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Honk! honk! What note do you hear?

Next time someone honks at you as you’re enjoying a ride around Evanston or Glenview, listen closely. Do you hear the musical note F? Car horns emit a specific pitch—most likely an F—that can be written down as a musical note.

Listen to these vintage horn sounds!Listen to these vintage horn sounds!

But if that other driver is steering an older-model vehicle, he might be trying to get your attention with a C-sharp note. That’s because car horns have evolved through the years. During the early 1960s and 1970s, car horns emitted a C-sharp, but carmakers raised this to a higher pitch to ensure motorists could hear horns through closed windows.

“Ah-ooo-gah” probably is the most famous car horn of all time. Model T drivers made that noise when squeezing their vintage bulb horns. Want to hear 18 vintage vehicle horns? An industrious historian has made them available to us.

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