The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company was an American automobile manufacturer based in Buffalo, New York. The company was active from 1901 to 1938 and was known for producing high-quality luxury cars. During its heyday, Pierce-Arrow was one of the “Three Ps” of American luxury car manufacturers. The others were Packard and Peerless.
The Pierce-Arrow automobile was named after its founders, George N. Pierce and his son Percy. George N. Pierce was a wealthy businessman and entrepreneur who founded the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in 1901. Prior to entering the automobile business, he had made his fortune manufacturing bicycles and birdcages.
The “Arrow” in the name Pierce-Arrow came from a company that George Pierce had previously owned, called the Arrow Bicycle Company. This company was known for its high-quality bicycles. Pierce hoped to bring the same level of quality and craftsmanship to his automobiles.
The name “Pierce-Arrow” was first used in 1904, when the company introduced its first six-cylinder car. The name was meant to evoke images of speed, power, and elegance.
A Breed Apart
The Pierce-Arrow was known for its exceptional quality and engineering, which set it apart from other luxury cars of its time. Here are some of the unique attributes of the Pierce-Arrow:
Strong and reliable engines: Pierce-Arrow was known for its powerful and durable engines. They were designed to last for many years. The company’s engines were also very smooth and quiet, thanks to advanced engineering techniques.
High-quality materials: Pierce-Arrow used only the finest materials in its cars. They included high-grade steel and luxurious interior materials such as leather and wood. This attention to detail and quality made Pierce-Arrow stand out from other luxury car manufacturers.
Innovative engineering: Pierce-Arrow was at the forefront of automotive engineering in its time. The company was one of the first to use hydraulic brakes. They also pioneered the use of aluminum pistons. These were lighter and more durable than the cast-iron pistons used by other manufacturers.
Distinctive styling: Pierce-Arrow cars were known for their distinctive and elegant styling. The company’s designers favored clean lines and understated elegance. This made Pierce-Arrow cars instantly recognizable on the road.
Comfort and luxury: Pierce-Arrow cars were some of the most luxurious and comfortable automobiles of their time. The company’s focus on quality and engineering meant that its cars were beautiful and a pleasure to drive and ride in.
Pierce-Arrow produced a wide range of models throughout its history, catering to different tastes and needs of its customers. Here are some of the most notable models:
Model 12: Pierce-Arrow’s first car, introduced in 1901. It had a single-cylinder engine and a two-speed planetary transmission.
Model 66: Introduced in 1910, this model featured a six-cylinder engine and a three-speed transmission. It was one of the first cars to use an electric starter.
Model 48: Introduced in 1913, this model featured a large six-cylinder engine and was designed for luxury and comfort. It was available in a variety of body styles, including touring cars, roadsters, and limousines.
Series 80: Introduced in 1929, this model was one of Pierce-Arrow’s most luxurious cars. It featured an eight-cylinder engine and was available in a range of custom body styles, including sedans, limousines, and convertibles.
Silver Arrow: Introduced in 1933, this model was a limited-edition luxury car designed to compete with the likes of Rolls-Royce and Duesenberg. It featured a sleek, streamlined body and was available in only one color: silver.
Model 1601: Introduced in 1935, this was Pierce-Arrow’s final model. It featured a 175 horsepower twelve-cylinder engine. It was one of the most powerful cars of its time.
Driven by the Rich and Famous
Pierce-Arrow cars were a status symbol in their day, and many wealthy and famous individuals owned them. Here are a few examples of celebrities who owned Pierce-Arrow cars:
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The famous author was known to be a fan of Pierce-Arrow cars. He owned several throughout his life. In fact, he even referenced the brand in his novel, “The Great Gatsby.”
Gloria Swanson: The Hollywood actress was known for her love of luxury cars. She owned several Pierce-Arrow automobiles throughout her life. She was often photographed driving her Pierce-Arrow around Beverly Hills.
Amelia Earhart: The pioneering aviator was known for her love of fast cars. She owned a Pierce-Arrow Model 48 convertible coupe. Earhart reportedly drove the car across the United States during her attempt to become the first woman to fly solo around the world.
John D. Rockefeller: The famous oil tycoon was a fan of Pierce-Arrow cars. He owned several throughout his life. He even owned a custom-built Pierce-Arrow limousine. This was one of the most luxurious automobiles of its time.
More Rugged than Speedy
Pierce-Arrow had a successful racing history and won several notable races in the early 1900s. Here are a few examples:
The 1908 Glidden Tour: This was a grueling endurance race that covered over 1,000 miles of rough terrain. Pierce-Arrow entered several cars in the race. They all performed well, with one car finishing in first place.
The 1908 Vanderbilt Cup: This was a prestigious race that attracted some of the best drivers and cars of the day. Pierce-Arrow entered two cars in the race, and both finished in the top five.
The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: This was a race held in Seattle, Washington. It covered 22 miles of rough roads and hills. Pierce-Arrow entered several cars in the race. They dominated the competition, taking the top three spots.
The 1910 Glidden Tour: Pierce-Arrow once again entered several cars in this grueling endurance race. They aced out the competition, taking the top four spots.
Pierce-Arrow produced a range of other products in addition to automobiles. Here are a few examples:
Motorcycles: In the early 1900s, Pierce-Arrow produced a line of motorcycles, which were known for their high-quality and innovative design.
Trucks: In the 1910s and 1920s, Pierce-Arrow produced a range of trucks, including fire trucks, delivery trucks, and military trucks.
Travel trailers: In the 1930s, Pierce-Arrow introduced a line of luxury travel trailers. They were designed to be towed behind cars and provided a comfortable and stylish way to travel.
Owners of the Brand
Here is a brief overview of the company’s ownership over time:
George N. Pierce: George N. Pierce was the founder and initial owner of the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. He ran the company from its founding in 1901 until he sold it to Studebaker in 1928.
The Studebaker Corporation: In 1928, Studebaker acquired Pierce-Arrow for $3.8 million. Studebaker was a major American automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Studebaker owned Pierce-Arrow until 1933.
Ab Jenkins: After Studebaker’s ownership of Pierce-Arrow ended in 1933, the company was sold to Ab Jenkins, a famous race car driver. Jenkins bought the company for just $1. He intended to turn it into a manufacturer of luxury buses. However, his plans were never realized, and the company went bankrupt in 1938. This was in part due to The Depression.
Multiple owners: After Pierce-Arrow went bankrupt in 1938, the company changed hands multiple times. It was briefly owned by a Chicago-based firm called the International Motor Company. Then it was owned by the Buffalo Savings Bank. The company was finally dissolved in the 1940s.
- Year Started: 1901
- Year Ended: 1938
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder and the Arrow Bicycle Company
- Location Sales: North America
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: George N. Pierce
- Owner While In Use: Studebaker / Ab Jenkins
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Lexus
- Naics Code: 336110
- Location Headquarters: Buffalo, New York, USA