1919 Pierce-Arrow Series 31 Seven-Passenger Tourer
Chassis no. 312064
Engine no. 312-093
T-head 24-valve dual ignition six-cylinder engine
Single throat, Pierce Arrow carburetors
75bhp at 2,200rpm
Solid axles with semi-elliptic front and ¾-elliptic rear springs and Hartford shock absorbers
Two wheel brakes with internal foot and external hand brake shoes
-Prominently featured in Hollywood films including Cheaper by the Dozen
-Known history from new
-One of the best driving of all Golden Age Pierce Arrows
-Powerful "Dual-Valve" engineering
The Series 31
From 1910 on, Pierce-Arrow was exclusively powered by six-cylinder engines of 36, 48 and 66 horsepower. In 1913 the smallest model was uprated to 38 horsepower with a capacity increase from 386 cubic inches to 415 cubic inches achieved, with an increase in stroke from 5 1/8" to 5 1/2" while retaining the 4" bore which defined its 38hp ALAM rating. Engine development was rapidly outdating the horsepower formula (bore in inches squared times the number of cylinders divided by 2.5) which had been developed for taxation purposes in Europe at the turn of the century and the "small" Pierce-Arrow was now making well in excess of 70 horsepower on the dynamometer brake, where each Pierce-Arrow engine was run in and tested before being shipped.
The Pierce-Arrow testing procedure was exhaustive, not only involving repeated measurements, gage checks, visual and tactile inspections but three separate dynamometer runs. The first broke in the engine over a 15 hour test cycle after which it was torn down and inspected. Reassembled, it went to a "silent room" where it ran for two hours and was carefully checked for noises, fuel consumption and power output. After being installed in its chassis it put on another 100 miles on a chassis dynamometer after which the valves were ground and an internal inspection done, and it still wasn't done.
Next, the chassis was loaded equivalent to the planned coachwork and driven over a variety of ordinary roads for a further check of operation and silence before being given to another tester for yet another short final road test. Only then was the coachwork installed before final approval was given for it to be cleaned up, adjusted and shipped.
The 38hp Six was the smallest Pierce-Arrow offered. Its prices started at $4,300 in 1917 with catalog coachwork of which Pierce-Arrow cataloged fourteen different styles from Touring Cars and Runabouts to the elaborate Vestibule Brougham Landaulette. Unusually among luxury marques at this time, Pierce-Arrows were almost always delivered with Pierce-Arrow coachwork. The bodies built by Pierce-Arrow used proprietary technology from its Buffalo neighbor Aluminum Company of America to cast its body parts in very thin 1/8" thick flanged aluminum panels which were carefully fitted together and fastened with rivets to create lightweight, stiff, dent resistant bodywork. It was unique and helped ensure Pierce-Arrow customers' satisfaction with their automobiles.
Herbert Dawley, who in 1912 patented the fender mounted headlights which would become a Pierce-Arrow hallmark, not only did the company's body designs but also coordinated paint colors, finishes, accessories and upholstery which also contributed to the unified Pierce-Arrow look of refinement and elegance. Dawley was quoted as saying, "We spend a great deal of time on things that might be considered ... minor details but they go to make up the Pierce-Arrow car as a whole; and they please the owner of the car."
In 1918 Pierce Arrow revised their model line. They introduced two new versions of their legendary six-cylinder motor, which featured a four-valve per cylinder design with detachable heads. A new dual head Delco distributor ignition system replaced the magneto/coil box system. The added power of the new engines, which Pierce termed "Dual Valve", led to the elimination of the 66hp as Pierce felt like they had equaled its performance with a smaller motor. The now two model line changed its nomenclature from the 38 and 48hp to the Series 31 and 51, respectively. There were also some minor styling changes with the new series: cowl lights were eliminated and the dash incorporated silver faced instruments and a Delco switch panel.
The Motorcar Offered
This Series 31 has a long and known history. The car famously served the role as the family car of the Gilbreth family in the hit 1950 movie Cheaper by the Dozen. There was historic precedent for choosing this model for the moviein the non-fiction novel from which the movie was adapted a Pierce Arrow Tourer was the family car and is even illustrated on the cover. Similarly, this Pierce is prominently placed on the movie poster featuring the whole family in the car, nearly doubling its seven-passenger capacity to twelve undoubtedly a testament to the cars spacious size and more than ample power!
The Pierce was also featured in the sequel film to Cheaper by the Dozen Belles on their Toes.
In its post Hollywood life, the car was an active participant in tours and shows. It would often tour with a special banner explaining its famous history (still included with the car). Several old photos of the car at various events are included.
The car is offered today in good order. It has been subject to a fairly recent respray and the interior has largely been retrimmed, but the occasional seats still have their original upholstery. The car is fitted with a correct lined vinyl top. The dual-valve motor starts easily and runs strong and the car drives well and accelerates briskly. Many aficionados of these cars will admit that the Model 38 and Series 31 cars are the most fun to drive and the added grunt of the 31 makes them the hot rod of the bunch.
Overall, this is a great nickel touring car. With its rich history and desirable spec, it represents excellent value.