Police Motor Units
The History of Motorcycle Law Enforcement

 "Virtual Museum"

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL 
MOTORCYCLE RADIO SYSTEMS


In approximately March 1960, more of the remaining Twin-V motorcycle radios were replaced by the newer Transistorized Dispatcher sets, model T31AAT-1114A, but all three types remained in service through at least 1963. Motorola began changing model numbers in 1958, hence the different nomenclature.  The fleet of remaining older equipment was converted to "narrow band" operation (5 KHz FM deviation) in 1962-63 and many if not most of the M31GGV "Twin-V" two piece radios were surplused out at that time. The fleet was updated on an almost continuous basis through 1967, starting in April 1962 by the T31BAT-3140A-SP1 version, essentially the same radio but with an all solid state receiver section and now with "Private Line" tone squelch, and in early 1965 CHP took delivery of a quantity of  the T31BAT-3100B-SP3 version as well. The -SP3 version featured two transmit and one receive channels, with "PL" operation.  Unlike the Twin-V radios, the "Dispatcher" series used "instant heating" tubes in the transmitter, which required waiting approximately one to two seconds after pressing the push-to-talk switch on the microphone before the transmitter would be putting out power.

Most of the T31BAT series and the previous Motorola Transistorized Dispatcher models were eventually supplemented by a later and final version, starting in perhaps 1966 or 1967, apparently the last major order for Motorola of this already obsolete equipment.. This last model (Z31BAT, or possibly X31BAT ?) was a special model made specifically for the CHP. The essential difference of this last set compared to the "T31" model was the addition of a 5 position single-tone "burst tone" selector switch and a 4 frequency S-C-S-C "car to station" and "car to car" switch so that the motorcycle radios offered the same features as the car installations. In other words, two receive channels and four transmit channels.  This last Z31BAT was a 12 Volt radio, because Harley Davidson made the changeover to 12 Volts in 1965. The remaining few T31 model radios were eventually converted to 12 volt operation, as the new motorcycles began to be placed in service, and it is believed that all of the 1955 vintage M31GGV "Twin-V" radios were scrapped by 1967.

The photo below shows Telecommunications Technician David Wisniewski in spring of 1979 at the Central Los Angeles CHP office, where some of the TV series "CHiPs" episodes were filmed.  Notice that the motorcycle still has the last generation Transistorized Dispatcher radio mounted, as in the control head photo above. Central Los Angeles was still using the older radios until the motorcycles they were mounted on were retired.

David Wisniewski CHP Radio Tech ( Photo provided by David Wisniewski, Los Angeles radio tech 1980)

The photo below from 1969 shows the rear of this version control head on a CHP Harley Davidson cycle in the Los Angeles office:

THE MOTOROLA MAXAR RADIOS

 1977- ~1990

The Transistorized Dispatcher radios were so successful that same basic design remained in main service with the CHP from 1958 until 1977, surely a record for any two way radio. In 1977, they finally began to be replaced by a bizarre custom made Motorola CHP motorcycle radio, which was essentially two "Maxar" dash mount radio chassis stacked one on top of the other, in a sheet metal container which was mounted inside a white fiberglass housing, placed over the motorcycle rear fender. The antenna, as in past models, was mounted separately rather than on the housing itself.  As seems to be the case with any new radio the CHP adopts, many of the older radios continue in service for some years after the introduction of the new equipment.  In this case, some of the Z- series Transistorized Dispatchers mentioned above were still in service well into the early 1980's.  A "mutilated" TV prop example of the Z series Dispatcher control head can be seen in the opening credits of the TV series "CHiPs."

The dual-Maxar chassis radio was the model Q2239A (note non-standard Motorola type number) with the word "Maxar" placed on the serial number plate.

The photo below shows one variation of the control head. At some point after they were in the field,  the microphone hang-up bracket was modified by CHP on many cycles such that the microphone hung up facing the rider, rather than on the left side as in the factory-supplied configuration. At the same time, connections were added for a quick-disconnect jack to facilitate an in-the-helmet microphone and headset. For installations using the in-helmet microphone, a shop-made "transmit" switch was tied to the end of one of the handlebars. This switch was a two position momentary toggle switch, which duplicated the function of the rocker style PTT switch on the standard microphone, with a rubber boot placed over the wiring end of the switch. 

The control head was a modified Motorola MCR-100 design, however these radios otherwise share nothing with the MCR-100.  It is not known why Motorola chose to build the CHP motorcycle radio out of two Maxar under-dash mobile radios, instead of modifying the MCR-100 equipment, which was already a motorcycle radio.  The Maxar was a cheaper piece of equipment (in terms of price and quality) and possibly being able to be the low bidder was one reason. As in the CHP Micor mobiles of the same era, the motorcycle sets had dual receivers to allow monitoring the car-to-station channel, and separate PL tones for each receiver.  The Maxar radios required a larger than normal weather housing, which was a white version of the MCR-100 fiberglass housing with a spacer between the base and the top cover.  That spacer was lettered "California Highway Patrol" on each side.

The majority of these Maxar radios were taken out of service and scrapped by 1993, and were almost entirely replaced by the GE RANGR model described below.  However, some Kawasaki Police-1000's which left CHP Motor Transport in 1987 were still equipped with these Motorola radios, and continued in service until they were eventually surplused, which in some rural areas occurred many years later.  In fact, it was recently brought to my attention (Oct. 2007) that there is a KZ-1000 in the Santa Cruz area office still in service, with the Maxar radio, with over 200,000 miles on it!  This setup should not have the mobile "extender" repeater in it, since that was not configured by CHP until much later, and only on the RANGR radios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GE RANGR MOTORCYCLE RADIOS, 1989-PRESENT

The GE RANGR automobile mobile radios which began to go into service in 1988 were also supplied in a motorcycle version which featured a simplified (S-815) control head without the warning light and siren controls of the mobile S-810 control head. It is believed that the majority of the GE motorcycle radios did not start being installed until 1989, the car changeover being accomplished first.  The Maxar radios began appearing in CHP scrap in early 199, although they were not removed from in-service motorcycles, and apparently, as of 2008, there are still a few Kawasaki KZ-1000 cycles in low-usage divisions which are still fitted with the Maxar equipment.   The RANGR motorcycle radio chassis itself is a 40 Watt version of the mobile as used in the cars. 

Beginning in 1996, a mobile repeater was added to the motorcycle RANGR package. That repeater consisted of a specially modified GE M-PA portable radio, and fit in a specially constructed spacer between the RANGR mobile and the top cover.    CLICK HERE for a pdf copy of the service manual for this repeater (approx. 1.1 Mb pdf file.)

Initially, during the use of the Kawasaki motorcycles, the GE radios were supplied in a white GE fiberglass radio housing, with a flat top.  When the "extenders" were added in 1996, GE supplied a spacer to raise the top of the housing.  Some of these spacers were lettered "California Highway Patrol" while others were not.  At the time that the BMW cycles began to be placed into service, the GE housings were surplused, as the factory BMW streamlined radio box is sufficient to fit all the equipment inside.  The BMW installations continue to use the GE  M-PA modified hand-held radio "extender" although at some point, the "extender" operations are switching to 700 MHz with the transition to the EF Johnson hand-held radio (see my "CHP 2009" radio page) and the GE "extender" units will have to be removed.

There is a pushbutton assembly added to the left lower end of the handlebar area for the radio PTT and PA feature.  This appears to be an optional BMW part available from dealerships.  The current CHP assembly has three pushbuttons.  I don't have a close-up photo of it but there is at least one shown over on the Flickr website should you search using "CHP BMW" as the search term.

The RANGR equipment is now twenty years old yet still in service.  Evaluation orders have been drawn up for a motorcycle version of what was originally called the Visteon Tac-Net multi-function controller, as proposed for cars in 2003.  With with the state of the economy in 2009 it is not known how soon this will occur.  The original Visteon project has become the Rockwell-Collins/Lectronix "CPVE" project in the meantime.  Presumably the next generation of motorcycle radios will be Kenwood units, as they are one of the only manufacturers still producing low band equipment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hand-held radio for motorcycles was the same as used by the patrol car officers, but was not used until the "extenders" began being placed on motorcycles.  Initially, that radio was the GE MPS series hand-held, although those were fairly quickly replaced by the  Motorola HT-1000. See my main "CHP 2001" radio pages for photos and further details of the hand-held radios.

ANTENNAS

The antennas on the current BMW motorcycles are an Antenna Specialists Corp. product  which is made specifically for CHP, and CHP has added a small matching box in-line with the antenna as well. The cylindrical tube is apparently the loading coil housing, which seems slightly longer than the traditional coil assemblies used on 42 MHz shortened antennas.  What would normally be the steel spring between the whip and the loading coil is in this case a molded rubber flex assembly, as shown in the photos, and the radiator is a standard white fiberglass motorcycle whip.  The antenna matching box is necessary to compensate for there not being enough metal in the structure of the BMW cycle to properly act as a ground plane.  The match box is made by Garner Products (dba RF Systems.)  

Antenna Specialists has changed hands at least once in recent years and is currently a division of PCTEL Corporation, which also owns Maxrad Antennas.  The  PCTEL part number for the antenna is the same as the old Antenna Specialists part number:  ASP RD 720 CHP  .  The "CHP" at the end of the part number indicates it is a special item made for them.  It is my understanding that the antenna is no longer available from the manufacturer.

The "extender" repeater antenna is as shown in the photos above, a rubber VHF portable style antenna mounted on an angle bracket near the windshield.

 

 NOTICE!  The CHP as of June, 2010 has recently awarded the motorcycle contract to a Kawasaki distributor and the fleet will now be changing to Kawasaki Concourse 14 ABS motorcycles, apparently ending the era of the BMW cycle in CHP service. Photos will be added when the motorcycles enter service.

There is less metal in the Kawasaki cycles than the BMW so a slightly different antenna match box will be required, and the radio housing will of course be different.  

Click here for a pdf brochure on the police model of the Kawasaki Concourse, from By Motors' and Kawasaki's web page.

 

The Photos credit goes to David Wisniewski, "copyright 1980 David Wisniewski, Cental Los Angeles radio tech 1980."  Thank you David for the photos!!

Information and Photos provided by Geoff Fors More informaiton can be found at www.WB6NVH.com  Thank you very much Geoff!!