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Pierce-Arrow Model 38-C4 Five-Passenger Touring, 1916

  • The 'C4' designation marks this Pierce-Arrow as the fourth iteration of the restructured 38, 48, and 66 series cars at Pierce-Arrow. This model year represents the high point for the all-aluminum cast body, which, combined with bespoke engineering produced both in-house and through leading American industries, created what was arguably the most dependable, durable, and best-driving touring car on the market. The price of entry was naturally unobtainable for all but the wealthiest American, and in the most casual on-road judgment, the aesthetics wouldn't stray from the straight, conservative stance depicted in this five-passenger touring car.
  • While the original owners of this Pierce-Arrow are presently unknown, those records that have been retained place the car in Rhode Island in the early classic era, "when it was owned by two brothers who used it for automotive service calls and errands." This would seem at first too pedestrian for a Pierce-Arrow, but it's rather a testament to the car's construction that about 15, or maybe even 19 years or so after it was built—whence the automotive industry had progressed by leaps and bounds—this car was still worth driving on a daily basis. Most other antique era cars would have been derelict by the 1930s, if not dilapidated. But such was Pierce-Arrow's reputation that even cars of then-obsolete design would be purchased by fire departments and other working interests. Two decades later, these cars ran well and refused to fall apart. This service-oriented role would be the point at which this car, chassis #36793, came to be known.
  • From World War II until the early 1970s this car was hidden away, still residing in Rhode Island. Two successive owners came to its aid over the next two decades; the second, Manny Souza, completed the car's first and only restoration over a period of six years in the late 1980s. That restoration endures today. And having seen the car in the flesh, the condition appears sympathetically clean, with clear paint, underpinnings, and interior. The car is very impressive—of big stature, and a bold statement in firehouse red.
  • Less ostentatious than many contemporary luxury cars, the Model 38 really is equal to the sum of its parts, acknowledging that each of those parts is designed and built to a standard that is nearly impossible to replicate today. Of its contemporaries, perhaps the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost embodied this principle best, while outdoing the competition in terms of luxury. Hispano-Suiza pushed the envelope, and by the time war called upon industry to shift its focus, did so perhaps to a standard no one else could match—even Rolls. In Germany, Mercedes-Benz were quickly putting luster on the silver star with similar accolades. And at home in America, Packard were close on Pierce's heels with the Twin Six, an early V-12 luxury car that would influence no less than Enzo Ferrari. And yet none of these other cars, for all their refinement and performance, were built with such an audacious plan, insisting on a cold-riveted, all-aluminum cast body, fitted with motors tested for flawless travel that, even from the 1900s, was measured in thousands of miles. In other words, it looks like a simple old car, but it's quite special.

 

Last Updated: Dec 19, 2017