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Old Cars Q&A 2020 no. 8

Kit Foster answers all of your old car questions
Answer Man

Q. Since I wrote the original question about the musical horn (Mar. 26), and saw the response in the Apr. 23 issue about the need for four trumpets to play the tune “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” I must add the information that it was not an electric multi-trumpet horn. It was an electronic horn that played through a small “bullhorn-type” outdoor speaker mounted behind the grille of the car. There was also a small “black box” mounted nearby that was the source of the music. I am beginning to believe it must have been an aftermarket item, because the horn was black and the box was unpainted aluminum. I have thought about that horn many times over the last 60 years. — Allen Berger, Sevierville, Tenn.

Q. Regarding the Q&A about the musical horn (Mar. 26): Research in the early 1970s found that it came out about the same time as the music, somewhere in the mid-fifties, as I understand it. It was not made by Chevrolet but the rights were granted to the Dukane Corp., 2900 Dukane Dr., St. Charles, Ill. While researching it, during a time when we owned a ’57 Chevy, in 1975, they were still available and one was ordered. Purchase price at that time was $193.50 and it was installed on our 1972 Chev Monte Carlo, which I still am in possession of. I have all the paperwork, installation instructions etc. My son thinks it is obnoxious; I think it’s great and am quite proud to use it as often as possible. — Mary Bartemeyer, AACA National Director, Bettendorf, Iowa

Q. In your Q&A section Apr. 23, 2020 issue, the subject of a “See the USA in your Chevrolet” musical horn was discussed. I believe I have what Allen Berger and Gene Schneider remember. In 1976 I either saw an ad for the horn or I heard one being played while attending a show with my 1947 Chevrolet Sportmaster. It is not horns as we typically think of, but instead a small electronic box with a remote speaker. I ordered one and installed it in my ’47. If I remember correctly the place was somewhere in Wisconsin. I had to buy an inverter as the unit was made for 12-volt systems. I still have the car with the still-working horn. The only identification I can find shows Dukane Ultrasonics Division. I have enjoyed it all these years and as Gene says, it is a big hit, except now there are not a lot of younger people who know the name of the tune or who Dinah Shore was. — Richard Black, New Castle, Pa.

Q. I have such a horn installed in my ’56 Belair convertible, I purchased the car from my sister-in-law. Her father was a co-owner of Frame Chevrolet in Long Island that closed its doors back in the early 1980s. I understand it to be a rare part and/or promotional item that her father acquired. Concerning the trumpets, indeed it has four trumpets and works very well after all these years. 

The car and I have been to many car shows over the years and I must say only one person who looked under the hood recognized it. He instantly called it out, knew what is was and commented on how rare it was. In the end I do not know if it was a dealer-installed option or a promotional item available to the dealer but can say it does exist and is cool! Don Brandt, via email.

Q. Regarding Allen Berger’s question (Vol. 49 No. 13) about the “See the USA in your Chevrolet” horns. I have a set that I bought for my ’55 Chevy. As I recall, I bought them from a vendor at Fall Carlisle in the late 1980s. It is a four-horn and air compressor set up. I attached them to the radiator support bar and ran wires, with alligator clips, to the battery and a hidden toggle switch under the dash. They were quite a hit at parades but I took them off in the early 1990s as the Dinah Shore Chevy Show ran from the late 1950s until the early 1960s and by the ’90s not too many people knew what the horns were playing. The horn set has been in my basement for over 25 years and I guess they still work. Really should give them a try sometime as I still have the ’55 so the set up should work. The only markings are on the air compressor and it says “Signaltone-Neiman, Inc. Cadillac, Mich.”

To my knowledge, they were not a dealer option but certainly available from various car part vendors. I don’t understand why Chevy gave up using that tune in their ads. It was catchy and everyone knew it.
— Dave Cosky, Haddon Heights, N.J.

A. Ah, lots of information, but time to face the music. It looks like we’re all correct, in different ways. As I said, it takes four notes, and thus four trumpet horns to play “See The USA…” acoustically. Signaltone-Niemann was (or may still be) a manufacturer of air horns, principally, I gather, for trucks and boats. 

With electronics, however, a small device can play just about any tune you want, with however many notes. According to their website, “Dukane is a diversified global manufacturer of advanced technology products. A privately-held corporation for more than 95 years, Dukane’s principal manufacturing and distribution facility is located in the Chicago western suburb of St. Charles, Illinois.” Established in 1922, their first product, “Operadio,” was a high-quality radio, an early manifestation of hi-fi. Today the company makes ultrasonic welding equipment.

Barbara Millhouse, I’m curious about your “three trumpets,” since the Signaltone-Niemann units have four trumpets to play the four different notes in the tune. In any case, the fact that only one note is missing implies an air flow problem. Readers, any suggestion for a repairer of these iconic horns?  

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