In 2009, spy photos of the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible quickly spread across the Web.
Enthusiasts liked what they saw -- with a major exception: They hated the mast antenna on the driver-side rear fender. The angled mast, sprouting from a golf ball-sized mount, marred the clean fender line.
Enter Don Hibbard, 53, a General Motors antenna engineer and ham radio enthusiast.
"I got into ham radios when I was in college," says Hibbard, who designed his first ham radio antenna in 1977. "One of my professors offered a ham radio class during lunch breaks, and I was hooked. I'm still a hobbyist, and I've designed or modified much of the equipment I use, including the 50-foot antenna that's at my house."
"Once those [spy] pictures got out, the Camaro development team became very aware of the issue," says Hibbard, a 33-year GM veteran. In January 2010, he received approval to devise an alternative.
"Just 10 months later, we had a solution. We were able to design something that hadn't been done before -- and that many people said couldn't be done."
He and colleague Gregg Kittinger investigated many options for AM/FM antenna placement, such as embedding it in the windshield and hiding it under the panel between the rear window and the trunk lid. But reception was still substandard. On the Camaro coupe, the antenna is embedded in the rear window.
Their solution: Build it in the rear spoiler from supplier ABC Group.
According to Hibbard, conventional thinking was that an FM antenna couldn't be mounted close to the vehicle sheet metal because the body acts as the antenna's ground.
Careful placement of the antenna's in-spoiler mast elements, from supplier Adronics, and the connection points for the signal amplifier, from Blaupunkt, solved the issue on the Camaro.