Chevy Turns to Ham Radio Geek for Antenna Solution
Camaro Convertible is on his wavelength
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.