Introduction to the 1933-1935 Pierce Silver Arrow

1933-1934 Pierce Silver Arrow
Pierce-Arrow attempted to extend the 1933 Silver Arrow's cachet to its regular line in 1934, but on a coupe.
Pierce-Arrow attempted to extend the 1933 Silver Arrow's cachet to its regular line in 1934, but on a coupe.

An improved design for the 1933-1934 Pierce Silver Arrow was the next objective for James Hughes and his team, after they made their short deadline for the1933 model.

The first Silver Arrow was a sensation in New York. According to Auman, the second car went to Buffalo on the 12th, while number three was shipped to Chicago on the 26th for the upcoming "Century of Progress" fair. Cars four and five reached Buffalo in February.

Number three was later rescued from a Cicero, Illinois, junkyard by the late well-known collector Henry Austin Clark, Jr. He used to say that he'd found bullet holes in the trunk and so presumed the car was owned for a time by the Capone mob. Besides that car, at least two other survivors exist.

It was an age of supercars and super dreams, so we should not pause long over the logic of building a car that cost the price of three houses in rock-bottom 1933.

Other companies did the same: Cadillac with its aerodynamic special for Chicago, Packard's famous close-coupled Dietrich sedan, the fair's "Car of the Dome."

But as Maurice Hendry considered a quarter-century ago, "the only design among all these that would have stood a chance as a concept in the postwar decade would be the Silver Arrow."

Evidence suggests the Silver Arrow did boost Pierce's morale and, briefly, prospects. Twelve-cylinder sales rose 200 percent in January 1933, 130 percent in February, and were 55 percent better through October versus the year-earlier period.

Then came strikes at tool-and-die makers, and a lack of cars cost 300-400 sales in November and December. Studebaker made up the losses before going bankrupt in early 1933.

Pierce-Arrow was ordered sold, and by August it was independent again, reorganized under a group of businessmen and bankers to break even at 3,000 cars a year. Unfortunately, 1933 sales fell short of that mark by a third (2,152).

Seats and interior door panels were covered in leather.

Nevertheless, the 1934 Pierces were thoroughly improved, offering adjustable rear seats, draft-free ventwing windows, and updated styling announced by more rakishly tilted radiators. As before, the two V-12 series, the 1240 Salon and 1248 Custom, were almost made-to-order cars.

The 840 Eight was more humble, and April introduced a pair of even cheaper 836A models with a modest 136-inch wheelbase, a 366-cubic inch engine (versus the regular 385 eight), and prices as low as $2,195. Other 1934 Pierces ranged from $2,795 to $4,495.

Among them was a fastback two-door style that was called Silver Arrow but looked nothing like the showstopping 1933 four-door. Available as an Eight or Salon Twelve on a 144-inch wheelbase, it has been denigrated by some as a loss of the pure, original concept -- but that has gone on since the first dream car was created.

In fact, Pierce styling for 1934 to 1935 was beautifully evolved and streamlined, benefitting from the Silver Arrow experience. Anyone who owns a "production" Silver Arrow has one of the Classic era's most splendid cars.

To learn more about the 1934-1935 Pierce Silver Arrow, continue on to the next page.

For more information on cars, see: