Peerless was an American automobile produced by the Peerless Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The company was known for building high-quality, precision luxury automobiles.
Established in Cleveland in 1900, Peerless Motors began producing De Dion 'machines' under license from the French Company. At the time, Cleveland was the thriving center of automotive production in the United States. Peerless employed Barney Oldfield as a driver of its Green Dragon racecar; in early speed races Peerless proved the durability of the product and setting world speed records.
As the Peerless evolved, it along with makes Packard and Pierce-Arrow, became known as the 'Three-P's' of premium vehicles in the United States.
Peerless' downfall was in its quality. In the 1920s, the company was producing conservatively styled vehicles that would last for ten or more years. Current Peerless owners held onto their cars, which ran very well; new buyers of luxury cars were attracted to LaSalle, Packard and the Studebaker President series. The Great Depression made it difficult for many to afford these high-priced vehicles. The small group of individuals who could afford one slowly diminished and the competition from other builders decreased the number of potential buyers.
This example shown here represents a valiant attempt by James Bohannon, the president of the company, to create a technically advanced vehicle with superb styling that could revitalize sales. The body is constructed of aluminum which was provided by ALCOA. The engine is a massive 464.6 cubic-inch V-16 engine capable of producing nearly 175 horsepower. Peerless was one of the few marques to ever use a 16-cylinder engine in one of their automobiles, and joined the ranks of Cadillac and Marmon. The coachwork was the result of the famous builder, Murphy. The main designer on the project was the 22-year old Franklin Hershey. The result was a four-door, five-passenger sedan sitting atop a 145 inch wheelbase. Designs in other bodystyles, such as coupe, roadster, and convertible were also created giving Bohannon a selection to chose.
Four chassis were driven to Murphy's Pasadena, California facilities to be bodied. Two of the vehicle had aluminum frames, one had a V-12 engine, while three were given the 16-cylinder power-plant. The large roof of the vehicle allowed for its passengers easy access in and out of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, production was halted before the coupe versions could be completed. The decision was made to switch to beer production. The Peerless Sedan would be the final vehicle produced by the company. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2006
As with all Peerless cars, this prototype is built largely of lightweight aluminum to a design by Murphy. Peerless was one of the very few companies to use a V-16 engine, and the 465-cubic-inch V-16 in this prototype offered 173 bhp, enabling the car to cruise at speeds around 100 mph in great comfort. Due to the economic climate at the time, the company decided that luxury cars were not the way to go. Peerless ended car production entirely in 1932, and redirected its efforts into the far more lucrative brewing business. As such, this car is the very last car produced by the pioneering Peerless Motor Car Company. The prototype was later purchased by the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.
The body was designed and built by Murphy Body Co. of California. While work was underway on a coupe body Murphy received word from the Peerless Company to stop the project; all automobile manufacturing was being ended. The sedan was driven back to Cleveland and stored in the old Peerless plant - which had been taken over by the Carling Brewing Company.