1916 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 Seven Passenger Touring

In 1878, George Pierce of Buffalo, New York, established the George N. Pierce Company to produce common household goods such as ice boxes and bird cages. Pierce earned a reputation for excellence, and soon added a line of high-quality bicycles which proved so successful, that the company focused completely on the two-wheelers from 1895.

Like several of their contemporaries, the bicycle boom led to a natural transition into motorized transport. Pierce began its initial foray into four-wheeled automobiles with a small steam car in 1890. Although the steamer proved troublesome, it led to experimentation with a quadracycle, before the Pierce Motorette automobile was developed in 1901. The first model to use the “Arrow” moniker came along for 1903 and positioned the engine up front. In relatively short order, Pierce-Arrow automobiles were considered among the finest cars built in America. In 1906 alone, Pierce built roughly 400 of the 28-32hp cars and another 300 of the highly exclusive 40-50 hp machines. Then, in 1909 Pierce introduced its first Model 48 and ushered in the era of the company’s longest running model. During its lengthy reign, the Model 48 was always powered by a big, powerful, T-Head six. Perhaps the most famous distinguishing feature was the way the headlamps were fared into the front fenders beginning in 1913, a design that was patented by them and remained a Pierce Arrow trademark throughout the existence of the firm.

Pierce-Arrow continually evolved and refined the Model 48 throughout its lengthy production run. This particular 1916 Model 48 features Pierce’s mighty 524 cubic-inch, 12-valve six with a 4.5-inch bore and a long 5.5-inch stroke. Although the 48 indicated the taxable horsepower rating, the engine actually produced in the area of 75 horsepower and a veritable ocean of torque. With the assistance of a high rear-end ratio and the four-speed transmission, the T-Head six would propel the large touring car to speeds of up to 55 miles per hour with ease.

The Model 48 was available in a wide variety of open and closed styles, and this example features the grand 7-Passenger Tourer body, which is beautifully built and impressively imposing in its scale. Pierce-Arrow bodies were made of cast aluminum, a skill the company acquired from its years manufacturing general goods. In fact, the company rarely employed outside coachbuilders. According to the Pierce-Arrow Society, this wonderful motorcar is believed to have originally been owned by the Fred Harvey Company, parent to the famous Harvey House chain of restaurants, established during the railway boom in the late 1800s and catering to travelers along popular railway routes. The car was used in their Grand Canyon, Arizona location, though it is unclear how long Harvey House owned it. It resurfaced c.1970 with Robert Robbins of San Diego, California. Eventually, it came into the care of well-known Pierce enthusiasts Maj. General Rex A. Hadley and his wife Margaret A. Hadley. The Hadleys were beloved characters in the Pierce-Arrow Society, and they owned numerous examples of the marque, along with other prominent classics.\

During the Hadley’s ownership, the 524 cubic-inch engine was rebuilt, and correspondence on file lists the work to include new aluminum pistons, rings, pins, new rod bearings, and balanced rotating assembly. More recently, the steering box and rear differential were rebuilt and numerous other detailed tended to, to ensure the car is fully fit for touring enjoyment. It snaps to life with ease, and runs with the smoothness and deep, straight-six bellow that befits a big-displacement T-head engine. Both Margaret and Maj. General Hadley passed away in 2006, and the mighty Model 48 came into the care of its most recent owner in 2007, remaining in his stewardship through 2022.

Finished in black and ivory, it is attractively accented with maroon coach lines and artillery wheels. The paint is in excellent order thanks to some recent freshening, with just some minor imperfections that lend an appealing and inviting character. The interior features black button-tufted leather upholstery and black carpeting, while the lined black canvas top appears to have been recently replaced and is in excellent condition.

The high-quality restoration displays an inviting patina that comes with years of care and enjoyment. The entire car has a wonderful character and is very much like the soft older leather: perfectly broken-in. This grand Pierce-Arrow is extremely well-sorted, runs strong and will be terrific for touring or for display in local, regional, and marque-centric shows.


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