Let's set the stage for the 1934 Pierce-Arrow lineup. For a time it appeared that the downward spiral had bottomed out. Pierce's debts were canceled, and the company realized a minuscule profit of $4,770 by the end of the second quarter of 1933. The company hoped to break even at 3,000 annual sales and make a million dollars profit at 4,000 units.
But sales reached only 2,152 by the end of the year, less than the dismal 1932 figure. Nevertheless, management believed an economic turnaround was just ahead, and Chanter persuaded Faulkner to come back to assist in the firm's hoped-for renaissance.
As part of that effort, Pierce fielded three greatly improved models for 1934. There were two V-12 series, the 1240 Salon Twelve and 1248 Custom Twelve, both powered by the 175-horsepower 462-cid unit as used in the Silver Arrow.
Pierce-Arrow bodywork became even smoother
and less boxy for 1934.
Prices ranged from $2,795 to $4,495 for the eight standard body types, with LeBaron and Brunn custom styles appropriately higher. A fastback two-door sedan, a pale imitation of the 1933 show car and also called Silver Arrow, was available on the 144-inch platform in both eight-and twelve-cylinder form.
The more conventionally styled bodies gained more headroom, and closed models featured draft-free vent wing windows, adjustable rear seats, concealed curtains, increased sound deadening, and an almost unlimited choice of colors and upholstery materials.
A further attempt to widen Pierce-Arrow's customer base arrived in April with the Model 836A Eight on a shorter 136-inch wheelbase. Using the 135-horsepower 366-cid powerplant, it was available in just two body styles -- four-door sedan and a two-door brougham/coach priced at $2,295 and $2,195, respectively.
For $100 extra, you could order a Salon package consisting of special upholstery, mahogany rear door trim strips, twin outside horns, and other deluxe items.
An attractive albeit plain-looking car lacking Pierce-Arrow's traditional "archer" radiator mascot, the 836A was the least expensive model in the company's history, but it was built to the same time-honored standards of excellence as its larger brothers. Yet even at this price level it was still far too expensive to bring customers rushing into the showrooms. Continued with few changes into early 1935, it was quietly discontinued after selling less than 900 units.
Pierce-Arrow's initial 1934 registrations were disappointing: 341 units in the first two months of the year versus 363 in 1933. The sales push showed results in April-June deliveries, which increased 10 percent, but the firm continued to lose money by the bucketful: $861,000 in the first six months followed by another $176,000 in July. Pierce-Arrow filed for bankruptcy the very next month, following futile merger discussions with Auburn and Reo.
Chanter sought funds from the Buffalo community and New York banks and managed to raise $1 million. The workforce, which had numbered 2,200 to 2,400 employees since 1930, was slashed to between 600 and 800, a nearly 70 percent cut.
With its new capital, a leaner reorganized company named Pierce-Arrow Motor Corporation began operations in May 1935. A new breakeven point of 1,000 units per year was established, but even this modest figure would prove to be hopelessly optimistic.
For details on 1935 and 1936 Pierce-Arrow automobiles, check out the next page.
For more information on cars, see: