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Lot 449: Pierce-Arrow 48 Phaeton

Quail Lodge Sale, Bonhams (16 August 2012)

* 525-cid T-head six-cylinder * Four-speed manual transmission * Rare, attractive special open coachwork * Only F.R. Wood-bodied Pierce known to exist * Relatively recent engine rebuild * An important early American motorcar Pierce-Arrow is considered to be one of the highest quality motorcar manufacturers of its time. Since the company's inception, Pierce was uncompromising in its quest to produce the finest cars available, and, from 1909 to 1920, Pierce experienced what is now referred to by car enthusiasts as their 'golden age' of products. All of the cars built during this time, the 38 (36 initially), the 48, and the 66, were based around a similar design. The models were all identical in terms of quality, but differed in size. The largest model, the 66, bore the distinction of having the largest engine ever to equip a production motorcar at 825-cid. This mammoth 66 meant that the mid-size 48 was as large as the biggest offering of its main competitors. The 48 was powered by a magnificent 525-cid six-cylinder T-head engine, and the power ran through a four-speed transmission. By 1915, Pierce added a complete instrument cluster and an excellent self-starting system. The 48 was even further refined the following year with the introduction of the fourth series cars. Because the marque was so well known for their bodywork and the variety of styles they had to offer, custom coachwork was a rare option. The motorcar offered here is one of the few special bodied Pierce-Arrows, completed by the elusive and exceptional American coachbuilder F.R. Wood and Sons. F.R. Wood and Sons began as a carriage building company before evolving into and excelling in coach building motorcars. The company never made a real effort to promote their custom work, however, due to their successful truck building business. It is also believed that they would only produce bodies for customers of their commercial products. Nevertheless, F.R. Wood and Sons bodied some of the finest cars sold in this country, including Rolls-Royce, Thomas Flyer, Mercedes, and Duesenberg. Only a few examples survive and only one is a Pierce-Arrow. This car is unique, handsome, and the stylistically advanced coachwork is much sportier than anything offered by Pierce-Arrow at the time. The body has several noteworthy features, such as the deep cowl that envelops the trademark Pierce instrument cluster and the cowl vent, above which is glass to light the gauges. The dash is polished aluminum and flanked on either side by elaborate opening vents. The front doors feature special hardware to allow for driving with the doors slightly ajar to allow ventilation. The hood sides have removable panels with mesh inserts to promote engine cooling in hot weather. The windscreen is low and nicely raked and the phaeton top continues the long, low appearance. Unusually, the car has dual side mounts, a unique front bumper with ends reminiscent of bullhorns, and is finished with full brass brightwork as opposed to the usual nickel plating. The body's design works harmoniously with the Pierce-Arrow hood and radiator. The cowl appears to be a modified Pierce unit as it is cast aluminum, though the shape is quite different from the stock unit. This Pierce-Arrow has been known in collector car circles since the 1960s and was actively used in California at that time. The car's numerous warm weather equipment features support the idea that it was built for the West Coast's heat and mountains. The flamboyant looks and features of this car are in sharp contrasts to the more conservative East Coast looks of most Pierce-Arrows. Eventually making its way to the Northeast in the 1980s, it has been part of two long-term collections since that time. Actively used in recent years, the Pierce has benefit from considerable amounts of restoration work. A complete engine rebuild, including all new babbit bearings, was performed less than five years ago and a new leather cone clutch was fitted at this time. The car was painted in the handsome dark green and black color scheme three years ago. The current owner has used the car extensively and diligently maintained it  it runs very well and is ready to use. This is a true, one of a kind Pierce-Arrow and an interesting collaboration of two of the finest names of its period. For someone who has marveled at the mechanical perfection of a Pierce but desired a much sportier body, this is a rare chance to acquire just such a vehicle.

Lot Details
Auction Quail Lodge Sale
Bonhams, Carmel, California, USA
TypeCar
Lot Number449
Estimate$150000-$175000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1916
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number14727
Engine numberB4 3160
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors