Pierce Arrow Twelve
Pierce-Arrows were stately vehicles that commanded admiration and respect and had a price tag to match. The individuals who bought the most elite Pierce-Arrows were individuals that were high on the social ladder and cost was not an issue. The Pierce-Arrow catered to every demand and request, even keeping special colors on hand for important families and only using those colors for those vehicles and non-others. Most of the vehicle was custom, including the carpets, luggage, trunks, and seats. The Pierce-Arrows were more than just a custom and exclusive automobile, they were also known for their quality, reliability, performance, and sophistication.
The slow demise of the Pierce-Arrow Company began when other marques moved away from custom-built automobiles to production lines. The mass-produced vehicles raised the bar on quality and dependability. Though they could not guarantee exclusivity, they could guarantee a better product at a better price. When Cadillac introduced its 16-cylinder engine in 1929, Pierce-Arrow knew it had to improve its 12-cylinder engine to stay competitive. The Twelve was introduced in 1932 and came equipped with a 452 cubic-inch engine capable of producing 150 horsepower, just slightly below the output of the V16. By 1933, Pierce-Arrow had raised the output of their engine to 175 and the public approved, buying many examples and setting new sales records for Pierce.
1932 was a great year for the Pierce-Arrow Twelve. Ab Jenkins drove a 33,000-mile prototype to the salt flats of Bonneville. he set several records and then drove 2000 miles back to Buffalo. He returned the following year and set nearly 80 new records.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression was taking its toll on the company. Negotiations to merge with Auburn and Reo failed and Pierce-Arrow entered into bankruptcy. Buffalo business rescued the failing company, raised money, and cut the work staff by half. Sales improved for a short while but not enough to sustain the company. In 1937 the company closed its doors forever.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006