1920 Pierce-Arrow Model 48

Chassis Num: 515435
Sold for $141,819 (£89,600) at 2010 RM Sothebys.
High bid of $150,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
As many other luxury automobiles moved to new V-8s and V-12 engines, Pierce-Arrow continued to produce large-displacement sixes through 1927. Their engine featured a T-head engine layout and was produced in several sizes. They were available in 38-, 48- and 66-horsepower variants. In 1918, the 38 and 66 were both discontinued and the 48 was redesigned with dual-valve cylinder heads providing high efficiency with four valves per cylinder. The Dual-Valve Six offered plenty of power and new silence.

This Pierce-Arrow Model 48 was delivered new to Emerson Carey of Hutchinson, Kansas. In 1945, the Pierce was acquired by another individual from Kansas. He spent nearly 30 years restoring it in an old garage in Great Bend. The owner employed skilled workers to create 'the Hope Diamond of antique cars,' covering its aluminum body with 23-karat gold. The entire chassis and the engine are also plated, either gold or nickel. The bonnet and wings are nickeled, and the hickory-spoke artillery wheels are done in 23-karat gold leaf. All the interior fittings are silver plated. The restoration was completed in 1973. In January of 1974, it was given a public debut, displayed in the lobby of the Bank of Engelwood in the Denver, Colorado suburb of that name.

The interior is done in black leather. The dual-valve, six-cylinder, T-head engine displaces 525 cubic-inches and delivers 48 horsepower. There is a three-speed manual gearbox and two-wheel mechanical brakes.

In 2012, this vehicle was offered for sale at RM Auctions sale in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was estimated to sell for $185,000-$225,000. Bidding reached $150,000 but was not enough to satisfy the vehicle's reserve. It would leave the auction unsold.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2012
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
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