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I would like to mount a self tuning antenna, ATAS-120, matched with the FT-857D transceiver. I would like to make this pair function on an ARGO 8x8 amphibious vehicle with a polyethylene body.

There is a metal frame the engine and drive-train is attached to and I would run an independent ground from the antenna to the frame. Will this function properly?

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I think the question is how the frame will act as a counterpoise. You might consider adding some 450 Ω ladder line, cut to the lengths of the bands of interest, and run them up and down the sides of the argo.

I'm not an argo owner, but I live on a sailboat. What I did is roughly follow the information given on ropeantenna.com about counterpoises.

I've put a DC block between the rudder post and the antenna tuner and this is my ground (to sea water); then from the antenna tuner up along the sides of the boat I've run 450 Ω ladder line up and down each side. My system, a Kenwood 480 with a SGC-230 auto tuner, works well.

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  • $\begingroup$ What's a DC block? $\endgroup$ – Pete NU9W Mar 13 '15 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ How exactly are these segments of ladder line wired? What does it get you that plain wire doesn't? $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Mar 14 '15 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ A DC block is essentially just some capacitance in series. The notion is that DC can't flow "through" the capacitor, while the high frequency is passed. The more I think about it, that's unique to my situation though, since I'm on a boat in salt water and I don't want to have any stray current leaking into the water where it could result in accelerated corrosion. So you probably don't need the DC block. $\endgroup$ – Mike Sanderson Mar 15 '15 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ As for the ladder line, in fact they are wired "end to end" so that in essence the ladder line is just one big long wire. I'm sure you could do fine with just insulated copper wire. I understand that you want your counterpoise to be 1/4 wavelength if possible, for enhanced tuning, so you can add a couple runs that match the bands you are planning to use most. $\endgroup$ – Mike Sanderson Mar 15 '15 at 12:02
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Any monopole antenna such as the ATAS-120 is designed with the assumption that it will be mounted on a ground plane. The geometry of the ground plane is important. At radio frequencies, a sheet of metal such as the roof of a metal car is reflective, just like a mirror. Because the ground plane is reflective, an image antenna is formed below the monopole, making it look like a dipole.

monopole image antenna

"Monopole and image antenna" by Chetvorno - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

If the antenna is mounted on anything other than a plane, then there is no "mirror", so you have no image antenna. Consequently, you no longer have a monopole antenna.

If you don't have a conductive plane available, an alternate solution is to forget the monopole and just make a dipole. This could be two ATAS-120 antennas, each making half of the dipole. If you could figure out some way to mount such an arrangement, it would behave similarly to one ATAS-120 on a ground plane, except it would have twice the feedpoint impedance.

Of course it would also be twice as big, and you'd somehow have to interface to two autotuners. So for practical reasons, this might not be the best approach.

If you take your proposed approach of running a ground lead to the base of the antenna, that might work, but it's important to understand what you are doing. You are essentially making a dipole, with one half being the ATAS-120, and the other half being that ground lead plus the car body at the end of it.

The issue here is that we don't know much about the geometry of this ground lead or the car frame. In theory, you just have a funny shaped dipole, and there's no reason it couldn't be an antenna. But in practice, there are many difficult to answer questions. What will the resulting feedpoint impedance be? Will the autotuner still be able to function effectively? The easiest way to answer this question is to try it and see.

Another approach, if you don't have a conductive roof, is to make one. You can install radials on your roof just as radials are installed in the ground for HF verticals. Run the radials to the edge of the roof, and install as many as you can, I'd say at least 16. The result will look, electrically, very much like the antenna was mounted on a metal body car.

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