San Diego Miata Club

This page is a collection of Newsletter articles and emails about switching to the FM handheld radios:

A message from SDMC President: Car-to-car communication.
Source: June 17, 2019 - SDMC-list message 33918

By now I’m sure you’ve seen some of the e-mail chatter regarding radios. DON’T PANIC; no one is taking away your CB radio! When I joined the San Diego Miata Club 22 years ago we filled a small corner of The Boll Weevil patio and all drove NA’s. Communication on runs was easy using CB radios. Over the years we’ve seen the Miata evolve through NA, NB, NC, PRHT, ND and RF. Each MX5 version was a technological leap from the previous. Unfortunately some of those technological advances have made use of CB’s somewhat more challenging. Our club too has grown since those early days making the distance from run-leader to sweep frequently long enough to require message relay from the middle. Please don’t even get me started on the subject of squelch!

Many times over the years many members have asked if there might be something better. After all, now we have e-mail, cell phones, GPS, etc. A few ideas came and went, but we still had good ole CB’s. Recently however some of our “techy-type” members took it up as a challenge. They independently formed a small ad-hock group and dove in. At their own expense they began experimenting with various radio types and frequencies and I must say the results so far are impressive. The group of testers has grown. After the one test I took part in I immediately bought one of the radios. I like it!

I will let others more qualified tell you about their efforts and conclusions but I heartily endorse them. I believe that if the results of research continues the way I expect we may actually now have “a better mouse trap”. I said originally no one is taking away your CB. It may however have just become obsolete. The group plans to speak to the membership about their efforts and findings at the June 27th SDMC monthly meeting. STAY TUNED!

David Bryan; Prez

A brief discussion of the two-way radio world suitable for SDMC use
By Steve Sampson
Source: August 25, 2019 - SDMC-list message 34315

This email will seem like more than you want to know - or need to know - about two-way radio communications, but to use the correct terminology when we are telling others how the SDMC communicates, or when you are buying radios or accessories in a store or on-line, these details can become important. Please read on. At the end I’ll tell you what SDMC is really doing and why.

There are six (6) different radio communications services that could be available for SDMC to use on our runs but only two, or perhaps three, are proper and legal for our job. They are listed here alphabetically, with a brief overview.

1. Citizens Band (CB) Radio – The old standard, and has been around since 1958. Operating at the lower frequency of 27 mHz it required large antennas that hard to integrate into Miatas, and with old school Amplitude Modulation (AM) they can be very noisy. All the following services use the quieter Frequency Modulation (FM).

2. Family Radio Service (FRS) – Intended for families or small group outings, this UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band of 462-475 mHz limited to only ½ watt or 2 watts of power is deliberately designed by the FCC to be a short range service – too short for Miata runs.

3. General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) – Operating in the same UHF band as FRS, GMRS can have up to 50 watts and is intended to be licensed (required) for businesses. Clubs like SDMC have not been able to get a GMRS license for years. Individuals can get a license.

4. Ham (Amateur) Radio – Ham radios can be bought to operate on many different frequencies and power levels. Because of this wide range of capability, classes and passing a somewhat technical license is required, beyond what most SDMC members would care to do. And most Ham radios are made to only operate in proper Ham bands.

5. Land Mobile Radio System (LMRS) – Used by companies, governments and other organizations for a wide range of communications needs. It allows up to 100 watts of power, and has channels in both the UHF band (450-470 mHz) and the lower Very High Frequency (VHF) band of 150-172 mHz. Both of these features are important and discussed more later. However a group license is required.

6. Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) – MURS is a newer license-free service that also operates in the preferred VHF band from 151 to 154 mHz. These features are ideal for SDMC, but transmit power is limited to 2 watts.

So what is SDMC doing?

We are walking away from or avoiding options 1, 2, 3 (most likely), or 4 because CB is too noisy with better options today, FRS range is too short, both GMRS and Ham require licenses and the regular use of call signs.

We like both options 5 & 6 because both allow the use of the preferred lower frequency VHF band which usually transmits farther outside (as stated before, UHF is often better inside buildings and preferred by maintenance and security folks). LMRS allows higher power than MURS and the club is requesting a group license for LMRS. MURS can be used right now and anywhere in the US without a license. Sometimes it may be important to let folks know we are using LMRS or MURS rather than the other services.

Finally here are three comments on what makes a radio transmit farther, listed from typically the least to the most important:

1. Power. More power always helps, but be aware that the radio world doesn’t work the way you think. If you want to double your range, you need to increase your transmitter power ten times.

2. Frequency. In outdoor environments with rolling country and trees, VHF frequencies tend to travel around twice as far as the higher UHF frequencies.

3. Antenna. There is an old saying in the Ham radio world, “Spend the least you can on the radio and the most you can on the antenna.” It has some truth in the Miata world as well. A longer handheld antenna will out-perform a short handheld antenna, and a larger external antenna mounted on metal (a mag mount) will outperform the “rubber ducky” on your radio.

Thank you! This channel is now being returned to it's normal operation.

Steve Sampson



The Hunt for a better Radio Mousetrap
By Alan Kagan
Source: SDMC Newsletter, August, 2019

It all started with Laurie Waid.

At the time her request seemed relatively simple: "I wish someone who knew something about radios would take the lead and help guide the club into a simple radio solution". Women are devious. She knew that by dropping that challenge at my feet I would be tempted to jump into the quest to find a better solution to the club's car to car communication challenge.

She hooked me, let me run with the line for a little while then snagged me.

The history of CB in SDMC:

CB operates on AM frequencies and shares the same basic need that all AM transmissions require, which is a strong antenna. With CB it is ALL about the antenna. This is easily solved with a huge whip antenna or more commonly a base loaded antenna. The huge whip is ugly. The magnetic will probably scratch your car. A mounted trunk lip is also likely to scratch your car. Or you can bite the bullet, drill a hole in your trunk, permanently damage the car, and mount a base for the CB antenna.

An aesthetically pleasing antenna solution became available when Jeff Anderson came onto the scene and made antenna splitters. Every one was happy. By utilizing their existing factory installed antennas, they could maintain the Miata aesthetics and still have "decent" communication.

Then Jeff Anderson stopped making splitters. The club was hooked on CB (thank you Laurie). The new ND's were coming out and there was no antenna splitter available. A temporary but limited solution came about when Mark Booth was able to adapt an NC splitter to his ND and repeated that process for a few club members. Unfortunately there weren't enough NC splitters to satisfy the need for all the new ND owners. Matching an OEM antenna to a CB didn't seem to be a viable option any longer.

A possible solution was a universal antenna splitter. I decided to check that out myself and bought one for $30 on Amazon. I tore my trunk apart to gain access to the antenna, then had to order an antenna extension (another $8) when the metal splitter box wouldn't couple to the antenna frame When the extension arrived two days later, I could NOT get the SWR to come below 3.5 (unusable) no matter how much I tuned the universal splitter.

Then I found an NB Jeff Anderson splitter in my garage. I tried it on my NC .....nope......couldn't get the SWR below 3.5 either. We might have had a solution when Steve Sampson offered to disassemble my NB splitter to see if it could be cloned. That was determined to be economically unfeasible.

We have new members joining the club who would like to be able to communicate on runs. We have old members who would like to communicate but don't want the expense and hassle of installing a CB system. IF we are going to continue to have car-to-car communication on SDMC runs, maybe it's time to think "outside the (CB) box".

Shortly after the wheel was invented and SDMC was originally founded, CB was the best solution for car to car communications. But what else is currently available that might be as good or even better? What new technologies are readily available? What are other car clubs using? Can we learn from their experiences ??

We formed a small ad hoc group to find a better mousetrap. My personal goal was K.I.S.S. (and inexpensive).

A little research by Ken Hurd revealed that some Texas clubs were using Baofeng handheld radios on GMRS frequencies. When we checked into GMRS as a solution we found that individual licensing for each club member by the FCC was required at an approx cost of $75 / 5 years This ruled out GMRS as a viable contender for K.I.S.S. and inexpensive.

Several club members had bad experiences with FRS on previous runs and that was also immediately rejected.

I knew that our NSX club was using handheld radios on UHF/VHF frequencies so I reached out to NSXCA and asked for licensing information. I obtained a copy of their FCC license and sent it to Neal Mills. Neal was able to determine that NSXCA was operating on what he called "itinerant frequencies" in the UHF/VHF (FM) bandwidth. Rick Salvador jumped in with his HAM licensing background and began exploring what would be necessary to get an "SDMC club license" (FCC calls it a business license) We are in the process of getting a license for the

club. Once the club gets the license, your club membership will entitle you to use the frequencies that the FCC will grant. There will be no additional individual cost to any club member who chooses to use this new system of communication.

All of us on this ad hoc group wanted to find something that would be as good or better than the present CB system. To be sure we were on the right path, we ran simultaneous CB vs handheld tests on two different runs. On each run the small, inexpensive handheld radios outperformed all of the CBs in clarity, distance, and simplicity.

15 people or so used the handhelds on our Thursday 6/13 geezer run. No one wanted to use their CBs after using the handhelds. Dell Pound told me he wanted to stop using his CB shortly after the run began ...the handheld was dramatically better.

No more messing with the squelch.

No more static.

No more "What did he say" ??

Even Steve Waid heard everything !!!!!!

AFTER we get FCC approval this is “The” Ad Hoc Proposal: (not set in stone).

There is no need to remove a CB system presently installed in your car, and you will not be forced to adopt this new system. On every run in the forseeable future, the lead car or the car immediately following the lead car will have a navigator with both radio systems who will transmit simultaneously on both radios. If your navigator is a woman this should be easy since women have bragged FOR EV R that they can multitask where men cannot (ROFLMAO). The sweep car, (or the car immediately in front of the sweep), will also have both a CB and a handheld radio with the navigator communicating simultaneously on both radios. This would allow CB users be kept in the loop during club runs. Many club members will have an extra handheld radio to hand out as a loaner at the beginning of club runs. We do this all the time in our NSX club runs. Additionally, SDMC will probably have a small supply of club radios to be handed out as well.

If you choose to get a radio and take advantage of this better communication system, you are encouraged to shop around and buy anything that suits your personal needs.

The radio we used primarily for testing was the Baofeng UV-82HP, available on Amazon for $62.89. Ken Hurd obtained a group buy purchase price direct from Baofeng of $46 each if we purchase 50 This particular radio comes in BLACK, RED, YELLOW, BLUE, AND CAMO Accessories included are charger, belt clip, headset and a built in flashlight. . We used 20% of the battery on our test run Thursday. IF you are worried about battery depletion additional batteries or battery eliminators can be purchased separately. A battery eliminator is approximately $6. The UV-82HP operates on HAM, GMRS, FRS, and MURS.......including our "itinerant" UHF/VHF frequencies.

Programming these Baofeng radios can be burdensome, so several of us in the club are willing and able to do it for you. It only takes a minute with the proper program and required cable. We can do this at a club meeting, at the beginning of a club run, or individually at our homes. We can easily personalize your radio with your name and/or your name and navigator in the welcome screen. The program will include a very simple

and easy to use menu of SDMC frequencies labeled SDMC 1 through.........(?)....(however many FCC authorizes). The club members who used the radios for the first time on the Thursday, 6/13 run all found them easy to operate and easy to assimilate with their existing CB skills. The speaker built into the test radio has a 1 watt output. I heard from everyone that it was much clearer than the speaker in the Cobra 75 so you do NOT "need" to buy a bunch of accessories. This project is not a done deal. SDMC still has to decide to incorporate this system. The people involved in this ad hoc group include but are not limited to:
LAURIE WAID (thank you soooooo much), Neal Mills, Rick Salvador, Steve Sampson, Ted & Sue Kesler, Ken Hurd, Dell Pound, Dennis Sullivan and David Bryan. These people will be available at future club meetings and club runs to answer your questions.


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