frequency with me and once I had sorted out the minimum power level we had a perfect transmission. I was surprised by the clarity of VHF, much clearer than HF, and only using an indicated 1 watt. To be true we were not that far apart, but a good test of the principle and the equipment. I am now looking at testing the range from Caradon hill to get some idea of how far I can go.
B Vehicle Harness
The next stage will be to look at the internal standing harness. At present I am running the sets with handsets on each one and a freestanding loudspeaker. I have an extended cable which I can use to take any of these outside the truck. However, I would like to rationalise this to create a more ordered setup to enable simultaneous monitoring and hard mounted loudspeakers. This will prevent the stuff from flying all over the shop when the truck moves as well as allowing me a bit more freedom and hopefully some better sound quality. I know this is possible as it is done in the Scorpion as well as other armoured command vehicles such as Sultan and the 432 variants, so it will only be a question of looking at how it can be fitted. I have seen similar in FFR Landrovers where the boxes are set on the Dexion racking, but my vehicle does not come equipped with this. It looks to me as if I will have to adapt or make up some mounting plates to fix the boxes and speakers. Sounds like fun.
Finally, I have managed to get another tub for the trailer. This one is not bent and is in a better condition than the current one and cost me less than the cost of repair. Another result!
So – there we have it – some progress, some consolidation and I am afraid some inertia on cold and damp days when I really did not want to go down the shed. I have a little time off over Christmas and some leave booked for January. The next serious work will be on the mechanical side of the truck – the plating needs renewing in early Feb – and I have a couple of silly jobs that need to be completed by then, as well as making progress on getting the service items ticked off. At least I have changed and updated the antifreeze.
I know what you mean about the shed 😉 ed.