The automobile featured in this article is a beautiful 1934 Pierce- Arrow 836A Sedan. The Pierce Motor Company, founded in 1901 by George N. Pierce, was a well known automobile manufacturer based in Buffalo, New York. The company manufactured automobiles from 1901 to 1938.
The very first Pierce-Arrow was a one cylinder, two speed car with no reverse. In 1903 a two cylinder car was built to be followed up in 1904 with a four cylinder model. The 1904 automobile was named the Great Arrow and won a cross country race in New England.
As it turned out, George Pierce sold his interest in the company in 1907 and would pass away just three years later in 1910. The new company would become Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.
It's been said that during the teens, twenties and thirties there were more familiar automaker names than Pierce-Arrow, but as far as quality went, Pierce-Arrow led the way. The company focused on quality above all else.
Pierce-Arrow's Financial Challenges
It goes without saying that selling high priced luxury automobiles during the depths of the Great Depression was a huge challenge. The Pierce-Arrow cars were priced high but the quality of these motor cars was well known. With that being said, by 1934 even some of the wealthy were taking a second look at what they were paying for their automobiles.
It's interesting to note that by the year 1934 the company was essentially bankrupt. Not a surprising situation for a luxury automaker during the middle of the 1930's. Several disappeared forever. These included Cord, American Austin, Franklin and others.
Pierce-Arrow considered a possible merger with automakers like Auburn who also had financial difficulties in 1934 but in the end loans were finally secured to continue operations. These loans did come however with requirements. These included reorganizing as the Pierce-Arrow Corporation...scaling down production, and selling through independent dealers rather than factory owned dealerships.
Even with these loans and the reorganization, the Pierce-Arrow Corporation was insolvent by 1938 and production ceased. It's said that the very last Pierce-Arrow built was put together by the company's chief engineer using parts he obtained from the bankruptcy's receivers.
Changes to the 1934 Pierce Arrow Models
Pierce-Arrow came out with three new cars for 1934 and during the Spring of 1935 they added a fourth model to the line up. These were the eight cylinder 840 and two twelve cylinder models, the 1240 and the 1248. The fourth model that came out later in the model year was the 836A built on a shorter wheelbase of 136 inches. The 836A had a smaller engine and was the least costly Pierce-Arrow but still offered buyers the company's superior quality.
The 1934 models brought many changes to the traditional Pierce-Arrow design. A more modern look was given the cars using rounded body lines. The traditional Pierce-Arrow triple taillight, a standard feature since the mid-twenties, was replaced by taillights molded into the rear fenders, copying the style of the traditional fender headlights. The radiator shell was painted, with only the grill chromed, and the radiator cap was moved under the hood and the archer ornament was permanently attached to the radiator shell. The hood was also restyled using horizontal doors.
New car prices for 1934 Pierce-Arrows were high by any measurement considering the economy. The model 840 V-8 models were p[riced between about $2,800 to $4,900. The 836A could be bought in the $2,500-$2,700 range. The two V-12 models had a wide range of prices depending on body style, etc and ranged between $3,300-$7,000.
The 1934 Pierce-Arrow Specifications
The two 1934 V-12's came with a 462 cubic inch V-12 delivering 175 HP. The 840 Pierce-Arrow had a 385 cubic inch straight eight delivering 140 HP. The 836A was built with a 366 cubic inch straight eight with 135 HP.
Transmissions were three speed manuals.
Wheelbases varied by model. the 840 was 139 and 144 inches. The smaller 836A was 136 inches , the 1240A was 139 and 144 inches and the 1248A was 148 inches.
Pierce-Arrow 1934 production was around 1,520 units. To give you an idea of what the Great Depression did to luxury car sales...for the 1929 model year Pierce-Arrow produced just under 10,000 vehicles. For the 1936 model year the company produced less than 800 units. It's important to note that all production figures are estimates since official records were destroyed when the company closed in 1938.
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Reference material for this article included...Pierce-Arrow: First Among America's Finest (Ballantine's Illustrated History of the Car: Marque Book) by Maurice D. Hendry...Pierce-Arrow Legacy by Mrs. Elenore T. Leigh...Pierce Arrow Society.
Pierce-Arrow Collector Car Valuations
The Pierce-Arrow is a very rare automobile. Those of the 1930's especially so for the fact they were produced in low numbers due to the effects of the Great Depression. Also during the mid thirties Pierce-Arrow was experiencing serious financial problems.
A total of about 1520 total units were built for 1934 which makes any Pierce-Arrow rare. It's also the first year of the rounded more modern look and with the fastback trunk design.
Today's valuations are very dependent upon the particular model and of course it's condition and degree of restoration. As of this writing there are Pierce-Arrow models for sale from the 1930's priced at $45,000 for a 1934 Brougham...a 1936 Town Car V-12 at $249,000...a 1935 model 1245 seven passenger at $45,000...a 1933 model 836 convertible at $75,000...a 1931 Eight Club Sedan at $55,000.
For Pierce-Arrow enthusiasts there is a unique Pierce-Arrow Museum. The museum is located on the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Most of the exhibits are permanent and owned by the Pierce-Arrow Foundation. The remainder are owned privately and are rotated.
Also, for much more information regarding Pierce-Arrow models and the company history see the Pierce-Arrow Society at pierce-arrow.org
(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)