In the early days of American automobile manufacturing, there was no car that commanded more respect than the Pierce-Arrow. The company was based in Buffalo, New York, and it was founded by George Pierce. He was originally involved in a partnership that started out in 1865 that sold housewares, and they were specifically noted for their ornate golden bird cages. Pierce bought out his partners and started to sell bicycles around 1896, and they offered their first car, the Arrow, a two-cylinder model, in 1904.
Pierce sold the company in 1907 and it was subsequently named The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. The Pierce-Arrow became the luxury car of choice for people of means, from entertainers to politicians to industrialists. President Taft acquired a pair of Pierce-Arrows as official presidential vehicles in 1909, and when Warren Harding was elected president in 1921, he and Woodrow Wilson traveled to the inauguration in a Pierce-Arrow.
Prior to 1920, the Pierce-Arrow was available in dozens of different chassis/body combinations, so the leader of the company at the time, General George Mixter, decided to streamline the company’s offerings, paring things down to one chassis and ten possible bodies. In the earlier part of the decade the Series 33 was the company’s top model, and it was replaced by the Series 36 toward the end of the Roaring Twenties.
The company was acquired by Studebaker in 1928, and in spite of the advent of the Great Depression, Pierce-Arrow introduced a totally new lineup for 1929 and they broke a company sales record, moving almost 10,000 vehicles that ranged in price from $2,875 for the 133 Roadster all the way up to the $8,200 it cost to drive the French Brougham.
Of course, as the Depression persisted many people were less inclined to spend a lot of money on a high priced car (and many no longer had the means of doing so). And so it was that the economic climate severely impacted the success of the stunning 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow. This futuristic vehicle was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in 1933, and it was extremely well received by all concerned, boasting a V12 engine capable of speeds of an incredible (for 1933) 115 miles per hour. The price tag of $10,000, however, was an obstacle for just about everyone. A mere five of these were produced, and though Studebaker could mass produce similar models that were less expensive, they did not offer the same level of luxury. Just three examples of the 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow are still extant today.
Pierce-Arrow remained in business for a few more years, but its insistence on offering only high-priced vehicles slowed sales to a trickle. The last few Pierce-Arrows were auctioned off in 1938, and the company closed its doors for good, having made its mark on the history of automobile manufacturing in the United States.
Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer