Pierce-Arrow Society Feature Article
1936 Pierce-Arrow 1601 Metropolitan Town Brougham
by Paul Jacobs & Bob Sands
For 1936, Pierce-Arrow introduced their last new design effort. These models included a new boxed frame reinforced with an X-member, newly styled sheet metal, longer leaf springs and restyled dash among the 35 improvements mentioned in the sales literature. Both the eight and twelve cylinder engines were continued with improvements such as aluminum cylinder heads. The horsepower was increased to 150hp for the 8 cylinder engine and 185hp for the 12 cylinder engine. Perhaps the most significant mechanical improvement was the addition of overdrive as standard equipment, making these models great long distance drivers.
The 1936 Pierce-Arrows had grown some in size and were mounted on wheelbases of 139 inches, 144 inches and 147 inches. Prices ranged from $3900 for the base four-door sedan to $7800 for the Pierce-Arrow bodied Town Car. The cars were still being coachbuilt with a sheet metal skin applied to an ash structure which added considerable labor and build time. The cars weighed in between 4500 and 6000 pounds and would continue in production for 2 more model years with minor improvements. With total production at 800 units for 1936 and mounting losses, there were insufficient resources to add independent front suspension, all steel construction and turret tops that the competition offered.
Our feature car is a 1936 Pierce-Arrow Model 1601, chassis no. 2600076, with a custom Metropolitan Town Brougham body by Brunn.
Brunn & Co. was located in Buffalo, NY and built custom automobile bodies from 1908 to 1941. The Metropolitan Town Brougham was constructed of sheet aluminum over an ash structure. According to designer Herman Brunn, ten of these bodies were built from 1934 through 1938. More information about these unusual cars was published in the Pierce-Arrow Society publication Arrow 96-2.
Our story begins on August 29, 1935, when the Pierce-Arrow Sales Agency in Boston placed an order with Brunn for 4 Metropolitan Town Broughams. The notation "New York Show" appears above the entry in the Brunn order book indicating at least one of these cars would be used for promotional purposes, perhaps to encourage the sale of the 4 cars. Our feature car received body no. 4 and was shipped on January 28, 1936 to the nearby Pierce-Arrow factory for installation on chassis number 2600076. Upon receipt, the Boston Sales Co. is believed to have sold the car in New York City where its ownership history until 1947 remains unknown.
This car surfaced in Sam Adelman's salvage yard just outside New York City and was purchased by collector Barney Pollard in 1947. At this point the engine was blown and partially stripped. The Pierce-Arrow was transported to Detroit and placed into dead storage along with 600 other antique cars until 1976.
After Barney's passing the Pierce-Arrow was inherited by Jim Dillon, who kept the car outdoors under a tarp until 1995, when it was acquired by Bob Sands. By 1995, the Pierce had deteriorated badly with water damage to the interior requiring 90% wood replacement. Additionally, there was damage to the rear body due to being stored vertically on end. Field varmints had taken up residence and three pest control bombs were required to clear out the pests. Bob then shoveled out the mess and the fun began.
Similarly, the engine was rebuilt and shipped to Bob for temporary storage. A friend of Bob's phoned and warned him not to attempt to start the engine. The friend had had an engine rebuilt by the same person and it ran terrible. Upon disassembly, the Pierce-Arrow's engine was inspected and would not have lasted 150 miles. The engine was then sent to John Cislak and rebuilt a second time. The engine now purrs and is silent.
The chassis was sent to Ontario, Canada and completely stripped and refinished. The frame was sent to Fawcett Motor Carriage Co. in Whitby, Ontario where the most skill-intensive portion of the restoration took place. The Fawcetts were able to remanufacture and replace the wooden structure using the original patterns, correcting the errors of the prior restoration shop. The Fawcetts then remanufactured the entire floor front to rear including steel panels. The doors could then be fitted to the body and placed on the frame and primed. The finish paint was then applied. The rolling chassis with body was then transported to Bob's house for engine installation. This was when Bob discovered that the cowl was lower than a production model. When originally built, the engine was installed prior to the body. Installing the engine after body installation proved most difficult, requiring 3 people and 6.5 hours. Next, the drive train, radiator and engine accessories were installed. The engine was "run-in" and the wiring harness was installed and the interior wired. The car was returned to Fawcett Motor Carriage Co. to rework and fit the front fenders and hood. Meanwhile, items such as the wheels and running boards were restored by Bob. The trim parts were sent to United Electroplating in Toronto for chroming. Pin striping duplicating the original scheme was applies and tires were installed on the painted wheels. The seat springs were completely rusted away and had to be remanufactured. Upholstery was selected to match the original.
This restoration took eight years and consumed thousands of hours. The original color was dark blue. It that took five trips to Whitby, Ontario before final approval could be made on the formula. The color is such a deep shade of Blue that some would say that it is Black.
If you want to see the final results, the car will be attending the Pierce-Arrow Society's 47th Annual Meet in Asheville, North Carolina, June 22-26, for touring and judging.