Car Collector's Corner: Honk If You Love The Classic Sound Of A Real Car Horn

Jim Sutherland
by Jim Sutherland

Horns have always been a very important part of a car. They were invented to warn drivers of other drivers on the road. Horns were also invented to assist the middle finger in descriptive impromptu editorials that register drivers’ displeasure with other drivers on the road, and to engage in general non-verbal communication with other traffic participants.. History does not appear to have recorded the chicken/egg side of the equation which would sort out which came first in the automobile horn/middle finger debate.

Car horns have saved lives and cost teeth, depending upon the traffic circumstances and emotional control of drivers. An errant car horn can be an instant turbo-boost to uncontrollable road rage under the right conditions, but we still love them. Let’s see how much we do.

The early days of automobiles featured a variety of choices like the bulb horn, the Gabriele and Klaxon horn, but the “Ahooga” sound of the Model T remains one of the most famous horn sounds. It sounded like a comedy noise from a cartoon even before we had cartoons.

I am not old enough to know whether a T horn blast at another driver produced road rage or a hearty round of laughter, but it would be difficult for me to get angry if I was the object of an angry Model T horn blast. Too many years of Bugs Bunny cartoons have made that sound mission impossible for an angry outburst from me.

I guess the same could be applied to the Chihuahua sound of a small car horn. A beep-beep horn means a beep-beep sized car and it does not provoke anger unless the beep-beep driver leans on his horn without a break in the action.

Then the horn honker gets the same reaction as a yappy Chihuahua. Eventually, tensions will rise to the breaking point, and you will have to resist a strong urge to bring some serious unhappiness into the car driver’s or small dog’s lives.

The exception to the beep-beep rule has to be the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner. The smallest engine even available in this bird was a big block 383 Magnum, and the limited menu of other ‘Runner choices were the ultra-macho 440 and 426 Hemi options.

The Plymouth Road Runner may have had a beep-beep horn, but it was very capable of settling scores on the street right out of the showroom. The rumble of the exhaust from these cars when they were in pedal-to-the-metal street battle mode probably rendered the beep-beep horn somewhat irrelevant in the bigger picture.

Most car guys still crave the big horn sound found in most North American cars from the golden post war era of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. These babies were noise-makers of the first order, and sounded like a slightly modified train horn on some cars.

The classic car horns were big, bad and beautiful when they were unleashed on the roads of yesteryear. Maybe they were unable to wake up the dead, but they came closer than any séance.

So let us celebrate the life, and mourn the passing of the classic car horns from the past. They were great while they lasted and so were the front teeth of people who used the horns too much.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Jul 08, 2013

    I'm one of those crazy Gear Heads who's always loved horns and collects them off derelict vehicles , repairs them , up grades the horns on most every vehicle I own . Indeed , Junkyards are wonderful places to find old horns and here's a tip : pick two horns that sound nasty when tooted separately and they'll sound nice when tooted as a matched pair . I had an N.O.S. purple Road Runner horn until my then 18 Y.O. Son " borrowed " it and I never heard nor saw it again . FWIW , those were just cheap " Spartan " brand 12 volt forklift horns painted purple... " Klaxon " was a brand name for the motor driven horns . There's no excuse not to have a good sounding , _LOUD_ horn on your DD to wake those sleepy , texting or plain old brain dead soccer moms & kids up . -Nate

  • Junebug Junebug on Jul 09, 2013

    I remember back in '75 when my girlfriend's parents traded their beloved Chyrsler wagon for a Chevy - the thing that they hated was the horn. It sounded like a deep cow fart, kinda like whuuuuuup or something. I got a couple horns out of the salvage yard and problem solved. I really hate the wimpy beep beep horns of today, and if I had a few bucks to spend on vanity I would buy a replacement for my Camry and my daughters' Mazda 3.

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.