Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. History 

Bicycles, Motorcycles, & Trucks
1900 Pierce Shaft-Drive Bicycle
1900 Pierce Shaft-Drive Bicycle
The George N. Pierce Company entered the transportation field in 1891 with the introduction of their first bicycle catalog. As the 1890's progressed, the bicycle transitioned from a curiosity of the rich to a commodity for the masses. By the late 1890s, the bicycle gained in technical complexity as innovative features were introduced to satisfy the hungry market. While some of the major innovations such as the chainless, cushion frame and coaster brake were shared industry wide, others such as the spring fork appear to be of Pierce origin.

Below is a brief list of the major innovations and their first appearance on Pierce bicycles:

  • 1898    cushion frame
  • 1899    collet type binders for seat & handlebars
  • 1898    coaster brake
  • 1900    chainless
  • 1902    front spring fork

The successful incorporation of these improvements and attention to detail helped to establish Pierce as one of the most respected names in the industry. The bikes were not inexpensive and, in 1901, ranged in price from $40 for the standard model to $80 for the chainless with optional coaster brake.

When the company split in 1906, the Pierce Cycle Company was formed and the nameplate changed accordingly. These models were continued with little change until the company dissolution in 1918. Bicycle production diminished during the period due to automobile popularity and focus on motorcycle production. In 1918, the Emblem Manufacturing Company purchased the Pierce assets and again revised the nameplate to reflect the change from Buffalo, New York to Angola, New York and produced bikes under the Pierce name until 1940.

1910 Pierce One-Cylinder Motorcycle
1910 Pierce One-Cylinder Motorcycle
In 1907, the Pierce Cycle Company was formed, separating the bicycle business from the automobile business. Percy Pierce, son of George Pierce, was the company's president. In 1909, the first Pierce motorcycle was introduced. At $325, the 4-cylinder motorcycle was a costly alternative to the other motorcycles of the time. A one-cylinder version was added in 1910. Production continued through 1913. The Pierce Cycle Company went bankrupt in 1914.
1910 Pierce Four-Cylinder Motorcycle
1910 Pierce Four-Cylinder Motorcycle

After years of discussion and planning, the first Pierce-Arrow truck was shown in January, 1911. The five-ton stake-bed truck featured a worm-drive rear axle and hard rubber tires. The Pierce-Arrow worm-drive trucks were quieter and more reliable than the chain-drive mechanism used by most trucks of the time. The first Pierce-Arrow truck, the X-1, had a four-cylinder T-head engine with 4 7/8" bore and 6" stroke. The truck had three forward speeds and sold for $4500. The Pierce-Arrow truck set a new standard for trucks made in America. The X-1 was augmented by a two-ton model, the X-2 in 1913.

These X-1 was replaced by the R-5 in 1915. The quality of the Pierce-Arrow truck was recognized by the the military powers of World War I. Pierce-Arrow delivered over 14,000 trucks to the French and British governments by the end of the War.

1927 Truck
1927 Pierce-Arrow Model XB Dump Truck

In 1923, the truck line underwent it's first major overhaul since the first truck was introduced in 1911. The 1923 trucks were now available in six models ranging from 2 1/2 tons to 7 1/2 tons. All trucks used a dual-valve four-cylinder engine. The top of the line, the Model R-F sold for $5,400.

In 1924, the Model Z was introduced. The Model Z used the Series 33 passenger car Dual-Valve Six engine and came with a 196" or 220" wheelbase. Primarily intended as a bus chassis, many Model Z chassis were fitted with other bodies such as fire truck, moving van, and tanker bodies. Pierce-Arrow claimed a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

In 1928, another chassis was added to the truck line. The Fleet Arrow Wagon, Model FA, used a modified Series 81 passenger car engine. Mounted on a 140, 160, or 180 inch wheelbase, the Fleet Arrow was primarily intended for inner-city delivery service. The Fleet Arrow could be ordered with either single or dual rear wheels equipped with pneumatic tires. The brakes applied to all four wheels plus the drive shaft. Houdaille hydraulic shock absorbers were supplied on the front axle. Pierce-Arrow advertised a top speed of 49 miles per hour using 34 inch tires and a 5 2/7:1 rear axle ratio. Unlike earlier Pierce-Arrow trucks, the Fleet Arrow did not use a worm-drive rear axle. Production of the Fleet-Arrow ceased in 1929 after slightly over 500 were made.

1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet-Arrow-Wagon Fire Truck
1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet-Arrow-Wagon Fire Truck

After over a year without any truck production, a new line of Pierce-Arrow trucks were introduced in late 1930. The four models ranged from the 70-horsepower, 2-ton model PT to to the 130-horsepower, 8-ton model PZ. All trucks used a six-cylinder engine specifically produced for the trucks. In late 1932, all truck production at Pierce-Arrow was ceased. The Studebaker Corporation, who owned controlling interest in Pierce-Arrow, shifted all truck production to the White Motor Corporation. Trucks with the Pierce-Arrow name continued to be available from White until 1935.

Pierce-Arrow also supplied 8 and 12 cylinder engines to the Seagrave Corporation for use in fire engines. These engines continued to be made even after Pierce-Arrow ceased operation in 1938. Seagrave continued to deliver fire apparatus with the "Pierce-Arrow" V-12 until 1970.

Pierce-Arrow's final attempt at the commercial market was in 1935 when they made some 9 and 15 passenger sight-seeing buses.

Back to The Final Years.