The enduring reputation that Pierce-Arrow enjoys today owes no small credit to the systematic approach of its entry into the fledgling automobile business at the dawn of the 20th century. Investigations into horseless carriages progressed from steam to internal-combustion engines, with Pierce’s final choice made clear in January 1901 when David Fergusson was hired to lead the company’s gasoline-powered design work. The first Fergusson-designed, de Dion-powered Pierce Motorettes were produced later that year, and Pierce’s existing bicycle dealers provided an instant distribution network.
Early success with Motorettes, Stanhopes, the Arrow and four-cylinder Great Arrow brought the need for more capital, 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, who left the automobile business to concentrate on bicycles and motorcycles in 1908. The automobile business, acknowledging the strong reputation now associated with the Arrow name, was renamed the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.
The first cars to carry the Pierce-Arrow name included the company’s first six-cylinder engines, rated at 36, 48 and 60 hp. By 1910, only sixes were built, setting the precedent for all subsequent Pierce-Arrows until the eight-cylinder engine debuted for 1929. In 1913, Herbert Dawley, who oversaw Pierce-Arrow design since 1907, patented the signature Pierce-Arrow headlight design, which integrated the headlights with the front fenders.
The Pierce-Arrow sixes featured cylinders cast in pairs, supported by aluminum crankcases. Every component was of the finest quality, and the marque’s T-head engines were among the most powerful. Quality control was impeccable, with all engines dynamometer-tested for performance before being completely disassembled, inspected and tested yet again for smoothness. The mighty NACC-rated 48-hp engines actually produced 92 hp or more on the Pierce-Arrow dynamometers, delivering more true power than many of the company’s competitors.
Pierce-Arrow automobile bodies were usually made from 1/8-inch aluminum panels cast in Pierce-Arrow’s own foundry. Customers usually specified the colors, interior materials and accessories, and Herbert Dawley frequently visited clients to work with them and translate their specific requests into physical reality. In short, with their almost-obsessive quality, Pierce-Arrow’s sixes were arguably the finest American-designed automobiles of the 1910s and 1920s.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
48 bhp (NACC rating), 524 cu. in. T-head inline six-cylinder engine with aluminum crankcase, four-speed manual transmission, shaft drive, semi-elliptic leaf spring front suspension with Westinghouse air-spring shock absorbers, three-quarter-elliptic rear leaf spring suspension, and two-wheel mechanical rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142".
Source: RM Auctions