Four owners from new, 1911 Pierce 688cc Four Frame no. 4849 (see text) Engine no. 1590

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Lot 224
Four owners from new, 1911 Pierce 688cc Four
Registration no. 433 YUV Frame no. 4849 (see text) Engine no. 1590

Sold for £ 107,900 (US$ 139,858) inc. premium
Four owners from new
1911 Pierce 688cc Four
Registration no. 433 YUV
Frame no. 4849 (see text)
Engine no. 1590
• Premier American marque
• Extremely rare
• Mechanically rebuilt in 2014
• Pioneer Run eligible

'Pierce motorcycles are not made to compete in price but to surpass in quality. It is a deluxe motorcycle for discriminating riders.' - Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.

America's first four-cylinder motorcycle, the Pierce was manufactured by the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company at its factory in Buffalo, New York and launched in 1909. 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', and capable of proceeding from 6 to 60mph in its single gear. Nowadays we take such attributes for granted, but at that time the majority of motorcycles were slow, single-cylinder models with direct belt-drive transmission.

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. The current vendor purchased this example at Bonhams' Quail Lodge sale in August 2012 (Lot 344). At that time we described the Pierce as 'one of the most exciting restoration projects we have seen in many years... in remarkably original, un-restored and unmolested condition having, remarkably, enjoyed only three owners from new. It was put into dry barn storage in 1932 when passed to the second owner. Having been removed from that barn, its home for the previous 75 years, it was purchased by the third owner who has continued to store the motorcycle as part of a prominent private collection in a dry environment... and as such, it is presented in "barn fresh" condition and a prime candidate for Preservation Class honours.'

Since its acquisition by the current owner, the Pierce has been treated to an extensive mechanical rebuild while leaving the cycle parts in their 'as found' cosmetic condition. Undertaken by NP Veteran Engineering Ltd of East Sussex (Nigel Parrot), these works included a full engine rebuild: re-bore and new pistons/rings, big-end bearings, little-end bearings, main bearings and caps, cam followers and bushes, valves and guides, gudgeon pins, etc. In addition, the gearbox and driveshaft were reconditioned (new pinion on driveshaft); a new distributor and new carburettor fitted; the magneto overhauled; the front forks rebuilt; and a new clutch installed, the plates being lined with modern friction material. Foot-boards were fitted and a few other minor updates made. Accompanying documentation consists of the restoration invoices; shipping/import paperwork; a V5C registration document; a Sunbeam Motorcycle Club Pioneer Certificate; and a printout of an article written by Alan Cathcart for The Classic Motor Cycle (October 2017 edition). It should be noted that the frame number is incorrectly recorded on the V5C. A guaranteed centre of attention at next year's Pioneer Run.


  • As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.

Saleroom notices

  • The Frame Number is 1849.
Four owners from new, 1911 Pierce 688cc Four Frame no. 4849 (see text) Engine no. 1590
Four owners from new, 1911 Pierce 688cc Four Frame no. 4849 (see text) Engine no. 1590
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