Pierce-Arrow, a company we have not done proper justice too here, was arguably America’s premiere luxury car builder in its heyday, the aughts, teens and into the twenties. It was most notable for its giant six cylinder engines, the largest of which displaced 825 cubic inches (13.5 L). No wonder older and used Pierce-Arrows almost invariably were converted to trucks, fire engines and tow trucks; they were built like trucks!
So it was natural for the Buffalo, NY. to also build actual trucks, which they did from 1910-1934. One of these days I’d like to do a deep dive, but it’s not going to be today. But I will share a couple of ads from 1931-1932, with this coal truck representing the upper reaches of the line.
The “speed truck” was a relatively new phenomena in the twenties, as pneumatic tires and more powerful engines vaulted truck speeds from 10-15 mph or so to 25, 30, 35, or even 45 mph, for the truly speedy ones. This one has one of the new eight cylinder engines that replaced the venerable but increasingly obsolete T-head giant sixes in the cars; it appears from the ad that both were still available in the trucks, the big six being ideal for the larger trucks. These new engines were designed during the years that Studebaker had a controlling interest in P-A (1928-1933). The two companies kept separate facilities and such, but there was some technical cross-pollination.
They’re handsome trucks too, but don’t share the iconic fender-mounted headlights of the cars.
We do have one CC of a 1931 Pierce-Arrow below:
Car Show Classic: 1931 Pierce-Arrow Model 43 Sedan – Classic With a Capital C!
My 3750-pound 1937 Buick Special (the smallest model that year) is just about impossible to parallel park. Maybe that’s why main street diagonal parking was popular back then.
The modern power steering system was invented in the 1920s by an engineer who had worked at Pierce-Arrow’s truck division. He moved to GM, which declined to install it on passenger cars due to the cost. Power steering was used on some heavy American and British military vehicles during World War II.
After the war, his patents expired, and Chrysler rolled out “Hydraguide” steering in 1951 based on his design.
Most heavy truck ads would likely have been published in trucking specific trade magazines or newspapers. Heavy trucks helping promote the flow of commerce and trade, wouldn’t turn off wealthy business people to a car/truck maker. Reinforces their strengths.
Thanks in part to CC, I have a stronger appreciation for burly vintage and pioneering trucks. This Coke delivery truck is the definition of ‘badass’. The driver just needed a fat stogie. 🙂
Note that a very large portion of Mercedes Benz revenue comes from its heavy truck division..and well respected in Europe and the Middle East.
Not any more; the truck division (Daimler Truck AG) was spun off last year. But yes, it wasn’t that uncommon; Packard built trucks too. As did Lancia, and some others.
I guess it was ever thus. Mercedes remains an important player in the European truck market, and UK Daimler (no relation) was an major manufacturer of British buses and ambulances for many years. As for Lamborghini…
See my comment above.
A friend of mine had the remains of a ’17 Pierce Arrow truck he passed it on to someone who also has some remains sooner or later an entire vehicle should appear, Ive seen an earlier model at Transport world.
Pierce-Arrow was on a downward slide by the late 1920s, as its cars were increasingly outmoded compared to Packard. Studebaker’s purchase of the company gave it the cash necessary to develop a completely new line of cars for 1929, which were initially quite successful.
Unfortunately, by 1931, the Great Depression was decimating the luxury car market, and Pierce suffered like its competitors. When Studebaker went into receivership in 1933, Pierce-Arrow was sold to raise some quick cash. Too bad the trucks weren’t enough to keep the company afloat.
Love that Speed Truck. Imagine if that could have been transformed into the first luxury SUV for the Gatsby Era Ballers!
A strange downside of World War I was it’s effect on the postwar truck and airplane (especially airplane-engine) market. Manufacturers made thousands of trucks for the war effort, many of which were sold as war surplus after the war ended. The same thing happenned postwar with the glut of Liberty V-12 engines.
Pierce-Arrow trucks lived on, after a fashion – Seagrave accquire the tooling and produced versions of their later 1930’s V-12 engine (I wonder if it was ever offerred in a truck?) for quite a long time, I have read until until the 1980’s, but that was from an auction site and so could be a lot of hooey. Their competitors American LaFrance accquired the tooling to the Auburn V-12 and produced it postwar as well.
Or course, REO lived on as a truck maker well after it produced it’s last motor car.
Pierce-Arrow started out making birdcages. of all things.
And then on to bicycles too:
This dredged up an old memory about a long ago article. Actual user experience of four P-A trucks, with cost per mile and a few other items such as their 1.4 mpg appetite.
Not sure how well I tagged that article seven years ago…
Now all top luxury brands build mostly glorified trucks! SUV and cross overs have taken over. 🤮. The great American Luxury Sedans have sadly disappeared from the line up.👎
Delage/Delahaye and Hotchkiss in France, and Alvis in the U.K. all survived longer building trucks than cars.
And there was Ettore Bugatti’s quote about contemporary Bentleys: “I have the greatest respect for Monsieur Bentley. He builds the world’s strongest and fastest trucks.”