As one of the Brass Era’s grandest, most potent automobiles, Pierce-Arrow’s mighty Model 66 sits in elite company. Named for the headline-grabbing power output of its immense T-head inline six-cylinder engine, the Model 66 first debuted in 1910 and was produced in limited numbers through 1918. It was the reserve of America’s wealthiest and most exclusive motorists and has even been called the “Bugatti Royale of the Brass Era” by some.
Initially, Model 66’s T-Head engine displaced 714 cubic inches or approximately 11.7 liters. But Pierce-Arrow engineers continually improved the Model 66 to ensure it remained the class of the field, and by 1913, the engine swelled to 825 cubic inches - or 13.5 liters. Output jumped accordingly to 100 horsepower – an astonishing figure when the contemporary Model T produced about 20 horsepower. Driving a Model 66 is akin to running a locomotive on the road, with endless reserves of torque from its low-revving, long-stroke six pushing it to over 80 miles per hour. Records indicated that Pierce-Arrow produced about 1,250 Model 66s between 1910 and 1918, yet only 14 exist today. The beautiful and imposing Model 66 is prized by collectors, and examples rarely come available on the open market.
The car offered here, chassis number 66667, left Pierce’s Buffalo works fitted with handsome seven-passenger touring coachwork, and is believed to have been delivered new to Chicago. It was one of the last Pierce-Arrows equipped with drum headlamps, as the later models came with the signature faired-in lamps as standard. In the early 1920s, it was acquired by the Minneapolis Fire Department, which was transitioning from a horse-drawn fleet to a motorized one. The city purchased used vehicles to save money, yet performance and reliability were of utmost importance – and few cars on the road had a better reputation for durability than the Pierce-Arrow. In fact, Minneapolis is known to have acquired at least 40 different Pierces between 1920 and 1924 for fire department use.
Initially, 66667 was used as a Chief’s car, then was rebuilt following a 1927 altercation with another department fire truck. Remarkably, Minneapolis kept the Model 66 in service until 1948, when the city sold it to a smaller department in a neighboring town. It was finally retired from active duty in 1950 and was sold to Ben Saunders, owner of KICD radio in Spencer, Iowa.
Mr. Saunders used the distinctive Pierce-Arrow as a promotional vehicle for his radio station, though the car eventually fell into a state of disrepair. Saunders eventually donated it to the Sioux City Shriners, but it was not in running condition and needed a total restoration. While the Shriners certainly admired the grand Pierce, they lacked the means and skills to restore it properly, so they sold the car to a local collector named Irving Jensen on the condition that he would refurbish it and allow the Shriners to use it as a parade vehicle for the next ten years.
Jensen dutifully set to work returning the Model 66 to its former glory. Foremost among his tasks was to recreate the original coachwork, most of which was lost when Minneapolis FD adapted the car to a fire apparatus. For this job, he enlisted the expertise of Ray Graber of San Diego, the highly respected former body restorer for Harrah’s Automobile Collection. Using the intact original cowl as a guide, Graber recreated the seven-passenger touring coachwork, and did so in the correct method of using cast aluminum, exactly as Pierce-Arrow would have built it in 1913. Additional metalwork was done by Red’s Metal Shaping of California, while Jensen entrusted the task of meticulously restoring the upholstery to the Brass Era expert Leif Drexler of Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
With the Pierce returned to its original magnificence, Mr. Jensen showed it at several significant venues, including the Pierce-Arrow Society National Meet in Minneapolis, an AACA National Meet in Wisconsin, and twice at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – in 1991 and 1998. After trading hands to Dan Gernatt of Collins, New York, the Pierce-Arrow went from strength to strength, taking two Bethlehem Star awards at the Concours d’Elegance of the Eastern United States and serving as the poster car for that event in 2001. All along, the custodians of 66667 have kept it in top running condition and proving its mettle on numerous 1,000-plus mile tours. The engine, number 66954, is in the proper 66-A-1 specification and benefits from updated ignition, an electric starter for easy operation while touring, and it remains in top running order. As recently as 2019, it participated in the BBC Tour in Pennsylvania and ran without fault.
As offered today, 66667 is in superb condition, and the concours-quality restoration has gently mellowed through years of care and enjoyment on the open road. The deep maroon paint remains beautifully finished and is accented with finely polished nickel brightwork. Accessories include octagonal drum headlamps, nickel carriage lamps, a winged moto-meter, and more. The black leather interior trim has a rich, lustrous finish, and the substantial convertible top is fully lined.
The Pierce-Arrow Model 66-A-1 had few peers in its day, and it is still one of the most awe-inspiring of all brass-era automobiles. This outstanding example adds fascinating provenance and a superb restoration to its already impressive physical stature and represents an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire one of the fourteen known Mighty Model 66s in existence. Offers welcome and trades considered