Unlike so many other luxury-car makers, Pierce-Arrow was still building cars in 1936 like the 1936 Pierce-Arrow Eight Model 1601 Sedan, though the health of the company wasn't good. One of the famed "Three Ps" of American automotive royalty -- along with Packard and already-defunct Peerless -- the venerable Buffalo, New York, automaker was fighting for its life.
Pierce-Arrow had come under Studebaker's wing in 1928, but a group of Buffalo-area businessmen and bankers bought the firm for $1 million in 1933 -- and went bankrupt in 1934. Another million was raised, and a newly reorganized Pierce-Arrow Motor Corporation began operations in May 1935.
Despite a threadbare budget Pierce managed an attractive redesign for 1936. Advertised as "The World's Safest Car," it boasted more than 30 notable advances: more fashionably rounded lines with a built-in trunk on sedans; standard vacuum brake booster; added cruciform frame member; engines moved farther forward; and a steering box mounted ahead of the front axle with a trailing drag link.
But sales refused to budge. Registrations were a meager 787 cars in calendar 1936, down from 875 in 1935. Then they fell to only 166 in 1937, and less than 40 cars were produced for 1938. Pierce-Arrow was declared insolvent in April 1938 and liquidated in May.
This large, roomy 1936 Model 1601 Eight trunk sedan, riding a 139-inch wheelbase was listed at $3,195. The 385-cid straight-eight developed 150 horses, compared to 185 for the pricier Pierce Twelve, but 15 more than the Cadillac V-8. Of the 842 cars built for the model year, 403 were Model 1601s, most of them sedans.
The handsome two-tone blue Pierce-Arrow seen here belongs to Richard and Linda Kughn, of Chesterfield, Michigan. Even though it was built during Pierce's final financial decline, it maintained the high standards for which the marque was well known and respected, and the Classic Car Club of America accords it full "Classic" status.
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