1912 Pierce Arrow Model 48 Touring Car
Engine no. 9491
Pierce-Arrow had cemented its reputation for performance and reliability when the Pierce Great Arrow won all five of the famed Glidden Tours in 1905-1909 while achieving perfect scores in all but one of them.
Both to retain its high standards and to facilitate its continuing innovation and refinement Pierce-Arrow closely controlled all aspects of construction including coachwork for which most other luxury marques relied upon outside coachbuilders. Instead, Pierce-Arrow worked with its Buffalo, New York neighbor Aluminum Company of America to perfect casting techniques, which produced cast aluminum body panels as thin as 1/8. The resulting Pierce-Arrow bodies were exceptionally strong, rattle-free and lightweight. Body design also was handled within Pierce-Arrows Art Department. Created long before GM recruited Harley Earl to create GMs Art & Colour Department, Pierce-Arrow had Herbert Dawley designing bodies for Pierce-Arrow automobiles and working with Pierces demanding clientele to manage accessories, colors and materials.
Pierce-Arrow actively sought the business of prominent figures, including the White House where every President from William Howard Taft through Franklin Delano Roosevelt rode in the Buffalo companys automobiles. Pierce-Arrows were favored by movie stars like Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Tom Mix. The publicity and recognition of product placement like this was supported by an imaginative advertising campaign.
Being based on the successful business of its founder, George N. Pierce, and having developed an extensive network of dealers for its very successful line of bicycles, Pierce-Arrow enjoyed excellent distribution. Its sales organization reached into every corner of the United States.
Pierce-Arrows success enabled the company in 1906 to construct a massive integrated factory in Buffalo that covered 1.5 million square feet on the site of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Unit production from Pierce-Arrow was never high (it took until 1912 before Pierce-Arrow built its 12,000th car) but in quality and materials there was none better and Pierce-Arrows were enthusiastically snapped up by the elite at prices that made Packards and Peerlesses seem inexpensive by comparison.
Over the years prior to World War I Pierce-Arrow had a number of models, often offering them on a variety of wheelbase chassis and creating an impressive number of separate models. It was the first company to market a six-cylinder luxury automobile and employed impressive methods and procedures to ensure that each Pierce-Arrow built was quiet, powerful and trouble-free from the moment its new owner took delivery. While other manufacturers might rely on their customers to find and point out weaknesses in new models, Pierce-Arrow found them itself, corrected them and then charged a healthy premium for the confidence conferred by its deserved reputation for reliability, performance, silence and quality.
Pierce introduced its first six cylinder automobile in 1907. The Series Q Great Arrow employed a T-head six with 648 cubic inches and a 60 horsepower ALAM rating. In 1909 the Series QQ, a 453 cubic inch T-head six with a 48.6 horsepower ALAM rating became the top of Pierces model range while a smaller six, the Series SS, rated at 37 ALAM horsepower with 347 cubic inches displacement joined the companys offering. Also in 1909 the company reorganized, splitting the bicycle and motorcycle business off from the automobile business which took the name Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company. George N. Pierce resigned from active involvement and management was turned over to Col. Charles Clifton who had been its Treasurer for years.
Clifton consolidated Pierce-Arrows model offering to three for 1910, the Series SS, Series QQ and new Series UU, a 714 cubic inch six with an ALAM rating of 66 horsepower, the largest and most powerful automobile built in America. For 1911 the Series names were dropped, designating the Pierce-Arrow models by their ALAM horsepower ratings, Models 36, 48 and 66.
In January 1911 Pierce-Arrow also announced the 5-ton capacity Pierce Truck. Only two months later George N. Pierce passed away at only 64 years old.
The Pierce-Arrow Model 48 was priced at an astounding $5,000 F.O.B. Buffalo, New York but at least it came with Pierce-Arrows quality, rigid, luxuriously trimmed and appointed aluminum cast panel bodies. Putting that price in perspective, perhaps, is the fact that a half-century later, in 1961, that same $5,000 would buy a brand new Cadillac Series 62 4-door hardtop sedan.
The 1912 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 offered here was given a touring restoration by Stu Laidlaw for Doc Lawrence, former HCCA President, around 1980. Lawrence had owned the Pierce-Arrow since the early 50s. It was purchased from Doc Lawrence by Don Meyer, noted Pierce dealer and owner, from whom the present owner acquired it.
Meyer noted at the time that he believed it to be built during 1911 and first titled in 1912. Some of its features, however, are reputedly 1912 model attributes like the gear shift and brake levers inside the body and concealed door hinges. A 1911 build could still be consistent with 1912 model year since the 1912 models were introduced in September 1911. None of which will make a whit of difference to the new owner while driving this magnificent, imposing, powerful Pierce-Arrow.
The coachwork is what Pierce-Arrow described as a protected touring car. Similar to the then popular torpedo touring, the body sides were raised and front doors fitted to the passenger compartment. The restoration retains the Model 48s originality although the lights have been electrified. Distributor ignition was added at some point for touring use but the present owner has recently acquired the correct two spark magneto, had it rebuilt and will have it installed before the auction.
In Don Meyers opinion this was the most complete, original Model 48 he had owned. It is still a wonderful, imposing machine capable of touring at todays highway speeds. Impressively equipped, it predates Herbert M. Dawleys Pierce-Arrow trademark headlights by several years and is equipped with what appear to be Rushmore headlights and a Warner speedometer. It has full weather equipment and is finished in maroon with black leather interior and beige cloth top and luggage trunk cover. An alternator is surreptitiously fitted to power the lights needed for touring and a new pair of artillery wheels has recently been fitted to the rear axle.
This is an outstanding tour car, with sound paint and interior and a generous supply of brass. Its owner says it runs and drives well. Most of its contemporaries in the 48 horsepower class are giant 4-cylinder thumpers. The Pierce-Arrow Model 48 six is a smooth driving, pleasant contrast.