'96 Toyota 4Runner Hang Glider Rack and 2M Radio Install


Once you pass you the Hang-1 requirements for hang gliding you really need to purchase you own wing. Schools really won't rent out equipment for the more advanced training towards the Hang-2 level and in any case you really want to learn on a consistent set of equipment. However, as soon as you buy a wing you are faced with the prospect of transporting it from home to hill and back again. At 18' long, you can't just strap it to the roof of your car with bungee's and hope for the best. There really isn't any "off the shelf" commercial solution for the whole thing, you have to use some standard parts and some custom parts and some ingenuity. There are few limits to this, I've see full size hang gliders transported on Mini Coopers and on a Porch 911, by comparison SUV's and pick-up trucks are easy. Still, all my search's online couldn't find an example on a '96 Toyota 4Runner (other models, but not a '96). So now that I've got my rack finished I thought I'd document it online to add to the list of ways to solve this particular problem. While I'm at it I thought I'd also document how I installed a Yaesu FT-1802 2M/144MHz. mobile amateur radio and antenna.


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The picture on the left shows the full setup with my Falcon 2 strapped on. The front part is a custom T-Bar support that attaches to a standard tow hitch. The tow is welded to a horizontal bar that is in turn welded to the front of the chassis (middle picture). As you can see in the middle picture a standard pin and clip are used to secure the T-Bar. There is also a 1/2" locking screw that can be tightened against the T-Bar to stop it shaking or moving around. Once that screw is tightened the T-Bar isn't going anywhere. The T-Bar cross-beam is 48" across with small vertical ears on the ends. I covered it in 1/2" foam pipe insulation and wrapped it in pipe tape. I used red electrical tap around the vertical ears to make them more visible and prevent people knocking their head against them (I almost did several times). The T-Bar was fabricated by a welding shop in Fremont, Mission Soaring Center gave me the contact information, it cost $450 and I'm real happy with the job they did.

The middle and back supports are from Yakima (right picture). The middle one is two Q-Towers, with Q62 Clips to fit the 4Runner and a 48" bar. The back support is two Control Towers with landing pad #1 for the 4Runner factory rack and a 48" bar. The Yakima web page is pretty good and you can find out the exact hardware you need for your own vehicle. The cross-bars are wrapped in the same 1/2" pipe insulation and then wrapped in PVC pipe tape. The pipe insulation comes in 6' lengths and three lengths are all you need to do both Yakima bars and have enough to put a double layer on the T-Bar cross-beam. Here is the exact breakdown for the Yakima gear:


Q62 Clips
1-pack of 2
Control Towers
Landing Pad #1
1-pack of 2
48" Cross Bars
* Comes as pack of 4    


I've had a CB installed in this car for a while, though I seldom use it. Now that I've got my amateur radio (HAM) license I decided to pull out the CB and replace it with a 2M(144MHz) mobile transceiver. This is the frequency band generally used by hang glider pilots. Having the mobile in the car lets me listen in on the local flying sites as I drive around (to see if anyone is having way more fun that me). And its generally useful when you're at a flying site to coordinate with other pilots and drivers. Unless you want to drill big ugly (value destroying) holes in the exterior body work it is actually quite hard to mount an antenna onto the '96 4Runner. There simply isn't anywhere obvious to place an antenna mount. However this online article shows a pretty neat method that I copied.


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Click to download full size (1.7MB)
Click to download full size (1.1MB)


The radio is a Yaesu FT-1802 which appears to be a very nice 2M mobile transceiver. I purchased mine from hamcity.com for $140. The antenna is from Firestik who are really better known for their CB antenna's - the typical ham radio shops don't even stock them. However, I think they make pretty robust products that look a damn site better than most of the geeky looking antennas you see ham operators driving around with. It helps that this is also only a single band not multi-band. Lastly it fitted right onto the same mount that I used for the old CB antenna (also a Firestik). I purchased mine from westcoastmall.net for $19. The antenna mount is also from Firestik model SS-274A. To avoid interference with opening and closing the trunk, you really need a spring mount as well. Adding the spring mount really effects the SWR of the antenna (it moves the resonant frequency downwards). Given that the FT-1802 can pump out up to 50W make sure you get a good SWR meter and adjust the antenna before transmitting. This picture shows how to dismantle the dash-board in the '96 4Runner. I had an old CD changer that was installed under the radio when I bought this car, I used the plastic plate that housed that to surround the radio. Your solution may differ.