At 95 years old, this grand old lady is a stunning example of early 20th century automotive status. It is also the oldest car currently for sale on autoTRADER.ca.
The Pierce Arrow is a coach-built vehicle – meaning the frame and engine was purchase from Pierce Arrow before a coach builder completed the body – often according to the personal tastes of the buyer. Pierce Arrow was based in New York from 1901 to 1938, and although most of the remaining Pierce Arrow vehicles are luxury cars, the marque also tried its hand at trucks and motorbikes.
With luxurious leather seating for two, a large single-wood panel and an elegant clock in the back, plus the same richly detailed leather and beautifully detailed switchgears and levers in the front, the Model 48 existed to demonstrate the owner’s wealth and status.
Typically, the owner would sit in the back while a chauffeur operated the complicated driving mechanisms.
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Starting the 525 cubic inch (8.6L) T-Head, twin-plug, 24-valve six-cylinder beast is an exciting affair. First pump a lever to prime the fuel tanks, then crank it over with the (optional) electric starter. The Model 48 purrs into life with surprising quietness for a vehicle of this vintage, and there is nary a vibration through the Don Lee-built body.
Elegant leather stitching and detailed gauges look their best thanks to a ground-up rebuild that was completed before Legendary Motorcars took possession of it.
Squeezing behind the wheel isn’t as easy as you might think. First, there is no driver’s door, because the levers mounted on the floor to the right of the steering wheel are in the way. Instead, you slide over from the large running board on the passenger side.
The seat is close to the steering wheel, so close in fact that even at 5’6” I couldn’t lift my leg to operate the brake pedal without bashing it into the steering wheel. The pedals are also set up in an unusual arrangement, the accelerator is in the middle, the brake on the right and the clutch on the left.
The gear lever has massive throws, reverse requires the lever to be folder almost 90 degrees forward to the front of the car. There is an idle speed and ignition timing control on the steering wheel, plus an indicator switch just ahead of it.
I was impressed by how smoothly the Pierce Arrow rolled away, but not surprised to learn that the car requires a four-point turn to park it in a conventional modern parking space. Standing stationary on rough pavement, it sometimes takes two people just to turn the steering wheel for tight maneuvers. This then, is not a car for the lazy.
Despite the lack of modern power steering and the lack of tight-space maneuvering the Pierce Arrow is perfectly capable of keeping pace on modern roads and the make has a reputation for reliability.
There aren’t many details on the personal history of this vehicle available from Legendary Motorcars which is a shame – it would be incredible to find out who owned this car. Especially the first owner.