c.1911 Pierce 688cc Four
Engine no. 28
America's first four-cylinder motorcycle, the Pierce was manufactured by the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company at its factory in Buffalo, New York. Although inspired by the Belgian FN four, one of which Percy Pierce had brought to the USA in 1908, the Pierce differed in detail design, its engine eschewing the FN's 'atmospheric' inlet valves in favour of mechanical side valves in 'T-head' configuration, a arrangement FN themselves would later use. According to its makers the Pierce would be, 'Vibrationless, give motor car comfort and travel comfortably from a mere walking pace up to the speed of the motor car.' It was not just its multi-cylinder engine that made the Pierce unusual; the frame too was novel, being constructed from 3½"-diameter steel tubes that housed fuel and oil, and, like the FN, final drive was by shaft. Early models employed direct drive, but from 1910 onwards a two-speed gearbox was standardised. Fast and well made, the Pierce soon had a string of city-to-city endurance race wins to its credit. At the time of its motorcycle's launch in 1909, Pierce-Arrow was embarking on a policy of building luxury cars only, many of which would come to be regarded as among America's finest. This approach was reflected in the quality, and cost, of the Pierce motorcycle and would ultimately lead to its downfall. Priced at $325 in 1909, it cost $400 when production ceased in 1913, at which time the basic Ford Model T was priced at $525.
Pierce fours are very rare and highly sought after nowadays, only infrequently turning up on the open market. This Pierce was found in Italy some years ago and subsequently restored to a high standard using as many original parts as possible. The machine was then placed on static display in a private collection and in spite of its good running condition was rarely used on the road. A copy of a 1911 Pierce sales catalogue comes with it.