Car Show Classic: 1931 Pierce-Arrow Model 43 Sedan – Classic With a Capital C!

Do you ever get sick of the common car-show fodder–hot rods, Mustangs, Corvettes and the like? Me, too. So, when an AACA Grand National was held right here in downtown Moline, I had to check it out. I just knew there would be some good stuff. What’s more (and thankfully), AACA events do not have the same old oldies blaring (there’s no music, in fact), and best of all–no hot rods! Yay!

1931 Pierce Arrow-09

Yep, I do get quite sick of hot rods: Take the cheap way out, and screw the period-correct badging and trim–in other words, the very things that made such prewar cars distinctive! Then drop in a 350–ooh, how frickin’ original!! But not here, bub; the AACA does not truck with such non-originality.

1931 Pierce Arrow-05

Take the lovely and elegant Pierce-Arrow, for instance. What a car! Along with Packard and Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, of Buffalo, NY, was one of the “Three Ps” in the luxury-car field. The cars were extremely luxurious, extremely well-made, and priced squarely within the confines of a mere fraction of the upper-end car market.

1931 Pierce Arrow-15

Pierces were powered by a six-cylinder engine for many years, but after the company’s 1928 purchase by Studebaker Corporation, the sixes were replaced by a series of L-head straight eights in three variants: a 340 cid version with 115 hp; a 366 with 125 hp; and a 385 with 132 hp. These engines were placed in the Model 43, Model 42 and Model 41 Pierce-Arrows, the Model 41 being the top of the heap.

While Pierce-Arrows initially weathered the Depression rather well (being added to Studebaker’s dealer network in 1928 helped a bit), Pierce-Arrow sales declined along with those of other luxury makes. But they still made a fine automobile. The Pierce eight-cylinder engine featured aluminum pistons, deep-forged connecting rods, and crankshafts supported by nine main bearings.

1931 Pierce Arrow-16

Nineteen thirty-one models like this example added a combined seasonally-adjustable carb silencer and cold-air intake (seen above), as well as ball-bearing spring shackles. Free-wheeling was also included, although in later years the idea of eliminating engine braking was not such a hot one from a safety standpoint!

While this seven-passenger sedan is “only” a Model 43, it is still quite an impressive and luxurious automobile. I was, however, a bit surprised at how close the front seat is to the steering wheel. Was that normal, or did the owner of this car move it all the way up to show the impressive space of the rear compartment?

This rear compartment…wow, what space! Looks like Thurston Howell’s grandkids could play jacks on the floor in there. Jump seats fold out from behind the front seat which, of course, gives this car its seven-passenger rating. The 137″ wheelbase plays a big part in this room. Being a luxury car (and that’s Luxury Car, buddy, not “near-luxury” or some other such marketing claptrap), what else would you expect?

A copy of the original sales order for this car was displayed, as was a shot of the car in “as-found” condition. You can click on the picture for easier reading, but in a nutshell, it was sold by Coliseum Motor Co., of Casper, Wyoming. And while this car appeared to be all black, it was originally finished in Viceroy Maroon over black. Actually, this car might have been in its original colors, but cover from a rapidly approaching storm made it look black to me. Options included “chrome-plated engine accessories to be fitted,” a trunk rack and natural-wood wheels. There was no trade-in, and the total price came to $3,307.

As you can see in the background, there were many other amazing prewar cars at that show. I need to write some more of them up, but since this Pierce was the first one I really latched on to, it gets to go first!