The Cushcraft R3 Vertical Antenna
by Ron Chester ★ Friday, January 15, 2021

If you've been a ham for a long time, and especially some time after moving to a new QTH, one's mind begins to turn to antennas. There are a huge variety of antennas to consider. So one reads a lot about various choices, gets their dimensions and thinks about how and where they might fit in to whatever property one has.

I have never had a tower and a rotating yagi or quad antenna. I've used a lot of wire antennas, as well as some verticals, and it's always fun to plan, build and try out a new antenna. In the early 1980's I got back into ham radio after my college/grad school & early work years. I even had to retake the exams and got back my old callsign, K9AGL, and then bought my first ever brand new HF rig, an Icom 751 beauty. I was living in LA and bought my second house there, a nice place in a lovely neighborhood just south of Hollywood, but it was on a small city lot with no giant trees. But it DID have a room above the detached garage, perfect for a ham shack! A vertical seemed like the only choice for getting on HF and I installed a Cushcraft R3 vertical on the flat roof at the back of the house, a very unusual vertical for 10/15/20 meters with decent, not great, reviews on, but it was a breakthrough antenna at the time. It was a half-wave antenna covering the most active DX bands of the day and it did not require radials. None!  It had two  traps which shortened the length of the vertical radiator required and best of all, it had a motorized tuning coil at the bottom which was adjusted remotely for perfect resonance with a small box connected by a control cable at the operator position.  Push the button on this box, the motor would tune the coil and one could watch the steep dip in the SWR when you got to exact resonance for the frequency where you wanted to operate. I only needed about 20 feet of control cable to reach the tuning coil from my operating position. It took a while for the motor to move the tuning capacitor on the coil enough to change bands, but frequency excursions within a band were pretty fast. In a CW DX contest one could stay on the same band for a long time, occasionally touching up the resonant frequency, as needed. Soon I had the cards for DXCC and with them in hand I was able to join the excellent Southern California DX Club! Those were happy times for K9AGL, using an excellent Icom rig and the perfect antenna selected to optimize the conditions I had for operating.  

Eventually I sold that house and moved back north to Silicon Valley. The R3 did not move with me because it was too long for the Honda Civic I was driving in those days. Cushcraft went on to develop a series of other verticals with more traps to cover more bands and they dropped the motorized tuning coil. The R3 disappeared from their lineup. If they were still making it, I would buy one immediately!