The Perfect Car Horn Sound for Every Situation

When you think about it, our ability to communicate while driving is pretty limited.

We have an open palm to say, “Thank you.” We have a hand wave to say, “You go first.” And we have holding the steering wheel with our knees while eating a taco to say, “Don’t come near me” (not recommended). And that’s about it.

Sadly, most drivers have so much more on their minds. We think it’s high time someone pioneered some car technology that could finally bring open discourse to the open road: the talking car horn.

Though programming is still in the wouldn’t-it-be-nice? stage (scientists worldwide continue to ignore my emails about it), I can reveal the first 7 car horn sounds that no car on the market will be without.

Car horn sound: “I’m so sorry.”

Tone: sincere, apologetic

Programmed to sound like: someone who accidentally stepped on the dog and feels really bad about it

When to use it: after unintentionally cutting someone off; after not noticing that the light turned green; when blocking the crosswalk and forcing pedestrians to go around you

Variations for horn 2.0: a sarcastic version to use on tailgaters

Car horn sound: “Don’t even think about it!”

Tone: sassy, authoritative

Programmed to sound like: parents warning their kids not to lick the grocery cart handle

When to use it: when someone starts eyeing the parking space you’ve staked out for the last 3 minutes

Variations for horn 2.0: a rabid, psychopathic tone for use at select sports stadiums, Target, and Whole Foods

Car horn sound: “I’m not from around here, and I’m a little lost.”

Tone: explanatory, humble

Programmed to sound like: a GPS’s disheveled, disorganized cousin

When to use it: to respond to all the people honking at you for repeatedly circling the block at 6 mph

Variations for horn 2.0: a voice-accent feature that adapts to wherever you are and helps endear you to the locals

Car horn sound: “I’m so angry, I just want to make noise!”

Tone: frustrated, “Hulk Smash”-ish

Programmed to sound like: a big baby

When to use it: when the highway construction delay is too much to take quietly, but you want to make sure the poor guy in front of you knows it’s not personal

Variations for horn 2.0: the all-important silencer — let’s be honest, no one wants to hear your angry horn when they’re stuck in traffic

Car horn sound: “Yeah, hi, I’d like the number 4 with small fries and a 7Up.”

Tone: decisive, hungry

Programmed to sound like: you

When to use it: when ordering from the drive-thru and you’re stuck on the phone/your window suddenly jams up/you’re too engrossed in a Jane Austen audiobook to be interrupted … and you need the car to talk on your behalf

Variations for horn 2.0: the “Sure, Sierra Mist is fine” contingency response

Car horn sound: “Oh, that’s real mature.

Tone: shaming, critical

Programmed to sound like: someone getting the silent treatment from his or her better half

When to use it: when trying to get to the exit ramp and someone won’t let you by; when drivers cut you off just to save a few feet; when you see someone texting and driving

Variations for horn 2.0: an extra-silent-treatment function (if the offending driver still won’t do what you want)

Car horn sound: “Look out world, here I come!”

Tone: excited, flashy

Programmed to sound like: a young, aspiring actor just off the bus in the big city

When to use it: every time you back out of your driveway (could there be a more delightful way to warn the neighborhood kids?)

Variations for horn 2.0: theme music

Do you have something you wish your car could get off your chest? Share a comment below.

Related link

5 sounds my hybrid should make

The Sexy Stories Behind Hood Ornaments

I have an odd fascination with hood ornaments. There’s something about that third dimension that makes them so much cooler than a flat, embedded logo.

Originally, hood ornaments were just fancy radiator caps. If you had to cool down the engine, you simply popped off the ornament and poured in a cooling liquid. But radiators have been under the hood for decades, and these ornaments are still being made. Why?

In most cases, it’s tradition, but there’s always a great story in there somewhere. Here’s a quick look at the fascinating stories behind a few of my favorites.

Dodge: rugged like a ram

Dodge has been making cars since 1915, so naturally its hood ornaments have gone through some changes. The first version of its burly mascot appeared in 1932 as a leaping ram. It was scaled down to a head and horns by the 1950s and was replaced by a logo in the 1990s.

Dodge hired a sculptor named Avard Fairbanks to design the original piece. He originally suggested a big cat, like a mountain lion or a jaguar, but the company settled on the ram because it is “master of the trail and not afraid of even the wildest of animals.”

Though the ornament is history, that sentiment has driven the brand’s image ever since.

Jaguar: leapers and growlers

Legend has it that Jaguar cofounder Sir William Lyons commissioned F. Gordon Crosby to design the official ornament in 1937 when he saw a disappointing custom-made ornament on a Jaguar outside his office. Over time, the leaper’s position evolved to reflect the increasing speed of Jaguar cars.

These days, even luxury brands have started to move away from hood ornaments, either leaving them out completely or reserving them for their more expensive models. Jaguar now charges extra for the “leaper” ornament — upward of $250. (By the way, they also charged extra for the ornament when it first came out.) Without the add-on, drivers have to settle for the flat “growler” emblem.

Mercedes-Benz: land, water, and air

Perhaps the Mercedes-Benz hood ornament isn’t as evocative as some of the others, but the symbol still says a lot about the company. It dates back to Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, an automotive manufacturer that eventually broke off into several branches, including Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz.

Though Mercedes is best known for its automobiles, the 3-pointed star is supposed to represent mobility on land, water, and in the air. As the designers of 2 of the first proper automobiles, engineers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler hoped to inspire and create engines for all kinds of transportation.

The star in the logo was designed by Daimler in 1909, but they didn’t include the circle until 1926 when Daimler and Benz merged.

Rolls-Royce: the spirit of ecstasy

No manufacturer takes as much pride in its hood ornament as Rolls-Royce. She goes by many names: “The Spirit of Ecstasy,” “Flying Lady,” “Silver Lady,” even “Emily.” There’s a 3-minute film about the figure on the official Rolls-Royce website titled “The Graceful Little Goddess.”

The Spirit of Ecstasy was designed by British sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes in 1911 with a tale already attached. Supposedly, the woman who modeled for the figure was Eleanor Thornton, the secretary and mistress of a British baron who was compelled to keep their love a secret because of her lower social rank.

Thornton died at the age of 35 aboard the SS Persia in 1915, just 4 years after the ornament was designed.

Hispano-Suiza: the stork

Hispano-Suiza isn’t a well-known brand, but its stork ornament is notably elegant and ties in well with the European company’s unique history.

Designed by Frederick Bazin sometime in the 1920s, the Hispano-Suiza stork was inspired by the emblem of a WWI-fighter ace named Georges Guynemer who led a fighter squadron powered by Hispano-Suiza engines.

The luxury line was discontinued in 1968 when Hispano-Suiza began focusing on turbine technology for airplanes and was then acquired by an aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer.

Luigi Colani: the pinned lady

There isn’t much to say about Luigi Colani’s “Pinned Lady” except that it’s easily the most elaborate hood ornament ever made. Nothing else comes close.

Found on the industrial designer’s 1996 Horch Mega Roadster, the ornament plays such a central role in the design that there are actually ripples and creases in the chassis around it. Like most of Colani’s creations, the entire car is an eccentric masterpiece.

Symbols tell a story

In each case, the ornament seems to say something about the car — either something the manufacturer wants us to believe, or something it can’t hold back. Of course, the same can be said about any logo. But nothing says it quite like a shiny, sculpted hood ornament.

Do you have a favorite hood ornament? Tell us about it below.

Esurance Now Offers Car Insurance in North Carolina

Esurance now provides car insurance in North Carolina! And to celebrate our arrival in the Tar Heel State, we’ve put together a tribute to North Carolina’s 3 regions. Check out our favorite spots.

The Mountains

From the Great Smoky Mountains to the Blue Ridges, North Carolina is truly a mountain state.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of those uniquely American road trip destinations that people drive to to drive on. Winding 469 miles through the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains (part of the much larger Appalachian mountain range), the Blue Ridge Parkway is a place to see the seasons change in a tranquil environment.

Being a native Californian, I’d say the Blue Ridge Parkway is North Carolina’s equivalent of the Pacific Coast Highway — people don’t take it because it’s the fastest route but because it’s the most gorgeous route. And it certainly ranks on the short list of American autumn destinations. But you can enjoy the plentiful scenic overlooks year-round. Just pick a Blue Ridge destination and your favorite time of year (though winter can be a bit icy) to hit the road.

The Biltmore Estate, Asheville

North Carolina is awash with the history of a developing America. And there’s no better place to experience one of the more glamorous outputs of America’s industrial revolution than the Biltmore Estate. A lavish mansion built on 125,000 acres (of which 8,000 still remain) of Asheville’s finest land, the Biltmore Estate was completed in 1895 as a summer home for George Washington Vanderbilt, the ne’er-do-well grandson of railroad tycoon and legendary hard worker Cornelius Vanderbilt.

The display of opulence in the once-private residence, which has since been converted into a museum, is absurdly satisfying. Among my favorite details: Napoleon’s chess set in the library and a Renoir painting hung (on the back of a door!) in the lavish breakfast room. And, to see how the other half lived, take a gander at the labyrinthine kitchen and scullery. The real thing is definitely a step-up from streaming Downton Abbey.

Plus, the Biltmore (and Asheville) is accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it a great road-trip destination.

While you’re in Asheville, get a DD or take a taxi to one of the local breweries. Asheville is known for its fantastic beer and is largely considered the microbrewing capital of the Southeast.

The Piedmont

Piedmont is a French word for “foot of the mountain,” and that’s just what it is — a mostly flat, central plain that works its way up toward the mountains in the west.

Lexington Barbecue

It’s not a trip to North Carolina if you don’t have barbecue. And in North Carolina, it isn’t barbecue unless it’s pork. Pulled or chopped, sweet or tangy, North Carolina barbecue varies significantly from region to region, with the vinegary variety in the east and its ketchup-y cousin in the west.

Among perennial barbecue destinations, the town of Lexington is king. While you can swing by any time of the year (it’s right off I-40), the best time to go is October — the official “Barbecue Month,” culminating in the annual Lexington Barbecue Festival. (Though, in this writer’s opinion, the best barbecue comes twice a year from a fire station in Burnsville.)

The Research Triangle

North Carolina is a state of higher education, with 3 top-ranking universities — Duke, NC State, and UNC Chapel Hill — nestled into the tri-city region of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The Triangle makes North Carolina a prime location for college students all around the country and feeds the growing tech industry in Raleigh and Charlotte.

The Triangle is also a major hub for North Carolina’s most important sport: basketball. It has provided, among other things, the Duke-UNC rivalry, one of the most vicious in sports, as well as a number of NBA greats, not the least of which is Michael Jordan, who made it as far as junior year at UNC before going pro in 1984.

But the Triangle isn’t just books and basketball. The nearby community of Carrboro is also home to thriving art, food, and music scenes. Check out the local farmers market or swing by any of the bars, restaurants, and music venues in downtown Carrboro for a taste of “The Paris of the Piedmont.”

The Coast

North Carolina’s coast, from the sounds to the Outer Banks, is filled with beautiful nature and early American history.

Ocracoke Island

If you like long, narrow chains of barrier islands (and I know you do), the Outer Banks should be number one on your list. And if you like hanging out on the most isolated island of said chains, accessible only by ferry, Ocracoke Island is the place to go. Ocracoke is a tiny resort town with amazing seafood, great fishing, and cool spots like the Ocracoke Coffee Company (the best coffee you’ll ever have on a remote island).

Ocracoke is also known for its shipwrecks. Blackbeard the pirate was finally sunk by colonial forces in the waters near Ocracoke. Additionally, the island is home to 2 British cemeteries that mark the final resting place for the WWII sailors who fell victim to German U-Boats off the coast of the Carolinas.

The island is also great for off-roading … as long as you don’t get stuck in the sand like I did. (Long story short: take air out of the tires before you hit the dunes.)

Roanoke Island (home of the Lost Colony)

So you like history. But what about mystery? The story of the Lost Colony is one of the spookiest entries from early colonial America. Here’s what happened: Roanoke Island, which was home to one of the Civil War’s most decisive battles, was also the location of England’s first attempt at North American settlement near the end of the sixteenth century. Though this colony failed and returned to England, a second colony, founded in 1587, seemed to have more staying power.

When a small faction made a round-trip to England to gather supplies, however, they returned to Roanoke to find all of the colony’s inhabitants inexplicably missing, with no trace of their disappearance except for a single word carved in a tree: “Croatoan.” The meaning of the word is enigmatic to this day, and theories about the colony’s disappearance abound. Though a visit to Roanoke isn’t likely to clear up the mystery, it can certainly give you insight into this unique chapter of American history.

What did we miss?

North Carolinians, we picked out a few of our favorite spots, but a blog post can’t come close to covering it all. Now that we’re going to be neighbors, we’d love to hear from you!

Let us know what we missed in the comments section, or give us a shout out on our Facebook page.

Car insurance in North Carolina

North Carolinians, now that we’ve checked out your home, come on by and check out ours! Get a quote from Esurance or read up on car insurance in North Carolina.

A Fool’s Guide to the History of Car Insurance

Every wondered about the history of car insurance? Well, in the late 1700s, two Maryland patriots and founding fathers, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer and Samuel Chase, met in a tearoom overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Energized by their recent Revolutionary War victory, these political dynamos came this close to planting the seeds of a new revolution: the car insurance revolution (well, horse-and-buggy, anyway). But how, you might ask, did they get so close … only to come up so short?

Well, after digging around the Esurance vault, we were delighted to find a detailed transcript of this seminal meeting. And, as luck would have it, the ink was still 100 percent legible!

Chase: Good day, Jenifer! Apologies for my tardiness. I’ve just come from Georgetown.

Jenifer: And what news have you regarding the men there?

Chase: Well, we’re strong in the middle, but we desperately need more 3-point shooters.

Jenifer: Egad! Will nothing ever change?

Chase: Lard!

(Both men feverishly adjust their wigs to calm themselves. It appears to work.)

Jenifer: Tell me, Chase, why have you called this urgent meeting?

Chase: Yesterday, something deeply troubling happened to me as I was riding about.

Jenifer: Sweet Josephine’s mob cap, what was it?

Chase: My carriage was struck broadside by some half-brained blockhead!

Jenifer: Ghastly!

Chase: Yes, well, you can bet I gave this degenerate one powerful tongue-lashing. But do you know what he did? Simply held the middle digit of his hand toward the sky.

Jenifer: Must be tuberculosis. Poor soul, it’s taken over his movements like a soothsayer’s spell.

Chase: And when I tried to respond, this vagabond galloped away from the scene without so much as an apology. I gave meager chase, but was unable to cop him.

Jenifer: Lard!

(Both rip off their wigs and jump up and down on them to calm themselves. It appears to work.)

Chase: Since then, I’ve been thinking, Jenifer. My buggy will require copious repairs. Is it right that I should have to pay for them?

Jenifer: It is few that have the fortune to mend such a wreckage.

Chase: My point exactly. And I run this same risk every time I pull my horses out of the carriage house. To that end, wouldn’t it behoove us to have someone, some institution, that could share this burden of risk and help compensate us after driving blunders?

Jenifer: Forgive me, old friend, but … huh?

(Chase takes out a piece of paper.)

Chase: Perhaps this will clarify.Do you remember that declaration of independence I signed not long ago?

Jenifer: Vaguely … what was it called, again?

Chase: No matter. The point is, I represented Maryland’s strength and refusal to incur unjust fees once, and I’m prepared to do it again! Listen.

(He places monocles to his eyes and begins reading in a deep voice.)

We hold these truths to be self-evident  —  that all buggies are driven by equine. That they are endowed by their manufacturer with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of windshield replacement  ….

(He suddenly becomes distracted watching Jenifer eat.)

Chase: Say, Jenifer, what is that odd-looking thing you’re devouring?

Jenifer: Why, it’s a blue crab. Pulled right from the bay this morning.

Chase: A blue crab? You — you can eat those?

Jenifer: But of course. You see, under these shells lies a bounty of savory meat. As chance would have it, I was thinking about starting a business with these. Some sort of restaurantorium in which we would serve these crabs along with other delicacies of the sea.

(Chase thinks for a moment. He tastes some crab.)

Chase: Sweet Paul Revere’s diaphragm, that’s delectable! To think I’ve just been using them as paperweights and monocle cases … yours is a much better idea.

(He crumples his paper into a ball and throws it away.)

Chase: We must alert the Maryland Gazette anon!

(They clink their tea cups together.)

Jenifer: Huzzah!

Chase: Huzzah!

(They each take out their telegraphs and order new wigs in celebration.)

Read on to find out more about car insurance in Maryland (it did finally get there), including which coverages today’s drivers in The Free State must carry.

Happy April Fools’ Day!