View Full Version : Studebaker musical horns....for real

Studebaker Wheel
09-03-2010, 03:58 AM
The thread entitled “1941 President ‘car in the barn’ discovery” got pretty long and off on a tangent but there was some interesting discussion re those big air horns mounted on the front fenders of the President. Thought I would start a new thread aimed specifically at the horns. Of course those shown in the photos on the aforementioned thread are not original Studebaker accessories however it may interest some to learn that Studebaker did offer musical horns in two years 1940 and 1941.

See here: http://i230.photobucket.com/albums/ee285/studeq/newsgroup/hornsmusical1940.jpg?t=1283504074

As will be noted in the ad above the horns were designed to be placed under the hood and played the melody “Merrily We Roll Along.” I actually have the display board shown in the photo in the lower right. These horns were made by Sparton and they are found occasionally at swap meets but I have never found any that played this particular melody. Would love to find some for my ’40 President. Does anyone have a set?

I would call the readers attention to the ad copy in sentence number four of the first paragraph starting with “Not just a novelty….” I particularly like the phrase “courteous deference from both.” By contrast the horns shown on the fenders of the barn car would likely “scare the wits out of pedestrians and traffic!”

09-03-2010, 07:08 AM
Mr. Quinn,
The depth and breadth of your Studeknowledge truly astounds me. I know it comes with countless years of research and personal dedication. A tip of my hat to you!
~Matt Connor

09-03-2010, 07:27 AM
Your new 41 is amazing, I love a good barn find story. I hope at some point you can post a sound bite of those horns for us.
Neat as they are though, they don't really enhance the natural beauty the car already has.

09-03-2010, 07:37 AM
Thanks Richard
What a great story.I never cease to be amazed at the unusual,bordering onto weird items that were available.

09-03-2010, 07:44 AM
I love that ad copy. Where on earth would those in the ad be mounted for your car?

09-03-2010, 07:47 AM
What's old is new is old..... The truckers have embraced train horns:(
(And too bad the 'new' is just loud, and not melodic at all)....


09-03-2010, 07:50 AM
Note, according to the ad copy, every (not most or many, but every) man, woman, and child knows the tune, "Merrily We Roll Along."

Amazing, the depth of knowledge the entire populace formerly possessed. <GGG>

09-03-2010, 08:22 AM
I think that for the first 50 or 60 years of the automotive age, people were as fascinated with the “process” of the automotive experience as they were with the purpose of the car. I believe that is why you would see the proliferation of so many weird accessories.

My first trip to developing countries reminded me that there was a time here when two main methods of “getting through traffic” consisted of having the biggest, baddest, or loudest thing on the road. In Vietnam, tanks ruled. Simi-trucks, armored personnel carriers, busses, on down to the lowly bicycle. Then came the horns…those with smaller vehicles often made up for size with bigger horns.

I am 65 and have memories that go back nearly that far. Even before I could walk…I remember my mother holding me as we rode electric trolleys with overhead lines in our southern textile town. We didn’t own a car but I remember the cars with huge finder skirts adorned with reflectors, mud flaps, curb feelers, and tall antennas that had things like fox, squirrel and coon tails dangling from them. Spotlights and fog lights were very popular.

Horns were everything from the big long ones like Richards to ooga horns robbed off older cars. Some had even put sirens on their cars. Now it is even illegal to have a serene on a bicycle here. My mother was a very beautiful woman and was often the target of the wolf-whistle horns prevalent in the day. I don’t know what it was like in other areas of the country, but here in the south, horns were not only used to get through traffic…but as a greeting to every house you went by that belonged to someone you knew. :):cool::)

09-03-2010, 09:00 AM
I don't know if "every man, woman and child" know "Merrily we Roll Along", but I do. Now via the power of suggestion, that tune is stuck in my head, running over and over and over... On a related note (pardon the pun), how, in the days before microchips, could you get a set of horns to play a tune like that? Was it set up like a music box with a disc or cylinder that rotated and had pins that opened valves?

Bob Bryant
09-03-2010, 11:16 AM
Shortly after WWII our grade school principal took us to Detroit to tour the Dodge plant. There were about 30 of us and a bunch of country kids even got to eat in an executive dining room. After the tour he drove his new Dodge sedan home. Enroute to the downtown area at one point in our experience we passed through the inner city. Detroit was on a roll with auto production and jobs were good. I noticed many big sedans with a big "V " emblem on the hood parked on the street in front of the apartment houses. Some had big air horns mounted on the hood. Being a car nut even then I asked the principal what kind of car they were. He didn't want too say he didn't know, so he said I think the cars are "Vikings". There weren't many "Vikings" or Cadillacs in the rural area where I lived until an Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealership opened.

09-03-2010, 09:16 PM
If I recall the explanation given to me, it was a disc, an electric motor to rotate it and the thing worked along the line that a Player Piano did.

By the by didn't Merrily we roll along and Mary had a little lamb share the same melody?

09-03-2010, 09:51 PM
With all this talk about horns, I had forgotten about the set of "heavy-duty trumpet horns" I installed on my truck probably over 30 years ago. Today, I drove the truck to the barber shop and tooted the horns at a neighbor down the road. I have them neatly mounted in front of the radiator behind the grille. The only thing musical about them is that they have the traditional "high and low" notes. :)

Richard, you say that the ones on the '41 are "air horns." What are they hooked up to for an air source?

Nelsen Motorsports
09-03-2010, 10:33 PM
I've got a set of General Lee horns going on my car...

Studebaker Wheel
09-03-2010, 11:52 PM
With all this talk about horns, I had forgotten about the set of "heavy-duty trumpet horns" I installed on my truck probably over 30 years ago. Today, I drove the truck to the barber shop and tooted the horns at a neighbor down the road. I have them neatly mounted in front of the radiator behind the grille. The only thing musical about them is that they have the traditional "high and low" notes. :)

Richard, you say that the ones on the '41 are "air horns." What are they hooked up to for an air source?

There was an air tank mounted under the hood on the passengers side of the firewall.

09-04-2010, 12:30 AM
I guess I should probably throw some wisdom in here. Usually the train horns mentioned are Leslie or Nathan brand. They can come in 1 chime(blat horns), 2 chimes(2 horns, can't place any use for these at the moment), 3 chimes(3 horns) or 5 chimes(5 horns). Of course the more horns the more musical the horns become. The common ones I know of are the single chimes, 3 chimes, and 5 chimes. The single would usually be seen on the switchers, the other two appear regularly on freight and passenger locomotives. Most usually appear on diesels since diesels also need the air for the brakes.
Speaking of which, prior to microprocessors, the horns operated off of air. Each one of the horns was a different length, the lower sound horns are the longest, the mid, are next longest, the highest are the shortest. All it takes is a release of air to work the diaphgram to push air through the trumpet, and you have your air powered musical melody. I should also mention for the locomotives, the air supply is easy. For the folks that want the large 5 chime rack in the back of the bed, you'll have to find a large enough air compressor to work the horn. If you don't get a large enough air source, you might get one or two shots at it before you have to wait for the air supply to refill.
I dunno if I'd say it was new, it's a necessity on the locomotives, so it just worked it's way over to the railfan and the general public. Some of them are not exactly melodious, I think in particular for freight locos the horns are made more for a general purpose and have a general sound. But as long as they are loud and they grab your attention, they are doing what they were designed to do. I will say that when I was at NIU, I could hear them from my dorm window. I knew the ones that were more than likely on a high mileage engine, because the horns had a busted diaphragm, so the horn would sound more like, shall I say, a bovine in heat, or only having two and a half horns working, than the typical freight locomotive horn.

You can still purchase train horns, even new ones. I think around here I'd have to go to the monthly Railroadiana show, or Ebay to get one(although that's low on my list of things to pick up at the moment, lol) This site deals in producing the Nathan 3 and 5 chime horns for instance:


09-04-2010, 09:07 AM
Of course you know "Merrily we roll along." The last line is "That's all, folks." Got it now?
Oh jeeze--there are now Beloit College freshmen who've never even heard that.

RQ doesn't just own a National Treasure, he are one. And the associated commentators are no slouches either.

Just east of Toledo, in Ohio, there is a fellow with a big, high-jacked 3/4 ton diesel pickup with an auxiliary air pump in the bed, to power up his lake freighter horns. Honestly, I don't think you're going to beat that.