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Lot 344: Pierce Four

Quail Lodge Sale, Bonhams (16 August 2012)

America's first four-cylinder motorcycle, the Pierce was manufactured by the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company at its factory in Buffalo, New York. 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 favor 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.' It was not just its multi-cylinder engine that made the Pierce unusual; the frame too was novel, being constructed from 3"-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 standardized. 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. One of the most exciting restoration projects we have seen in many years, this Pierce Four is in remarkably original, unrestored 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, adding an original and correct carburetor, and as such, it is presented in 'barn fresh' condition and a prime candidate for Preservation Class honors.

Lot Details
Auction Quail Lodge Sale
Bonhams, Carmel, California, USA
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number344
Estimate$120000-$150000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$120000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$137000
Year1910
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number
Engine number1590
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors