Once the pride of Buffalo, New York Pierce-Arrow stood for many years among the finest automobile manufacturers in America. The “Three Ps” of Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow enjoyed fiercely loyal clientele who demanded nothing but the best in their motorcars. Despite their impeccable reputation, building automobiles to such high standards was a costly undertaking, and the market was narrow. Competition from the likes of Cadillac did not help, as GM had substantial cash reserves that the independents simply could not match. As America approached the cusp of the Great Depression, Peerless did not survive past 1931, Packard decided to add a junior line to supplement sales, and Pierce-Arrow struggled with outdated engines and a lack of resources to modernize their range.
In 1928, Pierce-Arrow was rescued – at least temporarily - by an unlikely source, Albert Erskine of the Studebaker Corporation. Studebaker had a reputation for sturdy, practical cars that weren’t necessarily high on style. They had recently added the low-cost Erskine line to supplement the bottom line so that Pierce-Arrow would fit nicely as a prestigious bookend to their portfolio. The move made Studebaker the fourth-largest car company in America, and with it, Pierce-Arrow received a $2M influx of cash. With the fresh investment, Pierce-Arrow could finally produce the beautiful L-head 8-cylinder engine that had been in the works for several years, bringing them back up to par with Packard and Cadillac. Some production was moved from Buffalo, although Studebaker allowed Pierce-Arrow engineers to remain in control of their process. For the new engine, Studebaker cast the blocks in their South Bend foundry, albeit in a higher grade alloy than Studebaker utilized. While Studebaker offered its own eight-cylinder engine for the President, the Pierce design was unique as it had nine main bearings to Stude’s five, and it produced a competitive 125 horsepower, with high levels of refinement.
Two new models ushered in the arrival of the new engine in 1929; the Model 133 and Model 143, named for their wheelbase length in inches. The 366 cubic-inch eight-cylinder was shared between both cars, which featured a heavily revised chassis and all-new, more modern styling to align the rest of the car with the new power plant. Of course, Pierce’s trademark headlamps were still proudly positioned in the fenders, with the rest of the styling getting a fresh and contemporary makeover. Buyers of the 143 had seven bodies to choose from, while the 133 offered eleven different body styles. Pierce-Arrow’s traditional buyers tended toward the conservative, so most of the cars produced in 1929 left the Buffalo works wearing formal, understated coachwork.
This 1929 Pierce-Arrow Model 133 wears gorgeous Dual Cowl Phaeton coachwork, one of the most exclusive and desirable of all styles available on the Model 133. While Pierce-Arrow sales had doubled in 1929 with a total of 8,422 Model 133s sold, just 70 buyers would opt for this elegant body, which Pierce cataloged as the “Four Passenger Touring with Tonneau Shield.” This car comes to us via an extensive collection of Classic Era automobiles, and it benefits from a high-quality restoration which was completed in approximately 2007. Since the restoration, the car has been driven and enjoyed on a regular basis, participating in various clubs events and shows around the country. It won a First Prize at the 2012 National Pierce-Arrow Meet in Kalamazoo, Michigan and earned a class award at the 2017 Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance. It is presented with a nicely mellowed restoration, in a handsome and distinct two-tone yellow-green over olive green combination, accented subtly with orange pinstripes. The paint quality is excellent, appearing beautifully-maintained while also displaying some light use. Bodywork and detailing are done to a high standard. It is equipped with numerous options and accessories, including dual side-mount spare wheels with polished covers, dual Trippe driving lights, a radiator stone guard, and dual Lorraine searchlights. The famous archer mascot sits atop the chromed radiator shell, and out back there is a color-matched trunk complete with fitted suitcases. Plating on the accessories and fittings is excellent, and the optional wire wheels are finished with distinct painted rims and polished spokes for a distinctly sporty appearance.
Inside, complementary gray-green leather features on the front and rear seats. The hides are in excellent condition, looking mildly broken-in and quite inviting. Carpets and door panels are excellent. The cabin of the dual-cowl phaeton is sleek and modern, with a noticeable lack of wood trim and fussy detailing. The dash is body color, with restored original instruments arranged in the center of the fascia. The folding top is made from high-quality tan Stayfast canvas, piped in leather to match the seats.
Pierce Arrow’s L-head inline eight is equally well-presented, detailed in gloss black paint with lots of chrome hardware and fittings. Signs of regular running appear on the manifolds, yet the presentation is tidy and extremely clean. The engine runs well, delivering its 125 horsepower and sending drive through a three-speed manual gearbox.
This marvelous Model 133 benefits from regular care in the hands of a passionate enthusiast and with its distinct style and powerful, refined engine, is an ideal candidate for CCCA CARavan tours or similar driving events. As one of only a handful of known survivors to wear the glamorous “tonneau cowl” coachwork, it represents a unique opportunity for entry into the world of American Classic touring.