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Ultrahorn

By Paul Peczon


One of the many popular things to customize on a car is the horn. Factory horns don't do the job sometimes. Bad ones just sound like somebody stepped on a rubber duck, hardly effective for getting attention in this noisy world. Some people go for maximum decibel air horns, and some folks like the more musical ones that actually pump air. I used to have a huge air horn from an old Freightliner truck that scared the Bejezus out of people. I never should have sold that unit. At one point I had the thing in a hotrod Mustang with a racing exhaust that sounded like doomsday when I decelerated hard in first gear, and let me tell you, the combination always cleared those pesky pedestrians away. I never ran over any deaf people, though.

Although it's probably illegal, like everything else, a lot of people in Manila have opted for sirens and revolving red lights. If you want some, they are available for not that much at many car accessory shops. One of my friends got one, and Boy says that it worked pretty good on the highway, but he got mixed results in the city. He left it on the roof one time by mistake and it got stolen. He's looking for one of those blue strobe units like US police use now. Yeah, some of my friends are jerks.

Anyway, I rigged up something even more effective. I used off-the shelf consumer electronics and built the horn from Hell. Works like this: three massive Army surplus15" indoor/outdoor PA speakers wired up to a pair of cheap 500 watt power plate amplifiers made by some Chinese company I'll probably never hear from again. They probably only deliver a distorted 200 watts, but they do the job. I mounted two facing forward under the hood and one in the trunk right in the middle of the spare tire well. I insulated that one really well so I don't go deaf myself when I use it.

Now here's the good part. I rewired a digital message unit I found in a surplus shop that I assume used to be part of a phone system. When I got it, a snotty sounding British woman recited messages like "that line is undah repair," and "Sorry, all circuits are busy now. Please try your call laytah." I probed and sure enough it had "dahling" on the end of that particular message, but I guess it never gets played. It was probably stolen by some disgruntled PLDT employee, but heck, I didn't steal it. Anyway, I hooked it up to some digital musical equipment I still have from my rock and roll days, and re-recorded the messages with some nice sampled pieces of my own.

My fave is one I actually had to pay to orchestrate. I paid a truck driver to brutally stomp on the brakes a couple of times while I and some friends recorded it from my car. There's nothing like the sound of an eighteen wheeler loaded with steel bridge parts locking up it's wheels from 140 kph. I went to Subic and recorded a tugboat's horn. I went to UP Medical School and recorded the sound of a hip bone cracking. Rented a tape and sampled the sound Darth Vader's star fighter made when Han Solo shot it. I also recorded a few screams from some Alfred Hitchcock films and blended them into a truly horrific maelstrom. Oh, and there's some mundane ones like my friend Rocky's Dobermans and Rottweilers growling and some jarring dissonant tones I invented with a synthesizer. Made up a little control panel for the ten sounds and bolted it to my dashboard with four two inch wood screws. Spray painted it black.

Now, I still have my regular horn, but with a flick of a switch, I can produce sounds that, if they don't clear the whole roadway, at least make things happen. Flick another switch, and I can get annoying people off my tail. I have to admit that when I first tested the system, I needed to make some other unanticipated modifications to my car like more soundproofing and a heavy duty battery, but it's working great now.

Errant busses are especially susceptible to the eighteen wheeler sound, I've noticed, because it sounds like something that might actually manage to crush enough of the bus to destroy the driver's compartment. There are just certain sounds that everyone knows, like the sound of a pump action shotgun loading an oversize 10 gauge shell into the chamber. Sometimes people need to be reminded of their mortality to shock them into actually thinking, instead of acting like self-centered robots.

I don't use the system that much, honestly, but when I do, my passengers are always thrilled. Everybody wants a system now, but I'm not excited about the prospect of doing it again, since doing all the wiring was kind of a pain in the butt. And the truth is the fun was in the inspiration of the first system anyway. But I did come across a surplus German V-plow for snow removal that I'm considering mounting to a truck, just for the hell of it.©1996 Peczon

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since October 1, 1997
mildly updated Dec 09.

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