1933 Pierce-Arrow

The 1933 Pierce-Arrow lineup arrived in late 1932 evidencing only slight external change. There were now four series: the straight-eight Model 836 and the 12-cylinder Models 1236, 1242, and 1247.

Skirted fenders, the most noticeable outward difference, drew attention from several important internal improvements, including hydraulic valve lifters -- an industry first -- plus standard power brakes, automatic chokes, and more horsepower.

1933 Pierce Arrow
A beautiful 1933 Model 1242 V-12 with Pierce-Arrow convertible sedan bodywork.
The smaller 398-cid V-12 was axed in an economy move, leaving just two basic engines. The eight was now rated at 135 horsepower, the 429-cid V-12 at 160 horsepower. For the big 1242 and 1247 series cars, the twelve was bored out from 3.38 to 3.50 inches for 452 cid and gained higher-compression heads. The result was a majestic 175 horsepower at 3,400 rpm.

Development of the new 462 was suggested by noted race driver Ab Jenkins, whom Pierce had retained to improve the twelve's output and performance. Testing his theories, Jenkins went to Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats with a prototype 1933 roadster in late 1932 and proceeded to average 112.9 miles per hour over 2,710 miles in a 24-hour nonstop run.

The car ran without fenders, windshield, or road equipment, which were then reinstalled when it was immediately driven back to Buffalo, a distance of over 2,000 miles. It was an amazing demonstration of Pierce performance and durability.

Jenkins returned to the Salt Flats in August 1933, determined to break the World's Unlimited Record, then held by a specially prepared French-built Voisin. For the assault on this and other speed records, this car was powered by a slightly modified V-12 producing 207 horsepower and was stripped of its fenders.

Timed by AAA officials, Jenkins hit speeds as high as 128 mph during the 251/2-hour trial and set a total of 79 world and international records in the process.

Pierce-Arrow was presumably above such public exhibitionism, but a company spokesperson provided this explanation for why the firm now resorted to it: "I don't want to drive an automobile 125 miles per hour or even 100 miles an hour. But I do want to own a motorcar that is built so perfectly and engineered so soundly that normal speeds are but child's play for it."

See the next section for details on another 1933 model -- the Silver Arrow.

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