Using radio communication between vehicles has been a part of MAA events from our inception. The link from car to car is a vital part of what we do allowing us to keep every one up on what is happening. In our last event, there was debris in middle of the road. Mustang One immediately broadcasted, "DEBRIS! DEBRIS! DEBRIS!" The string of cars behind immediately moved into the next lane to avoid it, but the cars that were not equipped with radios confused by the sudden movement of cars ahead of them ran over it and suffered damage. Later in the day we experienced sudden traffic slowdowns due to road construction that were alerted to the group via CB. Two cars not equipped were surprised by the hazards and were involved in a minor fender bender. There are other times when there are changes to the schedule or timely logistical information that needs to be broadcast that may include a car in distress, road construction or a detour. On the fun side, CB radios also provide a great way to chit chat among the group making the drive much more enjoyable. Most people who have made our drives will tell you that the chatter on the CB made the trip.
Before you buy - CB vs. FRS/GMRS
There are many types of radios on the market that are being sold at major retailers like Best Buy, Comp USA, Circuit City and the like. The CB (citizens band) radios are not compatible with two-way hand held FRS (family radio service) or GMRS (general mobile radio service) radios. This new breed of hand held radios broadcast on a completely different set of frequencies than CB radios. This can be confusing because many retailers market these two-way radios as CB's. Keep this in mind as these cute little hand held two-way radios will not let you talk to those using CB's.
In MAA events our road staff uses CB (citizens band) radios. The reason is because they ultimately offer more broadcasting range and the antennas that mount to the cars are much better at getting the signal out and receiving from further away. Also, the CB radio offers 40 channels which can be a good thing when we get into areas where there is a lot of radio traffic. This range offered by CB radios is important as our convoys can stretch out up to ten miles at times and we need the ability to talk as far out as we can. CB radios also offer us the ability to monitor and communicate with truckers who are the Gods of the highway. We do talk to them from time to time to get the "411" on the road conditions and "smokies". Other times we have chatted with locals on their ham radio base stations about weather and traffic ahead. Lastly there is channel 9, the emergency channel.
The hand held FRS/GMRS two-way radios do provide a small number of people with communication among themselves, but ultimately will not be able to communicate with the group at large. While they have up to 14 channels, none of them are on the same frequencies as CB radio channels.
Getting a CB Radio
Unfortunately CB radios are getting more challenging to find on the retail level. The two places you can still easily get CB radios and antennas are Radio Shack and truck stops. Radio Shack stores offer a variety of models and a very good choice of antennas from magnetic mount, windshield mount and other types. A truck stop travel store offers more selection but they are more of a challenge to locate. You do not need to spend a lot of money for a good CB. There are models out there for about $49-59 that are more than sufficient. You can get other units that are in the $100-200 range that offer more features. Most all of these can be set up to plug into a cigarette lighter and lay on the floor or console. I have always been able to wedge mine between the passenger seat and the transmission tunnel just fine. Also, there are still some hand-held CB radios on the market. These do work, but many of our participants who have used them did not have rave reviews as they don't really have a good range and are prone to problems. In the past few years I have not seen many on the market since the FRS/GMRS radios have come onto the scene.
Antennas are often the part of CB's that we Mustang enthusiasts are wary of. Some good magnetic mount units are available. With the right type of barrier to protect paint they work well. Using a thin layer of plastic wrap from the kitchen will still allow the antennae to work properly, but the thicker the material such as a handkerchief will hinder the operation. On the 1999 and newer Mustangs, the magnet mount is moot since flat horizontal surfaces such as the hood and trunk-lid are not metal. Another new development is the glass mount units. This has a small base that sticks to the inside of the glass and a mount that sticks to the outside. These are nearly identical to the cellular or GM OnStar antennas. When not in use, you can remove the aerial, but the base is permanent. I have one of these, and so far it seems to work pretty well. Other options are a bracket mounted whip which can sometimes be mounted to rain gutters. I have seen some people use brackets that go under the rear valence to mount an aerial to as well. This is where creativity reigns.
While equipping your Mustang with a CB radio seems like a hassle, you will agree that it is worth it after taking a long trip with us. It just makes it safer, easier, and more fun. Overall, if you shop it right, you should be able to equip your car completely with a radio and antennae for around $90-100.