Pierce-Arrow Society Feature Article
These words were proudly proclaimed in Pierce-Arrow sales literature in 1932. These words were especially true in 1932 when "Two New Twelves" were added to the Pierce-Arrow line. The eight-cylinder car, produced since 1929, was augmented by two all-new twelve-cylinder engines from Pierce-Arrow. The 366 cubic inch straight-eight was continued as the Model 54. The smaller twelve was introduced as the Model 53, and a larger twelve was available as the Models 51 and 52.
In addition to the new engines, the body lines were also updated. The roof-line was now rounded rather than angular and the radiator shell had a V-shape rather than the flat design of previous years. The bodies hung over the frame rails, reducing the distance from the bottom of the doors to the running boards, making the cars look longer and lower. Twelve standard body styles were available from Pierce-Arrow, with custom bodies available from LeBaron and Brunn.
The Model 54 used a straight-eight engine similar to earlier models. The 366 cubic-inch eight produced 125 horsepower at 3800 rpm. The twelve factory body styles ranged in price from $2,385 for the five-passenger Club Brougham to $3,050 for the five-passenger Sport Phaeton. All cars included a three-speed transmission with synchromesh and free-wheeling, a Startix automatic starting device, and "ride control" that allowed the driver to adjust the firmness of the Delco hydraulic shock absorbers from the instrument panel. The Model 54 cars came on either a 137 inch or 142 inch wheel base, depending on the body style.
The Model 53 shared much of the same chassis and bodywork as the Model 54, with trim differences to differentiate the models. Instead of the straight-eight, the Model 53 used a 398 cubic inch twelve-cylinder engine designed by Pierce-Arrow Chief Engineer, Karl Wise. A dual-point Delco distributor provided ignition and dual Stromberg carburetors provided the mixture. The Model 53 engine developed 140 horsepower at 3,200 rpm. Prices ranged from $3,185 to $3,850.
The Models 51 and 52 used a slightly larger twelve: 429 cubic inches generating 150 horsepower at 3,200 rpm. The Model 52's were mounted on 142 and 147 inch wheelbases with five factory body styles available. The Model 51 cars used the 147 inch wheelbase frame and offered custom options from LeBaron and Brunn. Prices for the Pierce-bodied Model 52 cars ranged from $3,885 for the five-passenger Sedan to $4,250 for the seven-passenger Enclosed Drive Limousine.
To promote the new twelve-cylinder cars, Pierce-Arrow hired famous race driver Ab Jenkins to drive a 1932 Pierce-Arrow roadster, with the fenders removed, on the salt flats of Bonneville. The first of several tests was conducted in the fall of 1932. Jenkins drove for twenty-four hours with an average speed of 112.91 miles per hour. This test was repeated several times over the next few years, with Jenkins breaking his own record until finally setting a new world record of 127 miles per hour over a twenty-four hour period in 1934.
Despite the restyled bodies, the new engines, and the great publicity created by Ab Jenkins, Pierce-Arrow only sold 2,692 cars in 1932 and lost $3 million. The following year, the Studebaker Corporation, which owned controlling interest in Pierce-Arrow, sold Pierce-Arrow to a group of Buffalo investors. Pierce-Arrow ownership was once again firmly planted in Buffalo!
The 1932 Pierce-Arrows continue to be one of the most attractive and most popular models of the classic era. To learn more about these beautiful cars, we encourage you to JOIN the Pierce-Arrow Society!