1929 Pierce Arrow Model 125 Roadster

Once the pride of Buffalo, New York, Pierce-Arrow was once one of the most revered automobile manufacturers in America. The “Three Ps” of Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow enjoyed fiercely loyal clientele who demanded nothing less than the best in their motorcars. Yet in spite of their impeccable reputation, building automobiles to such high standards was a costly undertaking, with a narrow market. Competition from Cadillac did not help, as GM had substantial cash reserves that the independents could not match. As America approached the cusp of the Great Depression, Peerless did not survive past 1931, Packard took to adding a junior line to supplement sales, and Pierce-Arrow struggled with outdated engines and a lack of resources to modernize their range.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 particularly stylish. They had recently added the low-cost Erskine line to supplement the bottom line, making Pierce-Arrow 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 new 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. Studebaker cast the new blocks in their South Bend foundry, albeit in a higher grade alloy reserved for Pierce-Arrow engines. While Studebaker offered an eight-cylinder engine of its own design for the President, the Pierce design was unique, offering nine main bearings to Studebaker’s five, and with a competitive 125 horsepower output and high levels of refinement.

The 366 cubic-inch eight-cylinder appeared across the range in 1929, which featured a heavily revised chassis and all-new, more modern styling to align the whole car with the new power plant. The fresh and contemporary makeover retained Pierce’s trademark headlamps in the front fenders but featured a new face that was in keeping with modern times. Two models were available, the Model 125 with a 133-inch wheelbase, and the Model 126, with a 143-inch wheelbase. 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. But with eight body styles to choose from on the 125, a few sportier cars such as the 2/4-passenger roadster found favor with the more adventurous buyer.

Some tend to forget what a remarkable automobile company Pierce-Arrow was. In addition to providing an elegant and refined way to get from here to there, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company made several critical contributions to the history of the industry, pioneering the concept of power braking as well as remarkable early experiments in light alloy construction, streamlined bodywork, and power steering.

This rare and stylish 1929 Pierce-Arrow Model 125 Roadster is one of just 8,422 units produced by Pierce-Arrow for 1929. It was discovered on a ranch in central Oregon in 1965 by Ray Rumford, who encouraged his friend Sam Merrell to purchase the car. Mr. Merrell brought it to his hometown of Beaverton, Oregon, and put it in storage where it sat until 1993. Later that year, the well-earned restoration finally began, which consumed the next five years. During the project, Ray Graber of San Diego meticulously rebuilt the wood structure, and the interior restoration was by the respected experts Ken and Cindy Nemanic. With the body restored, it was refinished to a high standard in a handsome two-tone tan livery, with color-keyed artillery wheels and whitewall tires.

This sporting Pierce-Arrow’s well-preserved restoration makes it suitable for touring, as it remains crisp and elegant with a subtle character acquired through time and gentle use. The body features numerous accessories including dual side-mount spares, a trunk rack, fold-down windscreen, running lights, and the iconic Archer mascot. The tan canvas top and matching spare wheel covers are in excellent condition, and the car is quite attractive with the roof raised or folded. The two-passenger cockpit features excellent tan leather seats and door panels, oatmeal carpets, and factory correct instrumentation and switchgear. A 1964 State of Louisiana inspection sticker and 1965 AACA Glidden Tour decals on the windshield provide a glimpse of its earlier history.

Being a Model 125, it rides on a 133-inch wheelbase chassis, and power is supplied by Pierce-Arrow’s smooth and refined 125-horsepower L-head inline eight-cylinder engine. The presentation is honest and tidy under the hood, with mostly correct type hardware, fittings, and plumbing. Ideally suited for touring, this sporty and stylish Pierce-Arrow is eligible for all CCCA CARavans and would be a marvelous companion for any number of similar events where its style, poise, and performance are best appreciated.


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