1932 Pierce-Arrow Twelve Model 53 5-Passenger Touring
Chassis no. 2050009
Engine no. 330007
462ci, L-head, 160hp V12
The ninth Model 53 built
Original Touring coachwork
Award-winning, $149,000 restoration
It is often said that difficult times call for extraordinary measures. No doubt, that's one reason that luxury car makers pulled out all the stops during the Great Depression, building some of the grandest and most powerful automobiles of all time. It was certainly the heyday of the American 12- and 16-cylinder engine.
Pierce-Arrow, with Packard and Peerless a member of the "Three Ps," the alliterative triumvirate of the luxury car segment, had always used large engines. From 1910 to 1928, though, they had been T-head sixes. For 1929, a straight-eight replaced the sixes, in the less complicated and less expensive L-head configuration. It proved popular, doubling sales from the year before. But as Cadillac, Marmon, Packard and Lincoln introduced twelves and sixteens, Pierce, too, joined the cylinder race.
Chief engineer Karl Wise was given the assignment to design a new V-12 engine. Adopting an unusual 80-degree angle between the cylinder banks, Wise chose cast iron for the crankcase, to which the cylinder blocks were bolted, when most competing makes used aluminum. The wide vee gave excellent access to the valve train, and also helped minimize vibration. Introduced late in 1931 for the '32 model year, the twelve was offered alongside the eights, with common bodies but differing wheelbases. Ab Jenkins even drove a Pierce Twelve to set numerous speed records at Bonneville in '32, '33, and '34, capping the whole event by typically driving the record breaking machine back to Buffalo, New York as if further proof of power and reliability were required.
This short wheelbase Model 53 5-Passenger Touring was one of the earliest Pierce V-12's built as it is the only the 9th Model 53 to roll of the line in Buffalo while its engine was the 7th one built. Owned in the 1980s by Tom Welch of Ohio, the car was entrusted to then unknown restorer Eddie Cobb in 1988 to carry out a no-expense-spared restoration. Two years and $149,000 later, the car emerged to win a slew of awards including the Vanderveer Trophy, the highest honor bestowed upon a car by the Pierce-Arrow Society. Shortly thereafter, a CCCA Senior (no. 1349) and Premier award followed. Two decades after completion, the restoration was still winning awards with a Board of Directors' crystal trophy from the Concours of the Eastern United States getting added to the tally in addition to a best-in-class award for Best Closed Car at the 2009 St. Michael Concours.
Acquired by the Oldenburg Family Collection in March of 2010, the car has been sparing driven since its restoration at the beginning of the first Bush administration and the trend has continued through the six subsequent presidential terms with only 80 miles showing on the odometerlikely accumulated going from garage to podium and back again.
A CCCA Full Classic®, this Pierce Twelve continues to draw plenty of attention.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.