Pierce-Arrow Model 66-A4 7-Passenger Touring

The vaunted reputation of the Pierce-Arrow marque owes no small credit to the carefully considered, systematic process it and its predecessor, the George N. Pierce Company, followed in entering the emerging automobile business at the dawn of the 20th century. George Pierce had been manufacturing various products in Buffalo, New York since the latter years of the Civil War starting with housewares, which were in strong demand during the country’s westward expansion. In 1878, the George N. Pierce Company was formally organized, with the business quickly diversifying into the production of iceboxes and birdcages.

A few years later, Pierce’s company began building bicycles, and then it seized upon the next great commercial opportunity – the horseless carriage. The company thereupon undertook a careful process of investigation and development, beginning with steam power and then progressing to internal-combustion power. Pierce’s decision became clear in January 1901, when David Fergusson was hired to head the Company’s gasoline-powered automobile design efforts. The first Fergusson-designed, de Dion-powered Pierce Motorettes were produced later that same year, with Pierce’s many bicycle dealers providing an instant and effective distribution network.

Two-seat Motorettes and four-seat Stanhopes, with ever-larger single-cylinder engines, soon led to the first true four-seat Pierce in early 1903, complete with two-cylinder power and shaft drive and called the “Arrow.” A year later, a larger and more conventional-looking four-cylinder “Great Arrow” appeared. Together, the Arrow and Great Arrow are best known for their five years of success in the Glidden Tours beginning in 1905, where they achieved perfect scores during four of those years.

The company’s success, however, brought the need for more capital, with much of it supplied by company director George K. Birge. The growing influence of Birge and other investors created friction with George and Percy Pierce, and in 1908, they left the automobile business to concentrate on bicycles and motorcycles. Meanwhile, the company, acknowledging the strong reputation now associated with the Arrow name, was renamed the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.

More importantly, the first Pierce-Arrows included the Company’s first six-cylinder engines, which were offered in 36, 48 and 60 horsepower size. By 1910, only sixes were built, setting the precedent for all subsequent Pierce-Arrows until the introduction of an eight-cylinder engine in 1929. In 1913, Herbert Dawley, who had been in charge of Pierce-Arrow design since 1907, patented the signature Pierce-Arrow headlight design, which distinctively integrated the headlights within the front fenders.

The Pierce-Arrow sixes had their cylinders cast in pairs, which were secured to aluminum crankcases. Every component was of the finest quality, and the Pierce-Arrow T-head engine was acknowledged as one of the most powerful in the entire industry. In fact, all engines were dynamometer-tested for performance before being disassembled, re-inspected and then run yet again in separate dynamometer cells to check for smoothness of operation. The NACC-rated 48-horsepower engines (4.5-inch bore, six cylinders) actually produced 92 horsepower or more on the Pierce-Arrow dynamometers, more true horsepower than many of the marque’s rivals, which contributed to the high satisfaction levels of Pierce-Arrow’s elite clientele.

Innovatively, Pierce-Arrow automobile bodies were made from 1/8-inch thick aluminum panels that were cast in Pierce-Arrow’s own foundry. Customers usually specified the colors, interior materials and accessories, and Herbert Dawley frequently visited the company’s clients to personally translate their specific requests into physical reality. In short, the Pierce-Arrow sixes were, during the 1910s and 1920s, simply the finest automobiles available in America.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2010 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.

66 hp, six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension, and two-wheel mechanical drum brakes at the rear. Wheelbase: 147.5".

Source: RM Auctions

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