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I have often said that some of the most capable and enthusiastic engineers and technicians - and even managers - I have worked with in my 30-something year electronics career have been amateur radio operators. They are the rare few who are able to combine a hobby passion with a profession that pays for the hobby... kind of like the airline pilot who flies model airplanes or the druggie who works at a pharmacy. Oh, wait, scratch that last example.
Here we see a video from Chevrolet where two engineers, one of them a Ham, took up the challenge to replace the AM/FM whip antenna originally planned for the 2011 Camaro convertible with a blended, inconspicuous antenna. Leaked photos of the prototype car showed the whip, which caused Camaro aficionados to descend upon Chevy requesting its removal. The flexible, folding rear window prevented an embedded solution as is the norm for many cars. The ultimate solution? Embed the antenna in the spoiler.
Given the retro nature of the Camaro, the hew and cry against the whip antenna is a bit surprising. I had a '69 Camaro SS and a '74 Camaro SS, and of course both had whip antennas.
According to the video, the two engineers spent 10 months rushing to get the antenna into the spoiler prior to rollout. So, how much did the change likely cost? If you estimate a budgetary cost of at least $150k/year/engineer, that is 20 months at $12.5k/mo. = $250k. Throw in maybe $100k for prototype construction and test facility use. Add another $50k for paperwork and production planning. That's at least $400k for R&D costs. Then, it surely costs more to assemble the antenna into the spoiler than to mount it on the rear fender. 81,299 Camaros sold in 2010. If you assume 90,000 for 2011, that works out to about $5 per car for the modification - not bad. This demonstrates the power of high volume for amortizing costs. Plus, now that the technology has been proven, it can be applied to other models.
Read the official Chevrolet press release for the 2011 Camaro convertible AM/FM antenna.
Kirt Blattenberger (circa 1977)
'69 Camaro SS (350 LT1 engine)
Bracket Racing Trophy from Capitol Raceway