Many people are put off items that are cheap and simple in amateur radio because “they can’t possibly be any good, or work”. Well the good new is that there are cheap mobile HF antennas that cover 3MHz (80m) to 50MHz (6m) that do work and rather well given their price.
I’ve got a number of these low-cost mobile HF antennas that I mount on a sturdy triple mag-mount on my car’s roof and use them regularly when travelling away from home and even for special event stations. Whilst they’re never going to beat a four element beam at 80′ above the ground, I have had some remarkable contacts using them and they shouldn’t be dismissed because they’re cheap and simple.
Snowdonia Radio Company SRC 8010
My favourite is the, now discontinued, SRC 8010 from Snowdonia Radio Company. It’s one of many multi-band mobile HF antennas available that are designed to cover 80m right through to 6m, though an antenna tuning unit (ATU) is required. It stays on the car all the time and is mounted on a triple mag mount with the cable running in through the boot of the car.
I’ve used this antenna in all sorts of environments, from the middle of Coventry to the fields of Cornwall, and it has performed admirably. The contacts I made with South Africa and the Falkland Islands during this year’s summer holiday in Cornwall were accomplished with the SRC 8010.
The beauty of this antenna, compared to other more expensive antennas, is that there’s no adjustments required when changing bands; nothing to lengthen, nothing to plug/unplug – it’s an install and forget antenna.
The SRC 8010 was £60 when available to purchase new, but sadly you can’t purchase this antenna anymore. However, my advice is that if you do see one at a rally, or on an auction web site, snap it up as I can assure you it will work, and work very well for what it is and what it cost.
Mono-band mobile HF antennas
Sometimes there’s no substitute for wire in the air and, as good as the SRC 8010 is, you sometimes can’t beat the extra length of real piece of copper that these mono-band antennas provide. Each of these antennas cost about £20 and they’re built to work on a single band without the added expense of an ATU.
There’s a little more to set up than with the SRC 8010, which just works out of the box, but anyone with a Foundation licence will be able to do it with ease.
The antennas come in two parts. The stainless steel whip is secured to a collet at its bottom end with two small grub screws. The pre-wound coil section is constructed of rigid fibre-glass and is designed for a specific amateur radio band. You simply screw the whip into the coil and adjust the length of the whip until the VSWR is as low as you can get it – that’s it. When you put the antenna away you simply unscrew the whip from the coil and job done; there should be no need to readjust the length of the whip the next time you use it.
There being a rigid fibre-glass section at the bottom of this antenna I wouldn’t recommend driving around with attached to your car’s roof as it’s likely to get ‘attacked’ by low trees and you’ll find it’ll snap the SO-239 connector on your mag-mount rather than the antenna. This happened to me earlier this year so I have purchased a sturdier mag-mount in case it happens again. I don’t have this problem with the SRC 8010 as it’s a flexible stainless steel whip which tends to give a lot more.
Given that the coils are manufactured for specific bands, you should obtain one antenna for each band you intend to operate on, but this can be done over a period of time to reduce the initial outlay – maybe you just purchase a 40m and 20m antenna to get started. But remember, there’s no ATU required with these antennas, so the multiple antennas is offset by that saving.
As with the SRC 8010, I did take my mono-band antennas away to Cornwall with me. However, I only used them when there seemed to be no activity on the lower bands with the SRC antenna attached and it did enable a few more contacts to be made.
These antennas are readily available from all the UK’s major amateur radio dealers, work quite well for their cost and will get you on the air in no time at all.