In its day, Pierce-Arrow was considered one of the three 'P's' of Motordom along with Peerless and Packard. But what would make the Pierce-Arrow one of America's true luxury cars wouldn't be something grand and cacophonous. Instead, it would be its silence that would make it one of the most famous American brands. And one of the earlier models that would help the company earn such acclaim would be its six-cylinder model 48.
The now famous Pierce-Arrow name would actually begin life as Heinz, Pierce and Munschauer in 1865. And though the company would become famous for its luxurious automobiles it would start out producing anything but. Household items, including ornate birdcages, would be something the company would be known for before it switched to making bicycles in 1896.
By 1872, the George N. Pierce had brought out the other two partners and would found George N. Pierce Company. After looking into and abandoning steam-powered cars in 1900, Pierce would go on to produced single-cylinder Motorettes on license from de Dion.
While the move to internal-combustion engines would be rather slow, Pierce would make up his mind rather quickly to enter the more luxurious, upscale automobile market. And right from the beginning his cars would earn a reputation for their solidly-built chassis and powerful engines. This would be capped off by success in the 1905 Glidden Trophy endurance run from New York City to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. In that race, Percy Pierce drove the winning Great Arrow. This would lead to the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company name when George Pierce sold all rights in the company in 1907.
Just before the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Pierce-Arrow was making a few different models of cars. The company had four-cylinder and six-cylinder models. However, keeping with the company's mantra of focusing on luxury and the more upscale market, the decision would be made to abandon the four-cylinder models in favor of concentrating on its six-cylinder models, which included the 6-48 model.
Representative of the 48 hp, 524 cu. in. inline six-cylinder engine, the Model 48, in many respects, would be considered Pierce-Arrow's finest and most balanced of the company's entire line of models. For its day, it seemed to be the perfect blend of performance and elegance all wrapped in the impeccable silent, luxurious ride for which Pierce-Arrow would become famous and sought after by the wealthiest of families and every American president from Taft to Franklin Roosevelt.
Although Pierce-Arrow would continue to be a symbol of elegance and luxury well into the 1920s, a lot would change with the outbreak of World War I. The owners would sell the company and investors would decide, in 1921, to consolidate production. This meant a single line of luxury cars and would spell the end of the Model 48. The company, however, would carry on to create some truly majestic and elegant luxury car models.
One of the first to carry the Pierce-Arrow name, the Model 48 was NACC-rated to just 48 hp. However, it was more likely the engine produced upwards of 90 hp making it much more powerful than many of the company's competitors.
Only the finest materials and processes would be used to build the car. This would include cast cylinders supported in aluminum crankcases. Everything was painstakingly controlled and manipulated to produce the smooth-running model. Of course, besides the smoothness of the car itself, what made the Model 48 and the entire 6-Series so beloved was the simple fact that when the customer received the car it was very much their car as Pierce-Arrow would work very closely with its clients to try and provide them with exactly what they wanted and demanded. And this would be part of the reason why the Model 48 and the entire 6-line would be considered Pierce-Arrow's best.
The Model 48 would be considered the Buffalo company's pinnacle model precisely because it straddled eras. The car belonged to the past while it also quietly embraced the future. The Model 48 would have such forward-thinking ideas as the headlights incorporated into the front fenders. But it would also remain in touch with the past with its classic lines and right-hand drive when most cars in America had switched over to left-hand driving positioning.
And of the entire line of Model 48s Pierce-Arrow developed and produced perhaps none represented the influence and the imagination of America quite like its 7-Passenger Touring model. Only four of the 7-Passenger Touring Model 48s are known to exist and one of those rare and majestic automobiles would be up for auction in January at the 2012 RM Auction in Arizona.
The chassis up for sale is a 1915 Model 48 7-Passenger Touring Pierce-Arrow. Its history before the 1970s is incomplete and vague. But, in 1975, the car would come to be owned by David and Fred Webber of St. Louis. Some time afterward, the car would make its way to Escondido, California and Eric Rosenau for a complete restoration. At about the same time, the car's upholstery restoration would be carried out by Ken and Cindy Nemanic of Vintage Automotive Upholstery in Walnut Creek, California.
In 1993, Patrick Craig of Stockton, California would come to acquire the car. Craig is a well-known Pierce-Arrow collector and restorer in his own right. Mr. Craig would only keep the car a few years and would then sell it in 1996 to George Van Beek of Portland, Oregon. Under the ownership of Van Beek the Model 48 would do anything but sit around as part of some collection. Throughout their 15 years of owning the car it would rack up some 27,000 miles traveling to and from Horseless Carriage Club touring events. Amazingly, throughout that period of use and ownership the car would only suffer one mechanical failure. This is perhaps the greatest testament that came ever be given to the company that would become famous for its quality and strive for perfection—despite going defunct in 1938, its cars continue to run and run.
There was just something about this particular chassis it would seem as Patrick Craig would again come to own the car. However, under Craig's ownership the car has driven considerably less miles, but it is still enjoyed just as much.
Finished in a deep maroon with a black top, the 1915 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 7-Passenger Touring automobile remains as breathtaking to look at and it is 'breathtaking to drive', as Craig describes.
Complete with a four-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptic leaf spring front suspension with its Westinghouse air-spring shock absorbers and two-wheel mechanical rear drum brakes, this particular chassis comes with many other desirable extras like folding jump seats, dual side-mounted spare tires, correct rear trunk rack and beautiful brightwork.
A time machine of grand and luxurious proportions, this rare Model 48 was expected to garner between $250,000 and $300,000 at auction, a truly wonderful and elegant sight harkening back to the days when Pierce-Arrow ruled motordom.
Source: 'Feature Lots: Lot No. 139: 1915 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 7-Passenger Touring', (http://www.rmauctions.com/featurecars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ12&CarID=r130&fc=0). RM Auction. http://www.rmauctions.com/featurecars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ12&CarID=r130&fc=0. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
'1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 Four Passenger Tourer', (http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=1693749). Christie's. http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=1693749. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Pierce-Arrow', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 January 2012, 01:15 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pierce-Arrow&oldid=469429239 accessed 5 January 2012
'Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. History: The War Years', (http://www.pierce-arrow.org/history/hist3.php). The Pierce-Arrow Society. http://www.pierce-arrow.org/history/hist3.php. Retrieved 5 January 2012.