Many of the most popular 4x4 off-road vehicles in use today are available
as soft-top convertibles. This includes the Toyota FJ40, Suzuki Samurai
and of course all flavors of the short wheelbase Jeep including the venerable
CJs, Commandos and the Wrangler.
These rugged vehicles are designed for hard outdoor use and can usually
be cleaned out with a hose after a hard days play. They also tend to be
fairly compact and interior space is often at a premium.
|The Radio Shack TRC-422
The Radio Shack model TRC-422 ("sports" model) CB radio would
seem to be ideal for these vehicles. It is an affordable and compact 40
channel CB radio, easily mounted in a small vehicle, which is sealed with
gaskets to provide a high degree of water resistance as well as protection
from airborne particulates (like dust). While it only has a few controls
(Channel, Volume & Squelch), they are simple, basic, and relatively
easy to operate. All of the control knobs are sealed with o-rings to prevent
moisture from entering the radio. The radio provides a full legal 4 watts
of transmission power and picks up signals as well as most mid range CB
radios that we have used. However, in actual use on our test vehicle (a
Jeep Wrangler) we found that the radio did have a few shortcomings for
An open top vehicle, particularly when driving down the freeway with
off-road tires, is not a very quiet place. The radio's built in speaker,
even at full volume with the radio mounted up on a roll bar, did not have
enough output and was drowned out by road noise. Normally this would not
be much of a problem as most radios have an external speaker jack and
we could use an external amplified speaker located closer to the drivers
head. Unfortunately, this radio does not have an external speaker jack
(I could have installed something myself, but it would probably not be
sealed and would compromise the weatherproofing of the radio). On the
trail, without all the highway noise, this problem is not as severe and
the radio has enough volume to make itself heard.
Dim LED Display
We also found that the channel selector knob was just too easy to move.
While the rotary knob does have detents, they are not very positive, and
when we picked up the microphone we would often brush our hand or the
microphone cable up against the knob and inadvertently switch channels.
This problem was further compounded by the fact that the red LED channel
display is easily washed out and hard to read in full sun (when the top
was down). Because of this, we would often not notice that we were off
of the group channel until we had missed some significant traffic.
With its affordable price and its compact, weatherproof design, it seems
that this radio would have been ideal for use in these open top, off-road
vehicles. We found that, while it would make a fine radio in a closed
vehicle, in our open top Jeep the radio fell a bit short of our high hopes
in a couple of key areas.