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Ham radio geekery fixes Chevy Camaro Convertible's antenna [w/video]

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Ham radio geekery fixes Chevy Camaro Convertible's antenna [w/video]

by Chris Shunk (RSS feed) on Dec 20th 2010 at 2:28PM


When General Motors showed some hardcore Camaro fans an early version of the convertible, they apparently received some less-than-favorable feedback. It turns out the Camaro faithful weren't all that smitten with the old-fashion whip antenna (not to be confused with the shark fin antenna for XM satellite radio and OnStar transmissions) protruding out of the topless muscle car's boot. The retro antenna was deemed to be a necessary evil due to the fact that, like most new vehicles, the hardtop Camaro hides the antenna in the rear window. And we all know that just won't work if the rear window can be stowed with the rest of the top, so engineers and designers had no choice, right? Well, as it turns out there was an option B.

The General turned to Antenna Performance Engineer Don Hibbard, a "lifelong Ham radio enthusiast," to shed the ungainly appendage. This was no easy task, though, as GM insisted that whatever the solution, it needed to perform every bit as well as the unit embedded in the hardtop's rear glass. To make matters a bit more interesting, Hibbard and his colleague, Gregg Kittinger, didn't exactly have all the time in the world to get the job done.

In a span of only 10 months, Hibbard was able to work some magic. The new Camaro Convertible will feature an AM/FM antenna that is built into the Camaro's rear spoiler. The embedded transmitter will reportedly work as well as the rear window antenna from the hardtop, but without the retro eyesore. Now, if only they cold solve for the awkward trunklid combo of the CHMSL, satellite radio and lip spoiler...

Hit the jump to check out a video of GM's clever antenna solution and to check out the official press release.

[source: General Motors]

Show full PR text

DETROIT – When spy shots surfaced of the pre-production version of the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, an outcry went up among Camaro enthusiasts over the AM/FM whip antenna positioned on the rear deck lid.

Quite simply, they hated it.

Chevrolet was quick to respond, commissioning a self-described antenna freak named Don Hibbard to find a way to fix it. "Antennas are a beautiful thing to me," says Hibbard, an antenna test performance engineer.

Engineers working on Camaro are passionate to drive perfection into every aspect of the vehicle. Hibbard and colleague Gregg Kittinger had to do what some thought was impossible: conceal the AM/FM antenna without sacrificing radio reception, while not putting it inside the Camaro's windows. The two, who share three other patents, happily accepted the challenge.

"We weren't sure that it would be possible," said Kittinger. "Typically antennas are hidden in a vehicle's rear window, but with a retractable soft-top roof, that's not an option."

So they came up with a novel approach – hide the antenna inside the rear spoiler. No one had tried that on a Chevrolet before because of the hit to radio reception.

"We responded to a legitimate criticism from devoted Chevrolet Camaro enthusiasts and in 10 months found an innovative way to improve the overall aesthetics of the vehicle without sacrificing performance and quality," said Kittinger.

While the shark fin antenna that transmits XM Satellite Radio, OnStar and cellular signals is still present on the car's deck lid, the built-in spoiler antenna eliminates the need for a longer, separate whip antenna to receive AM and FM radio signals.

Hibbard, a lifelong Ham radio enthusiast, says the unorthodox placement of the antenna within the body of the vehicle created a number of technical challenges, such as balancing form by preserving the car's styling and function of unimpeded audio reception.

"Where other automakers have tried and failed, Chevy succeeded," said Hibbard. "We hope to take what we've learned with the Camaro Convertible, build on it and apply it to future vehicles."

The 2011 Camaro Convertible arrives in dealer showrooms this February.



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