Chrysler Air Raid Siren Still A Blast For Collector
by John Beattie
Horn and whistle collector Harry Barry sits atop a
Chrysler Air Raid Siren which he recently purchased. The siren,
manufactured by the Marine and Industrial Engine Division during World
War ll, is still mounted on the roof of Barry's former junior high
school in the Pittsburgh area.
The year was 1952, and the advertisement's banner
headline read, "First Choice for Defense Warning Systems! Chrysler Air
Raid Siren Sounds the Loudest Warning Ever Produced." And, according to
a Pennsylvania man who just bought one of the sirens, the Chrysler is
still more powerful than any other siren, horn or whistle made to this
"I remember the mighty roar of the siren as a kid
growing up," said Harry Barry, a collector and restorer of horns,
whistles and now sirens. The Pittsburgh-area native first recalls
hearing the siren during grade school, and he returned to the roof of
his old school recently to purchase the Chrysler-produced siren that
dates to the early 1950s.
Manufactured by the Marine and Industrial Engine
Division of Acustar, hundreds of the air raid warning devices were
produced for military and civilian protection during, and after, World
"The sound is unique and unmistakable - a deep,
rotating roar," Barry said. Powered by a 180 horsepower industrial V-8
engine, the sound wave produced by the revolving, mammoth howler is at
least twice as powerful as the loudest siren offered today, according to
A three-stage air compressor perfected by company
engineers is the primary factor in producing the sustained
ear-shattering blast which has been measured as high as 170 decibels and
heard over 50 miles away. A chopper, 22 3/4 inches in diameter, revolves
behind six throats leading to the horn. As compressed air is sent into
the throats at the rate of 2,610 cubic feet per minute, it is sliced off
by the blades of the chopper at a speed in excess of 400 miles per hour
and creates a high-frequency air disturbance.
Despite constant exposure to the elements for the
last three decades atop the school, the siren appeared to be in
surprisingly good condition when Barry inspected it earlier this year.
"Now the challenge is to bring it down, either by crane or helicopter,"
he said. "I'd like to bring it home, restore it and then mount it on a
trailer for moving around. It weighs 5,543 pounds."
Barry contacted Acustar's Marine and Industrial
Engine Division and received a copy of the original siren operating and
owner's manual. Invaluable for restoration of the device, it had
everything about the siren in it, ... even all the part numbers," Barry
"The siren had sentimental value for me, and I am
delighted to have the most , powerful sound signal ever made." In
addition to the siren, Barry also has restored many steamship whistles
and is a member of the Horns and Whistles Collectors Club.
Barry knows of two other Chrysler sirens. "A friend
of mine in North Carolina bought one that was a real basket case, but he
was able to restore it and make it operational, although not with all
original parts," Barry said. Another friend is in the process of
acquiring a third siren. "If he gets one, we'll have the only three I
know of in existence."