#0010 - Pierce-Arrow Model 38 Mini-Tonneau, 1909
Photographed: Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance, 2007. Owner: James Grundy
A Grown-up Pierce-Arrow: In the first place, we've finally settled on the name, a hyphenated combination of the old marque and model, and notable as one of the few automotive brands containing two hyphenated names of which only one pertains to a person. At this point we're getting beyond the Glidden Tour years and the company will now need to make a lasting impression on the American auto industry, particularly as companies like Cadillac and Packard emerge as volume producers of top-quality automobiles. The marque is certainly up to it, offering five different models in 1909, top-most of which is still the Great Arrow. However, in this dynamic year of name-changing and optimism the company's founder, George N. Pierce, passes away.
In the Middle: The model 38 would carry through for a number of successive years, eventually seeing the big change-over to fender-mounted headlamps in 1913. But at this stage the car is very much a cobbled up enterprise, with angular skirts not so much indicative of any brand style and plenty of brass attachments to distract. The 38 platform would remain a versatile proposition with a number of body styles fitted. The Mini-Tonneau references a decidedly touring state, but indicates a diminutive form compared to the top-end Great Arrow, (certainly not to the average motor car).
The Model 38 would finally be discontinued around 1918, coinciding with the official end of the Great War, as well as the discontinuation of the heavy-duty Model 66.
The Pierce-Arrow Six: As with early 8-cylinder developments, the main problem of developing a 6-cylinder was in devising a crank that could withstand the extra torque of two more cylinders. Pierce-Arrow were leaders in this field, creating what was essentially an over-engineered crankshaft on seven main bearings, forged in chrome nickel steel, and carrying a tensile strength in excess of 130,000 lbs. per square inch. The builders then tirelessly balanced each motor, lending the brand its legendary reliability. Certainly, if anyone were to advance the state of motor technology, it would be a company obsessed with engineering might.
Historians often add that the build quality derived a particular smoothness and quietness to the motors' operation. However, being so far removed from the time and having heard a number of these machines clatter about, I'm hard pressed to corroborate. But if the appearance is any indication, refinement is clearly not the marker of luxury, rather size and reliability are what matter. Or, to be a bit more kind, refinement simply had a different definition back then.
Automobile Quarterly's World of Cars, Automobile Quarterly, Inc., New York, New York, 1971, Pierce-Arrow: The American Aristocrat, pages 208-211; adapted from the edition of the same name by Maurice D. Hendry
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