1934-1935 Pierce Silver Arrow
Alas, good styling, V-12 luxury, superb craftsmanship, and a patrician image were not enough to stop declining sales by the time the 1934-1935 Pierce Silver Arrow models were produced.
By mid-1934, former general manager Chanter, who'd been brought back by the new management, found sales slipping and money running out with a $681,000 loss.
Seeking funds from the Buffalo community and New York banks, he managed to raise about $1 million, but Pierce was still forced to sell its retail sales branches.
After just 1,740 registrations in 1934, the company was reorganized and began again in May 1935, only to end that year with just 875 orders.
Somehow, Pierce managed more than 30 improvements for its 1936 line, which lacked a Silver Arrow but boasted more power, the industry's first vacuum-assisted brakes, standard overdrive with automatic freewheeling, and fresh styling.
Despite all that, sales declined to 787 amid increasing rumors of mergers, new stock issues, and yet another reorganization. When the little-changed 1937s managed a paltry 166 sales, money sources dried up completely, and Pierce declared bankruptcy for the final time in December 1937, a mere two months after announcing its 1938 models (of which an estimated 17 were built).
In the end, the original Silver Arrow could not reverse its maker's fortunes any more than the Avanti could singlehandedly save Studebaker 30 years later.
Yet it was rightly billed as "The car of 1940 -- in 1933," and it's fascinating to think about how it might have evolved had Pierce survived or found a corporate savior, as Lincoln had much earlier.
The Packard Clipper (styled 1939, announced 1941) still looked up to date after World War II. Would not a 1941 Silver Arrow, designed along the same enlightened concepts of Phil Wright and James Hughes, have stood an equal chance? Almost certainly history might have been different.