During the 1920’s, Pierce-Arrow found itself alongside the likes of Packard as a leader in the luxury car market. With humble beginnings as a manufacturer of bird cages, ice boxes and bicycles, Pierce had earned its place thanks to high quality engineering and superior build quality. But as the 1920’s wore on, Pierce came under ever-increasing pressure to compete with manufacturers that boasted more modern assembly lines and junior level luxury cars that made up the volume sales and helped pay the bills.
In response to the pressure, Pierce-Arrow launched the Model 80 in 1924 as a smaller companion model to the range-topping Dual Valve Six. The model 80 featured a 75 horsepower, 288 cubic inch L-Head inline six, a three-speed manual gearbox, advanced four-wheel vacuum brakes, and rode on a 130” wheelbase chassis. For 1928, a few changes were made and the model was renamed the Model 81, which is distinguished by its smaller headlamps (a feature unique to 1928 models). Also, rather curiously, a new emblem adorned Pierce-Arrow radiators for ’28 which was reputedly the Pierce family crest. This feature, too only lasted one model year as Mrs. Percy Pierce pointed out that this was not, in fact the actual family crest. Approximately 5,000 examples of the model 81 were produced in 1928, and survivors are highly prized today for their attractive style and technical advancement.
The handsome Model 81 Runabout has been cared for by only two well known collections since the early 1970's, and was awarded an AACA Senior National First Prize in 1976. It presents in very attractive period correct cream with black fenders, green door saddles that match the painted wire wheels, and a folding canvas top. It also wears a very nice radiator stone guard, spot lamps, famous “Archer” mascot, dual side-mount spare wheels and wide-whitewall tires. It is a handsome and sporty looking runabout that begs to be driven and will not disappoint once out on the road.
The cockpit is dressed in button-tufted brown leather and elegant, richly finished woodwork. Upholstery and fittings have been remarkably well preserved since the restoration was completed and present very nicely. A wood rimmed wheel and gorgeous Waltham instruments complete the package. Under the hood rests the L-head inline six that powered all Model 81s. It is tidy and well presented in the engine bay. Correct fittings, clamps and finishes show it has been properly restored and very well maintained since, although it has also seen plenty of use, which has kept it limber and running strong.
Dashing, handsome and unusual, this “little” Pierce Arrow is granted CCCA Full Classic status and would be a delight to enjoy on CCCA or Pierce Arrow society road events.