Pierce-Arrow’s mighty Model 66 was one of the largest, grandest and most powerful automobiles sold in America during the Brass Era. Putting the importance of the magnificent Model 66 into perspective, it is considered by some to be the Brass Era equivalent to the Classic Era’s Bugatti Type 41 Royale. It is one of the most desirable automobiles of the period, and though records show that 1,250 were built between 1910 and 1918, a mere 14 survivors are known to exist today. The beautiful and imposing Model 66 is highly sought after by collectors and rarely do such examples come up for sale on the open market.
Named for the headline-grabbing power output of its immense inline six-cylinder engine, the Model 66 first debuted in 1910. For the initial production run, the T-Head engine displaced 714 cubic inches, or approximately 11.7 liters. By 1913, engineers bumped the displacement to 825 cubic inches, or a full 13.5 liters. With the increase in displacement came a subsequent jump in power to nearly 100 horsepower, otherworldly figures for a time when the ubiquitous Model T produced about 20 horsepower from 177 cubic inches. Despite the increase of power, the model name remained the same. As impressive as those figures are, the old adage of “sell horsepower but drive torque” rang true even back in 1913, for the long stroke engine revved to only 1500 rpm and produced locomotive-like torque, allowing smooth and effortless performance.
Prior to building automobiles, the company that eventually became Pierce-Arrow had vast experience in building household items, bicycles and in particular, ornate gilded bird cages. When the focus shifted to motorcars, they applied their experience working with different materials to their new products. Like other Pierce Arrows of the time, the Model 66 wore a body constructed of cast aluminum, produced in the company’s own foundry. The aluminum body was light and strong, with superior longevity thanks to a minimal use of traditional wooden frame work. For such a large and expensive motorcar, the coachwork was equally grand and regal, with most cars bodied in-house as multi-passenger touring cars and limousines.
The motorcar being offered is a 1916 Model 66-A-4, the final evolution and most desirable of the series. The 66-A-4 was equipped with the massive 825c.i. engine, dual ignition from both a coil-and-battery system as well as a magneto, and used aluminum alloy for the crank case and other engine components. Discounting only the singular 66-A-5 prototype, this chassis is the most advanced of all Model 66s known. According to historian Bernard Weis, chassis number 67219 was acquired by Pierce collector Milo Smith from well-known restorer Carl Amsley of Pennsylvania, who had purchased it from Lewis Crossett of Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Amsley had produced a correct-style body for the car, using new castings made to original designs. As many original Pierce-Arrow components as possible were used, including a Model 48 cowl and fenders, which were reshaped and lightly modified to accommodate the larger Model 66. Upon inspection today, it can be seen that the work was performed with exquisite craftsmanship, closely matching the original casting techniques used by the factory. The engine, number A4 269, is recorded by the Pierce-Arrow Society as having been produced between December 1915 and August 1918. Various respected Pierce-Arrow 66 authorities, including Patrick Craig, have confirmed this to be a correct 66-A-4 passenger car engine. Furthermore, the original frame stamping, 67219, is still visible under the front floorboard.
Mr. Smith reportedly eventually donated the restored car to his church, after which, in 1999, it was acquired by longtime HCCA member and Pierce enthusiast Norm Buckhart. Mr. Buckhart treated 67219 to a fresh, photo-documented restoration performed by the respected Allan Schmidt, of Horseless Carriage Restorations in Escondido, California, including extensive mechanical work, down to new engine bearings. The restoration was followed by several hundred reliable touring miles in HCCA events. Before selling the car to the most recent owner, Mr. Buckhart again had the restoration freshened by the late Pierce-Arrow authority Eric Rosenau, including a thorough mechanical sorting with a valve adjustment and carburetor rebuild. It remains in excellent mechanical order to this day and is ready for road-duty and attractive enough for show.
Today, this car presents beautifully in an extremely handsome yet understated two-tone grey color scheme, complemented by a black folding top with rear quarter windows. The painted radiator shell and wooden artillery wheels with six Johnson rims were original Pierce-Arrow options. The overall presentation remains extremely attractive and its size and stature are quite simply jaw-dropping. In combination with the stunning looks, its vast interior and immense power, make this Model 66 a superb choice for both shows and tours. As with all 1915–24 Pierce-Arrows, it is recognized as a Full Classic by the Classic Car Club of America and thus can even be used for their CARavan tours, for which it would make a faithful companion. The sale includes operating instructions, service and maintenance catalog reprints and some restoration photos.
Simply put, the acquisition of a Model 66 ranks as a “holy grail” experience for Pierce-Arrow enthusiasts, and any fan of early automobiles is sure to be taken by its impressive stature and performance.