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Emblem on a truck
Pierce from 1902
Pierce from 1903
Pierce from 1904
Pierce Arrow advertisement from 1919

Pierce-Arrow was an American automobile and commercial vehicle manufacturer ; it existed from 1901 to 1938. The company was based in Buffalo ( New York ) in the United States .

In 1912, the company built the largest series-production engine, each driving a passenger car: the 66 HP (66 CV) model had a displacement of 13,514 cm³. Pierce-Arrow was one of the most important suppliers of army trucks in the First World War .

The early years

George N. Pierce made high quality bird cages and later bicycles and motorcycles before entering the auto business. In 1901, he produced two passenger cars that outwardly resembled the successful Oldsmobile Curved Dash and named them “Motorette” based on the French Voiturette (small car category). They were powered by single-cylinder “ De Dion Bouton ” engines and offered in various equipment and power variants from 2½ to 8 bhp. While this lightweight vehicle still got by with two forward gears and no reverse gear, the Pierce Motor Car Company was producing large, richly equipped automobiles as early as 1904. They became known as Pierce " Great Arrow ". By the end of 1902, around 154 of the Motorette had been produced.

The model was offered with different wheelbases and four-cylinder engines between 1904 and 1908 . Six-cylinder units were also added from 1907 . With a capacity of up to 13 liters, these engines were almost enough to drive a locomotive. Pierce automobiles were built to meet the highest standards of quality and performance. They impressively demonstrated this when they not only won every Glidden Tour between 1905 and 1909, but also did it so confidently that all team vehicles arrived with the best possible results. These reliability drives led on practically pathless routes over distances between 1,100 and 2,600 miles.

Glidden tour

With the “Great Arrow” Pierce introduced a highly individual type of body construction: decisive, including structural elements, were made from cast aluminum . This rather elaborate method of construction was continued until 1920, although the proportion of cast iron became ever smaller for reasons of cost and the proportion of sheet aluminum kept increasing.

In late 1908 the company was renamed from the George N. Pierce Company to Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company . The following year the brand name changed from Pierce to Pierce-Arrow . That year, US President William Howard Taft ordered two Pierce-Arrows as the first automobiles for the White House . The Pierce Arrow has always been a highly regarded vehicle. In the 1920s it was an exclusive high society status symbol , to which the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald set a literary monument in his novel The Great Gatsby . In terms of equipment, appearance and reliability, these cars could compete with any European luxury car, but above all in weight.

In 1914 Pierce-Arrow stopped building the Pierce motorcycle and sold the rights and tools for its bicycle production. The popular Pierce wheels remained on the market for almost twenty years.

In the same year 1914, the Pierce-Arrow was the first car in which the headlights were integrated into the fenders; in 1935 it was the first car with a double set of headlights in the front end.

Symbol of the "Roaring Twenties"

An extremely conservative management was unable to counteract the dwindling interest in buying. Innovations such as engine blocks from a single casting (previously the cylinder blocks were cast in pairs) were hesitant. In 1928 the company was taken over by the Studebaker Corporation , but retained a fairly large degree of independence. Pierce-Arrow benefited from a substantial financial injection and from a greatly enlarged dealer network, the vehicles were now sold through the Studebaker sales network. In the same year, an archer was introduced as a hood ornament and a Pierce family crest on the grille. The latter was gone by the next year - it was the coat of arms of another Pierce family.

In 1929 Pierce-Arrow finally replaced the six-cylinder engines with eight-cylinder in - line engines and caught up with the market leader Packard , who had been using such engines since 1924. Cadillac and Lincoln built only V8 engines for a long time .

Climax and decline

1932 appeared - this time at the same time as Packard and Lincoln, but three years after Cadillac - a separate V12 model. Based on this, Pierce-Arrow showed a new design, the Silver Arrow, at the New York Automobile Show in January 1933, which triggered an enormous response. Designer Philip Wright merged splendor of its original design elements such as the angular grille and integrated in the fender headlights with an aerodynamic Sedan - body . The Silver Arrow is - together with the Ruxton  - one of the first closed automobiles with an all-metal roof. The success was repeated at the world exhibition A Century of Progress in Chicago and within three months five copies were produced at a unit price of an astronomical 10,000 US dollars (around 169,650 euros based on today's purchasing power ). Three of them still exist. However, this attention success could not stop the falling sales figures.

In the same year, Studebaker had to file for bankruptcy as a result of the ongoing recession. The company was caught, but had to sell Pierce-Arrow to a group of Buffalo investors for $ 1 million. The Silver Arrow was sold from 1934 in a two-door, greatly simplified version with either 8 or 12 cylinders. The new owners finally gave up in 1938.

Car models

Pierce-Arrow-Model 48-B (1919)
Pierce-Arrow Model 48-B (1919)
Pierce Arrow Model 33 (1922)
Pierce Arrow Model 125 (1929)
Pierce-Arrow Model B (1930)
Pierce-Arrow (1932)
Model year model Number of cylinders power wheelbase
1901 Motorette 1 2.75 bhp
Motorette 1 3.75 bhp
1902 3½ hp 1 3.5 bhp 1473 mm
1903 Runabout 1 5 bhp
Stanhope 1 6.5 bhp
Touring 2 15 bhp
1904 Stanhope 1 8 bhp 1,778 mm
Great Arrow 4th 24/28 bhp 2,362 mm
1905 Stanhope 1 8 bhp 1,778 mm
Great Arrow 4th 24/28 bhp 2,540 mm
Great Arrow 4th 24/28 bhp 2,641 mm
Great Arrow 4th 28/32 bhp 2,641 mm
1906 Motorette 1 8 hp 1,778 mm
Great Arrow 4th 28/32 bhp 2,718 mm
Great Arrow 4th 40/45 bhp 2,769 mm
1907 Great Arrow 4th 28/32 bhp 2,844 mm
Great Arrow 4th 40/45 bhp 3,150 mm
Great Arrow 6th 65 bhp 3,429 mm
1908 Great Arrow 4th 30 bhp 2,845 mm
Great Arrow 4th 40 bhp 3,150 mm
Great Arrow 6th 40 bhp 3,302 mm
Great Arrow 6th 60 bhp 3,429 mm
1909 Model 24 4th 24 bhp 2,832 mm
Model 36 6th 36 bhp 3,023 mm
Model 40 4th 40 bhp 3,150 mm
Model 48 6th 48 bhp 3,302 mm
Model 60 6th 60 bhp 3,429 mm
1910 Model 36 6th 36 bhp 3,175 mm
Model 48 6th 48 bhp 3,416 mm
Model 66 6th 66 bhp 3,556 mm
1911 Model 36T 6th 38 bhp 3,175 mm
Model 48T 6th 48 bhp 3,416 mm
Model 66T 6th 66 bhp 3,556 mm
1912 Model 36T 6th 36 bhp 3,239 mm
Model 48 6th 48 bhp 3,416 mm
Model 66 6th 66 bhp 3,556 mm
1913 Model 38-C 6th 38.4 bhp 3,023 mm
Model 48-B 6th 48.6 bhp 3,416 mm
Model 66-A 6th 60 bhp 3,747 mm
1914 Model 38-C 6th 38.4 bhp 3,353 mm
Model 48-B 6th 48.6 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 66-A 6th 60 bhp 3,747 mm
1915 Model 38-C 6th 38.4 bhp 3,404 mm
Model 48-B 6th 48.6 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 66-A 6th 60 bhp 3,747 mm
1916 Model 38-C 6th 38.4 bhp 3,404 mm
Model 48-B 6th 48.6 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 66-A 6th 60 bhp 3,747 mm
1917 Model 38 6th 38.4 bhp 3,404 mm
Model 48 6th 48.6 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 66 6th 60 bhp 3,747 mm
1918 Model 38 6th 38.4 bhp 3,404 mm
Model 48 6th 48.6 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 66 6th 60 bhp 3,747 mm
1919 Model 48-B 6th 48.6 bhp 3,607 mm
1920 Model 38 6th 38 bhp 3,404 mm
Model 48 6th 48 bhp 3,607 mm
1921 Model 32 6th 38 bhp 3,505 mm
1922 Model 33 6th 38 bhp 3,505 mm
1923 Model 33 6th 38 bhp 3,505 mm
1924 Model 33 6th 38 bhp 3,505 mm
1925 Model 80 6th 3,302 mm
Model 33 6th 38 bhp 3,505 mm
1926 Model 80 6th 70 bhp 3,302 mm
Model 33 6th 100 bhp 3,505 mm
1927 Model 80 6th 70 bhp 3,302 mm
Model 36 6th 100 bhp 3,505 mm
1928 Model 81 6th 75 bhp 3,302 mm
Model 36 6th 100 bhp 3,505 mm
1929 Model 125 6th 125 bhp 3,378 mm
Model 126 6th 125 bhp 3,632 mm
1930 Model C 8th 115 bhp 3,353 mm
Model B 8th 125 bhp 3,404 mm
Model B 8th 125 bhp 3,531 mm
Model A 8th 132 bhp 3,658 mm
1931 Model 43 8th 125 bhp 3,404 mm
Model 43 8th 125 bhp 3,480 mm
Model 42 8th 132 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 41 8th 132 bhp 3,734 mm
1932 Model 54 8th 125 bhp 3,480 mm
Model 54 8th 125 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 53 12 140 bhp 3,480 mm
Model 53 12 140 bhp 3,607 mm
Model 51 12 150 bhp 3,734 mm
1933 Model 836 8th 135 bhp 3,454 mm
Model 1236 12 160 bhp 3,454 mm
Model 1242 12 175 bhp 3,480 mm
Model 1247 12 175 bhp 3,607 mm
1934 Model 840A 8th 125 bhp 3,531 mm
Model 840A 8th 125 bhp 3,658 mm
Model 1240A 12 160 bhp 3,531 mm
Model 1240A 12 160 bhp 3,658 mm
Model 1248A 12 175 bhp 3,734 mm
1935 Model 845 8th 140 bhp 3,505 mm
Model 845 8th 140 bhp 3,658 mm
Model 1245 12 175 bhp 3,505 mm
Model 1245 12 175 bhp 3,658 mm
Model 1255 12 175 bhp 3,734 mm
1936 Deluxe 8 8th 150 bhp 3,531 mm
Deluxe 8 8th 150 bhp 3,658 mm
Salon Twelve 12 185 bhp 3,531 mm
Salon Twelve 12 185 bhp 3,658 mm
1937 8th 8th 150 bhp 3,505 mm

commercial vehicles

Pierce-Arrow Liberty Truck (3 tons) British Army truck (1916)

In January 1911, Pierce-Arrow's first truck appeared with the X-1 model. It was designed for a payload of approx. 5 t. The engine was a four-cylinder T-head (inlet and outlet valve on the opposite side of the cylinder) with a displacement of 7.8 l. The manual transmission had 3 gears. A worm gear was used for the drive instead of the usual chains. The price was starting at $ 4,500. In 1913 Pierce-Arrow brought out the X-2, a smaller model with a payload of around 2 t.

In 1915 the slightly more modern R-5 replaced the X-1. About 14,000 of this truck were delivered to the US Army and the Entente Powers of the First World War . The first thorough revision since 1911 took place in 1923. There were now six models with a payload between approx. 2.5 and 8 t. All used four-cylinder engines with double valves. In 1924 the Model Z was added. It was available with a wheelbase of either 4978 mm (196 inches) or 5588 mm (220 inches) and was actually intended for buses. For the drive one reached into the PW shelf: The engine was the same in-line six-cylinder with double valves that was used in the Model 33. He made 85 bhp (63 kW) from 6796 cm³ (414.7 ci). The factory specified a top speed of 60 mph (about 100 km / h) for the Model Z. The company Farnham & Nelson in Roslindale ( Massachusetts ) built a number of attractive jitneys and intercity buses on both wheelbases , the latter mostly for 25 passengers on the longer chassis. Among other things, she used the Interstate Limited Motor Coach Company for her route from Boston (Massachusetts) to Manchester ( New Hampshire ). The Model Z also proved to be an excellent basis for fire-fighting vehicles, moving vehicles and tank trucks.

Another, slightly smaller model for inner-city traffic followed in 1928 with the FA Fleet Arrow Wagon . The engine was derived from the car model 81. The in-line six-cylinder developed 75 bhp (56 kW) at 3200 rpm and a displacement of 4686 cm³ (288.6 ci). The brakes not only acted on all four wheels - in any case not a matter of course in commercial vehicles of the time - but also on the cardan shaft. As standard there were hydraulic shock absorbers from Houdaille at the front and the customer could order twin wheels at the rear. When production ceased in 1929, just over 500 units had been sold.

Because of the turbulence surrounding bankruptcy and the takeover by Studebaker, there was no truck production in 1929. At the end of 1930 the new P series appeared, consisting of four models. All of them had six-cylinder engines specially developed for them. The smallest, PT, was a two-tonner with 70 bhp (52 kW), the largest, PZ, an eight-tonner with 130 bhp (97 kW). At the end of 1932, truck production at Pierce-Arrow was moved to White at the behest of the owners (Studebaker). Trucks with the name Pierce-Arrow were built there until 1935. This year, a few more minibuses for sightseeing tours with 9 and 15 seats were built on the basis of cars. Superstructures for ambulances and hearses were built on Pierce Arrow chassis early on.

Pierce-Arrow supplied in-line eight-cylinder engines and V12s to Seagrave Corporation (today: Seagrave Fire Apparatus LLC ), a leading US manufacturer of fire fighting vehicles. These engines continued to be produced after Pierce-Arrow was closed, the V12 even until 1970.


In an effort to at least stabilize dwindling sales, Pierce-Arrow began producing the Travelodge caravan in late 1936 . It was available in three versions. The construction consisted of a chassis and a basic structure made of steel. The frame was made of sheet aluminum. Hydraulic brakes were part of the basic equipment. The equipment was quite luxurious. There was a living and sleeping area, an icebox , a gas stove, a wood stove and a water tank. The interior cladding was made of birch and rubber tree wood. The 450 units that could be sold were not enough to save the company.


Pierce-Arrow Motor Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 1938. The company was dissolved by court order. The processing was transferred to the purpose-built 1695 Elmwood Avenue Corporation . Spare parts supply and maintenance were maintained until the end of 1942. Any tools, machines and spare parts that were still available were scrapped for the benefit of the war economy.


  • Beverly R. Kimes (Ed.), Henry A. Clark: The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1945. Krause Publications, 1985, ISBN 0-87341-045-9 .
  • Brooks T. Brierley: There is no mistaking a Pierce-Arrow. Garrett and Stringer, Inc., Coconut Grove 1984, ISBN 0-9615791-0-2 .

Web links

Commons : Pierce-Arrow  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Automobile Quarterly Volume 49, Issue 2.
  2. George Nicholas Georgano (Ed.): The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile . Volume 3: P-Z . Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, Chicago 2001, ISBN 1-57958-293-1 , pp. 1228 (English).
  3. Beverly Rae Kimes, Henry Austin Clark Jr .: Standard catalog of American Cars. 1805-1942. Digital edition . 3. Edition. Krause Publications, Iola 2013, ISBN 978-1-4402-3778-2 , pp. 1179 (English).
  4. a b coachbuilt.com: Farnham & Nelson


  1. Jitneys were smaller buses than shared taxis that only drove when all seats were occupied and stopped on request.