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It’s Got a Hemi … and It’s Loud!

Alex Kierstein November 8, 2010 In General 30 Comments

Ear protection is highly recommended.

What has a 331 cid Hemi Fire Power V8, makes 180 HP, and goes from 0-138 in 100 feet?

Why, a ’50s-era Chrysler Victory air raid siren, that’s what! Tim stumbled across a Victory Siren advert a while back, and since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind, so I did a bit of digging and came up with some interesting factoids. For example, that unspecified measurement of “0-138” listed above? It’s decibel output – that is, at 100′ the damn thing was wailing at 138 dB. For reference, 130 dB is commonly and somewhat poetically referred to as the “threshold of pain,” and every 10 dB increase is a 10X increase in sound. So “loud” doesn’t do it justice. In the tradition of many great Chrysler products, the Victory Siren was also enormous. 12′ long, 6′ tall, weighing nearly 3 tons. All this was needed to house a three-stage compressor in order to drive air through the rotor, then into six 3′ long horns at 7 PSI. The end result was, bar none, the loudest production warning device ever produced.

Image source: Mopar Muscle Magazine

This being the 1950s, it doesn’t take Dr. Strangelove to tell you that the Victory Siren was intended to warn of fiery nuclear death from the sky. When you heard the blood-curdling Chrysler scream, you sure as hell better pull that picnic blanket over your head or dive under your desk, because otherwise stinking Commie gamma rays would hard-boil your eyeballs! Here’s how it worked – when a warning came of incoming ICBMs, the operator immediately wet himself (this being the sexist ’50s … a woman operating a siren? Golly no!), curse in a low mumble over and over, and sweat profusely. Then he would run outside and furiously crank over the Hemi, which started with a rumble, and once up to operating speed he’d pull the transmission engagement lever to start the siren. And then he’d cry. So would the siren. As it slowly rotated on its iron stand, it warned an effective 4 mile radius of their impending incineration. On a clear day when you could see Detroit, it could be heard up to 30 miles away. The only other man-made objects that loud are in-laws.

You’ll be happy to know that when these god-sized party buzzers were retired, many of the sursed engines found their way into hot rods. And a very dedicated group of enthusiasts have saved a few Victory Sirens from the scrapyard, and are able to occasionally run them without being lynched by their neighbors. Bravo to you, siren restorers – check out for more information, sounds of the FirePower starting up the siren, and other good stuff.

  • Uh, that blows.

    Hey, its Monday. Give me a break.

  • dukeisduke

    I first stumbled across VictorySiren.com several years ago. Unfortunately, it's about that long since it was updated. One of the sirens, rescued from Los Angeles (they had converted it to run on propane) was bought by a guy in Fayetteville, Texas (it's his siren that's in the recordings). I've been through there a few times; I'd like to drop in on the guy and check out the siren.

  • dukeisduke

    A lot of those sirens were set up to be remotely started and operated, as well. One would just have to hope they'd start, and/or that the Nike Ajax missiles were able to shoot down the Bear bombers.

    • Or the Nike Hercules missiles could shoot down the ICBMs.

  • theeastbaykid

    For years, there was one of these in the Oakland hills rotting away next to a former fallout shelter that was later turned into an amphitheater. The siren portion was gone, but the rusting Hemi remained in the bushes, sitting atop a purpose-built concrete pedestal. Sometime within the last 5-10 years, the Hemi disappeared too. It's probably now in someone's rat rod.

    • dukeisduke

      My guess is, somebody took the compressor and the horns to get cash at a recycler, since they're aluminum.

      According to VictorySiren.com, Oakland had five sirens (incl. the one at Woodminster Amphitheater):

      Oakland had five Chrysler Air Raid Sirens in 1953. As of 2005 two still remain on roof tops.

      » Fire Station 26 Siren #1 – Tower – Located at 98th & Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA – Siren &
      tower removed when fire station moved across the street circa 2000.
      » Fire Station 29 Siren #2 – Tower – Located at 1061 66th Street, Oakland, CA – Siren
      removed.
      » Lafayette Siren #3 – Roof Top (2 story) – Located on the Lafayette Elementary School,
      1700 Market Street, Oakland, CA – Reported still in place as of AUG-2005. [ aerial photo ]
      » Buckingham Place Siren #4 – Concrete Pad – Located above Hiller Quarry – Removed.
      » Woodminster Siren #5 – Roof Top – 12-0 engine cowling – Located on the Woodminster
      Amphitheater, 3300 Joaquin Miller Road, in Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland, CA. – Reported still
      in place as of JAN-2006 [ photo ].

  • Maymar

    I need that for my car. Never again will people in my down stay in the left lane because they have to turn in 5 kms.

  • Number_Six

    Growing up even at the end of the Cold War was pretty scary and I'd rather not hear these sirens again. When I lived in South Korea they'd occasionally have air raid drills where traffic stopped and people streamed into underground shelters. Eventually people began to ignore the drills but I'd still get the chills when the sirens went and a few minutes later a half-dozen fighters would blast overhead just above the highrise buildings.

    <img src="; widt="500" />

    • That movie was creepy, and was the first thing I thought of at "fiery nuclear death from the sky".

      I still remember nuclear attack drills in elementary school. Creepy times…

      • Number_Six

        Seriously, I used to have nightmares after I saw it.

  • On Halloween I was wishing I had one of these to keep the little begging brats off my porch. Hell, this would keep them out of my subdivision.

    • Number_Six

      This is how I deal with kids who get all up in my porch:

      <img src="; width="500" />

      • Han_Solex

        Damn kids. GET OFF MY RUNWAY!

  • OA5599

    I'm presuming the Hemi runs with open exhaust?

    • P161911

      That might drown out the siren.

      • wolf359

        There were no mufflers and the hemi was still drowned out.

        As you said, gunshots are in the 140-155dB range but that is usually measured around one meter from the barrel. The Chrysler siren was measured to be 138dB at 30 meters (98.4 feet). Now look at the first graph here:

        An unsuppressed .308 Win, which is 158dB at 1 meter, is the same loudness (138dB) at 30 meters but it is only an impulse whereas the siren is continuous. At this same distance a jet engine is only 130dB or 10 watts per square meter. 138dB translates to 63 watts per square meter, more than six times the sound energy.

        What I mean to say is IT’S GOT A HEMI…AND IT’S LOUD! 🙂

  • IronBallsMcG

    Unless Satan is a man, my in-laws are not man-made.
    BTW they're not the spawn of Ralph Nader, so don't try using that loophole, Corvair lovers.

    • Han_Solex

      Look, I don't like making TOO much sense in my posts. Gotta keep the riff-raff on their toes. Although when Cyberdyne Systems does introduce synthetic inlaws, trust me, they won't be quiet.

  • Jim-Bob

    I remember growing up as a child that the town of Beacon, NY had a VERY loud siren that sat atop a bell tower and was sounded every day at noon. You could hear it miles away and now I have to wonder if this is what it was. I can still remember going to my great-grandmother's house and that at noon you wanted to be anywhere but where that siren sounded!

  • Smells_Homeless

    Actually, the decibel scale is logarithmic. So the first increase of 10db is 10 times louder, but the leap to 20db ranks as 100 times louder and then 30 is 1000 times louder. So 138 db is roughly 8 times the threshold of pain*. In other words, you likely won't hear a 138db sound because you'd be doing everything in your power to protect yourself from it.

    *I think. Neither an audiologist nor a mathematician. This is all from memory of college which was more than a few years ago.

    • P161911

      Gunshots are in the 140-155 range, but of very short duration. This siren is about jet engine loud you would hear it, it would hurt.

      • "What??"

    • OA5599

      I would imagine every now and then somebody drives by my house blasting a stereo at least that loud.
      [youtube 3TyG8uw5KA8 youtube]

    • Han_Solex

      Thanks for the clarification. Math was a no-go for me. Why do you think I'm writing for this joke of an outfit? If I could do long division, I'd be doing better than the salt mines. I'd be operating that block crusher that Rong found.

      • Smells_Homeless

        I can dig it. I'm half-expecting someone with actual cred to point out that I'm a dumbass somehow. Look at the bright side, nobody ever fell into his keyboard only to be mashed to pasted by the block crusher.

  • dmilligan

    My hometown of Klamath Falls, OR had a big yellow air raid siren that they used to test once a month during the '60s. That siren was mounted at the top of a mast that looked to be about 100 feet tall, and rotated. I don't know what powered it.

  • mechimike

    That's the singular most awesome thing I have seen all day. The "J" is dead. Long live the "H"!

  • widgetsltd

    If you want to see one of these up close and personal, Chrysler may have theirs on display at the Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan:

  • coupeZ600

    I grew up in a mining town (Bisbee, AZ) where they had the "Three O'Clock Blast", a huge explosion in the open-pit that had taken the day-shift all day to set-up, and would take the swing and night-shift all night to clean up so they could do it all again the next day. At 2:55pm some gigantic horn would go off (presumably to tell all the workers in The Pit that shit was about to go down) and that also meant the end of the school day. If you were ready and your bicycle was in good shape you could get to the Overlook and watch a whole hillside fall down into this great big hole. Awesome.

    They probably appropriated a Victory Siren (or some variant) as some sort of Civil Defense/Mine Safety/School Bell, and I can attest that you could hear that thing for miles.

  • "Hemi: Giving pre-apocalyptic America the Horn for over fifty years."

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