Pierce-Arrow was manufactured in Buffalo, New York between 1901 and 1938. By 1901 Pierce built its first single-cylinder two-speed (no reverse) Moterette with the engine licensed from de Dion, and in 1904, a two-cylinder was made and named the Arrow. In 1903 Pierce decided to concentrate on making a larger, more luxurious auto for the upscale market. This proved to be Pierce's most successful product, and the solidly-built cars with powerful engines gained positive publicity by winning numerous auto races.
Pierce-Arrow engines had cylinders that were cast in pairs and secured to all aluminum crankcases. Many parts were built by hand and all were of the finest quality. The Pierce-Arrow inline six-cylinder engine as seen in this 1917 Touring Car was NACC rated at 48 horsepower, but actually produced 92 horsepower and measures 525 cubic-inches. In the teens and twenties, the Pierce-Arrow sixes were considered among the best and were coveted by people not only in the United States, but also by many Europeans. They were known for their exceptionally high rate of customer satisfaction.
A long list of advanced features includes a live axle rear suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs and two wheel mechanical brakes.
The Pierce-Arrow was a status symbol, owned by Hollywood stars and corporate tycoons; royalty of many foreign nations had at least one Pierce-Arrow in their collections. It was known by many as the finest automobile ever made. Pierce-Arrow closed and holdings were sold on Friday, May 13, 1938.
The 48 Series was produced from 1916 to 1918, cost between $4,900 and $5,500, and, like all Pierce-Arrows, the body was cast aluminum. The original owner of this car was none other than George M. Cohan. He was the first of five owners. It has been faithfully restored exactly as Mr. Cohan ordered with several unusual options, including 'summer covers' of canvas to protect the leather seats from the hot sun. It has previously been shown only one time, when it won 1st place in its class at Pebble Beach. Owned by discriminating collectors, it has participated in many touring events.
The car was delivered August 13, 1917 in the present color scheme with inboard headlights, summer seat covers and rear windshield. It has been reported that Cohan wrote the famous song Over There while driving this very automobile.
The car was inherited by Cohan's chauffeur and later sold to Marc Ralston, author of The Golden Age, concerning Pierce-Arrow automobiles that were built between 1905 and 1918.
The car was later sold to Dr. Gregg Johnson who undertook a three-year full restoration to its former color and condition. Dr. Johnson sold the car to the present owner in 1992 to make room in his collection for a vintage racer.
Sold for $385,000 at 2008 RM Sothebys. In 1878, George N. Pierce began the George N. Pierce Company which produced hous- wares. The business soon diversified into iceboxes and birdcages, then onto bicycles, and later into automobiles. The Pierce-Arrow automobiles were among the most sought after and desirable automobiles of their era. They had a reputation for their durability and quality.
They began with steam powered cars, then gasoline, and then analyzed both sources of power for their advantages, deciding upon gasoline as their mode of fuel. In January of 1901, David Fergusson was hired to head the Company's design efforts for the gasoline-powered cars. His first designs were the de Dion-powered Pierce Motorettes that were introduced near the end of 1901. The Pierce Company benefited from the pre-established network of bicycle dealers, who were able to quickly sell the automobiles.
The first four-seater Pierce arrived in early 1903. It had a two-cylinder engine and shaft drive and was dubbed the 'Arrow.' The following year, a larger and more conventional looking car, called the 'Great Arrow', emerged. By 1908, George and Percy Pierce parted ways with their financial backer and company director George K. Birge, and concentrated on bicycles and motorcycles. The automobile business was renamed the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.
The first cars produced by the newly named 'Pierce-Arrow' company were powered by six-cylinder engines. They were offered in 36, 48, and 60 horsepower sizes. By 1910, the company was producing cars only powered by six-cylinder engines. This would be the company's engine size of choice until 1929 when an eight-cylinder version was introduced.
This six-cylinder engines produced by Pierce-Arrow were cast in pairs and secured to aluminum crankcases. They had T-head designs and were one of the more powerful units in the industry.
This 1917 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 Touring Car has been restored to concours quality. It has a maroon exterior offset by black fenders and lower body panels. There is a black top, red pin-striping along the beltline, artillery-style wheels, dual cowl-mounted lights, right-side mounted horn, black painted rims, bright hubcaps, and a Moto-Meter. In the rear of the vehicle is a luggage rack with a trunk secured by leather straps and protected by a leather cover. The interior features button-tufted tan leather upholstery, tan door and side panels with storage pockets, correct hardware, and door-retaining straps.
The six-cylinder, 525 cubic-inch, T-head engine is capable of producing 92 horsepower. There is a four-speed manual gearbox and two-wheel mechanical drum brakes.
In 2008 this car was brought to the 2nd Annual Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey presented by RM Auctions where it was estimated to sell for $325,000 - $375,000. Those estimates were proven accurate as the lot was sold for a high bid of $385,000 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2008
A win on Sunday meant strong sales on Monday. This was a motto many manufacturers believed in and thus, many automakers actively raced their cars to promote its capabilities. Pierce-Arrow did the same; to prove the cars durability and reliability, the mighty Pierce-Arrow was entered in the famed Glidden Tours. From 1905 through 1909, it won all five events and, except for one outing, earned perfect scores in all of them. The company handled all aspects of construction, including the coachwork, for their vehicles. This was highly unusual for the time, but Pierce-Arrow wanted to ensure high quality and maintain high standards on all facets of construction and assembly. They worked closely with their Buffalo, New York neighbor Aluminum Company of America to perfect casting techniques which produced cast-aluminum body panels as thin as 1/8-inch. This made them lightweight yet very strong.
Pierce-Arrow established their own Art Department, long before GM recruited Harley Earl to create their 'Art and Colour Department.' Herbert Dawley designed the bodies for the Pierce-Arrow automobiles and worked closely with the clientele to ensure proper colors, materials, and accessories were fitted to the vehicles.
Another venue the company explored for promoting their business was 'image.' They sought the business of prominent figures, including the White House where ever President from William Howard Taft through Franklin Delano Roosevelt rode in a Pierce-Arrow. Many famous movie stars of the time preferred the Pierce-Arrow, such as Mary Pickford, Tom Mix, and Gloria Swanson. This publicity generated a wealth of business for the company and its reputation continued to soar.
In 1906, Pierce-Arrow constructed an integrated factory in Buffalo that covered 1.5 million square feet on the site of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.
In 1913, the Pierce-Arrow Company patented the design of 'headlights faired into the tops of the front fenders.' This improved the effectiveness of the headlamps and was first seen on a Model 48-B2.
The Model 48 was available in two versions, the B and D. The D versions were equipped with a Disco acetylene self-starting system.
The Pierce-Arrow Model 48 was powered by a 515 cubic-inch, T-head, inline six-cylinder, side-valve engine that produced 48.6 calculated ALAM horsepower. Its cylinders were cast in three pairs and featured two vertical plugs per cylinder. Half of the plugs connected to a coil while the other six were connected to a magnet. A switch gave the driver the ability to select either or both. The engine did not have a hand crank; there was an air-starting device which used compressed air stored in a tank to operate a small piston engine geared to the flywheel. Once the engine was started, the driver would reverse the valve, and the air-engine became a pump which recharged the tank.
During the production lifespan of the Model 48B, a total of 825 examples were created, and each carried a price tag that ranged from $4,850 - $6,300 depending on body-style and coachwork. There were more examples of the Model 48B produced than their lower-priced companion car, the Model 38C, by 209 units.
The Model 48 rested on a platform that had a wheelbase that measured nearly 12 feet. Braking was mechanical system that took some force to operate. Wooden artillery style wheels were at all four corners and wooden running boards were on either side of the car. The instrumentation inside was rather bare. The two more important gauges were the mile-o-meter and the drum-action Warner speedometer.
The most popular body-style for the Model 48 was the Tourer which had a canvas top and had seating for around 7 individuals.
The Model 48 was a very stately and impressive car that had an awe-inspiring presence and a powerplant capable of carry the load. These were mechanical masterpieces and truly exception examples of the quality and caliber the Pierce-Arrow Company was capable of producing. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2008