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  • "He musta thought his car had more guts,
  • as he kept on tooting his horn.
  • I'll show him that a Cadillac is not a car to scorn!
  • Beep beep, beep beep, his horn went beep beep beep."

(Lyrics from "Beep Beep [Little Nash Rambler]" by the Playmates)

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Practically as soon automobiles became commercially available, San Diego drivers found ways to tick people off with their car horns.

In 1912, anti-union activists driving together in convoys used relentless honking as a method to disrupt rallies held by the newly formed IWW, The Industrial Workers Of The World. Dozens of vehicles would drive circles around meeting places and homes of IWW supporters, honking in unison for hours at a time, sometimes tying down their horn buttons to insure continuous blasts.

Before a scheduled San Diego lecture, free speech advocate Emma Goldman and her road manager Ben Reitman were confined to their rooms by management at the U.S. Grant Hotel, as a convoy of honking adversaries encircled the building. "Toward evening," recalled Goldman in a written account, "a bedlam of auto horns and whistles filled the street. 'The vigilantes,' Ben cried. There was a knock at the door...I was wanted downstairs by the city authorities."

The two were separated and Reitman then disappeared from the hotel, never to be heard from again, as angry horns faded into the distance.

"My [car] horn isn't designed to p-ss anyone off or intimidate them, but it is obnoxious," admits Jamie Perez, a freelance writer who frequently contributes articles for the quarterly newsletter Klassic Kar Klub (an unfortunately-named periodical which, hopefully, never refers to itself by only its initials).

Perez sells discounted new and salvaged auto parts at local swap meets and describes the sound made by his 1976 Chevy Malibu as "a sphincter splitting 'Da Da Da Dummmm, Da DUMMMMM - charge!' I had it ready to install before the air shocks and mag wheels went in, before I even settled on the paint job."

I mention that this seems akin to buying a dog collar, and then seeking a matching dog.

"Hey, if you have a specific type and size dog in mind, and it's gonna go everywhere you go, be part of your family and cost more than a college tuition, that'd narrow down the collar you'd want it to wear."

“You are what you drive,” according to Klassic Kar Klub publisher Robert Tilton. "California car culture is entirely built around that notion. Or should I say philosophy, since cars represent a total way of life for a lot of people. Building up a dream car takes a lot of chrome and polish, but the image you project also depends on peripherals, such as the 'aural presence' you create with your [car] horn. The right sound draws attention and tells everyone something about the car and [its] driver. It announces that you're hot and horny, or proud to be a redneck, into trains or show tunes, a hard rock headbanger, whether you're married or single or even your racial background. Mexicans tend to install horns that play [Hispanic] music.”

According to Tilton, “A car blasting out 'Sweet Home, Alabama' or the 'Dukes Of Hazard' theme says everything you need to know about the driver and his roots."

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Musical car horns like the ones Tilton refers to are among the products manufactured by Wolo, which lists its best selling models as the ones which play "Happy Birthday," followed by those featuring "The Macarena" or Christmas tunes like “Jingle Bell,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” “Deck The Halls,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Come All Ye Faithful.”

Also popular are cinematic soundtrack slices from "The Pink Panther," "Rocky," "Fiddler On The Roof," "La Bamba," "Hello Dolly" and, for wanna-be Sopranos and Goodfellas, the "Godfather" theme.

In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the company could barely keep up with the increased demand for models that play “Stars And Stripes” or “America The Beautiful.”

These newer electronic horns usually offer more variety than low tech air-powered machines, often at less cost. Letters to Klassic Kar Klub from auto enthusiasts with vintage (pre-1940) make it clear that they disdain fancy schmancy singing horns, prefering to blow their noise with an old school honker.

"I hit my 'Ahhhh-OOO-gaaah' blaster when I pull into traffic or as I'm parking," says vintage Cadillac restorer and collector Thad Rommel. "Unless there's a cop around, anyway. Someone told me the decibel level violates some kind of noise ordinance. I think it's a great sound...[it] harkens back another era, you know?"

Has another driver ever been startled enough by his horn to cause a near mishap or actual accident? "Well," he says after a pause, "maybe a few fellas get, you know, a wake up call...if they're doing something really stupid."

Thanks to technology, it's possible to get your own wake up call at home, at no charge, and you don't even have to leave your driveway to acquire them. Ultimatesoundarchive.com offers a library of audio files, from 7KB to 35KB, containing noises that most people would rather avoid than seek out, such as "Car Horns In Gridlock," "Impatient Driver Honks," "British Car Horn," and "Bus Horn."

A company called Autospeak has equally pointless if less irritating WAV files, like "Miata Horn," "Beepbeep," "Passing Car Sounds Its Horn," and 8.18 seconds of "Horns, Horns And More Horns."

Actual hardware doesn’t come so cheap, but true gear heads don’t mind dishing out the bucks. Most car enthusiasts agree that, as with women's fashion, accessories are necessities. Especially if you want your car to attract and impress - or replace - those fashionable women.

Some men insist that honking their horns enables them to meet and seduce women more effectively than any pickup line.

Following a lead from a mechanic, I phone “Manly” Dan Sanger, the proud owner of a 1977 Chevy van he has retrofitted into a time capsule love mobile, the likes of which is rarely seen today outside of Cheech and Chong movies and That 70s Show.

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His horn is the sound of a steam engine train whistle, followed by the chug-chug-chug of it racing down the track, louder and louder.

“That gets me a lot of action at tailgate parties, or in the parking lots at car shows and racetracks because that’s where all the chicks are that’re into cars and vans,” he insists.

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“I use the train whistle to attract girls the same way birds attract a mate, by hitting their ears with an irresistible sound even before they meet me. I lay on the horn when I’m pulling into the lot, so everyone looks at me, and then I hit it again as when I’m pulling into my space, so that any girls interested by what they heard and saw knows where to find me. Most of them usually wander past my spot a couple of times, trying not to let me notice that they’re checking me out. If they like what they see, they’ll walk right over and start flirting.”

Does Manly Dan genuinely believe there is a statistic likelihood that women in these environments are “aroused” by a guy leaning on his horn?

“Hell yeah, I see it happen all the time. Not that a horn does the trick all by itself. It helps if they see you’ve got a keg of beer, or maybe some expensive looking steaks cooking on a nice shiny Webber grill. I found out that I gotta be careful what music play in the van though. Only creepy looking little vampire girls came around when I played this techno CD I picked up. I’m not into biker chicks so no more Motorhead or Sabbath. I actually like ‘em pretty young, so I play tapes I made off 91X a few years ago…I don’t know who most of the bands are but when a girl comes up and says ‘cool, you’re into so-and-so,’ I can usually nod my head and talk enough sh-t to pull it off.”

His subsequent accounts of girls who went directly from parking space to van waterbed offer no proof that honking his horn enabled his many carnal conquests rather than, say, strategically positioned beer kegs, barbecue odors or the taped music he appreciates only as bait hiding the hooks he uses to fish for females.

“I’ll put it this way - my horn makes a big sound, it just plain screams ‘big,’ and girls always get turned on by ‘big,’ you know what I mean?”

Neither Sanger nor any other men interviewed for this article could provide contact with any women likely to admit that car horns made them horny, or that the sound made by their vehicles was any sort of factor in the formation of any relationship ranging from booty call to marriage.

Women informally surveyed at various bars, auto parts stores and shopping center parking lots, asked if they recall a man’s car horn ever being a factor in a positive first impression, instead only remembering honking as part of unpleasant incidents. Many describe taking walks and being mistaken as hookers by horny honkers dogging their every step.

Others recall being behind the wheel when a sudden ear-splitting horn blast apparently intended to impress or attract were taken by the women as threatening aural attacks which were startling enough to cause near or actual accidents.

Romance on the roll may well be possible by serenading your intended with the assistance of Wolo’s model 336 “Jukebox” ($34.99). One keyboard touch launches any of its thirty-four programmable songs, including ballistic blasts of romance like "Unchained Melody," "You Are My Sunshine" and the title tune from "Love Story."

Lotharios with less finesse, and less moolah, can simply announce "I'm horny" with a model 350 "Wolf Whistle" ($19.99), designed to impress sidewalk hotties with a shrill two-tone blast of love hungry lip service.

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Wolo's air powered musical horns use a twelve volt compressor and several plastic trumpets to broadcast 118 decibel arrangements of top selling tunes like "Wedding March" ($89.99) and, for those hoping to win the heart of that special Klingon or Vulcan, the "Star Trek" theme ($119.99).

No less than thirty-five fully electronic and truly esoteric sounds bellow forth from Wolo’s model 345 "Animal House" horn package ($49.99). It's not impossible to imagine finding a use for "Dog," "Cat," "Horse" or maybe even "Duck" or "Rooster," but would the sound of a sheepish "Baaaaaaa" really make another driver baaaack off?

And what's a motorist likely to do when confronted by a window rattling "rribbbittt"? Surely not abandon the fast lane, turn off the flasher signal, or whatever action the bewildering blast was intended to inspire.

The same model comes with a microphone so the system can be used as a PA, in case the operator decides to follow up the call of the duck with a verbal prod like "Hey wimp, keep up or die!"

Ten siren sounds are also included with "Animal House," none of them appreciated by law enforcement, paramedics or firefighters ("Police Car," "Fire Truck," "Ambulance", etc.).

The "European Police Siren" is sure to confuse U.K. tourists already battling their inherent left-lane instincts. "Features a volume control to allow the user to adjust to any level from soft to super loud," reads Wolo's online sales pitch, though it's unclear how drivers on the other side of the dashboard can so casually "adjust" to an oncoming Rambler pumping out "Machine Gun" sounds.

More fun than an oil barrel full of Middle Eastern terrorists!

The female sales clerk at Wolo I reach through the company’s 800 phone line, while happy to extol the quality and popularity of the company’s car horns, is unwilling to acknowledge any “pickup line’ potential, even when I mention that my article research may include a product purchase.

“A lot of our horns make great gifts for men to buy for their wives or their girlfriends, and that can be very romantic. I get a lot of couples looking for a particular song or a sound because it has special or personal meaning to them. I mean, we have tons of women customers…they love buying a really cool horn for their car or as a gift for their men."

"But for a man who’s mainly looking for a woman to start a relationship with, we don’t recommend introducing yourself by honking at them."

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