Late 30s Pierce based on Cord

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    Here’s an exploration of a Cord-based Pierce. The famous Gordon Buehrig-designed 810 came out in 1936 and rested on a 125 wheelbase. It had a V8, front wheel drive and a front transaxle that initially proved unreliable (and am not sure it was ever fully fixed). In 1937 a 132 wheelbase model called the Custom was added to the line-up. It used many 810 body stampings but was around an inch taller than the 60 inch tall 810. Besides its 7 inch wider C-pillar one can spot a Custom by counting its hood slats. The 810 had seven while the Custom had eight owing to its slightly taller body.

    In Pierce form I chose to revert to rear wheel drive just like Hupmobile did when it bought Cord’s dies in the late 30s and fielded its own car. Unlike the conventional RWD Hupp version I rotated the front transaxle 180 degrees and moved it to the rear so that the transmission wouldn’t encroach on driver and front passenger footroom. This would have resulted in a rear transaxle with an independent rear suspension, perhaps similar to Cord’s front suspension.

    For appearance I deleted the bustle back trunk and compensated for the loss of luggage capacity by envisioning a rear bench seat that slid 7 inches back/forth depending on what was needed most… legroom or trunk space. A rear luggage rack could have also been offered as could rear fender skirts.

    The Cord Custom cost around $3,000 in 1937 so a Pierce-Arrow version would have cost at least as much. Perhaps it’s stunning appearance, acceleration and handling might have driven decent sales nonetheless.

    Roy Faulkner, who had been at A-C-D prior to joining P-A in late 1931 and rejoined the Indiana firm in late 1934, would have been the perfect person to help facilitate this opportunity. After 1937 when Cord got out of the car business, the dies could have been moved to Buffalo.


    Here’s a comparison of schematics. Was a fun exercise and easy to do in Paint.


    Interesting, I’m sure a Pierce version, built to Pierce standards would have sold well.


    No doubt, and with a little effort Pierce-Arrow could have even improved on the Cord design. For example, by adding side vent windows, which would have improved ventilation and enabled a new V-windscreen with better visibility and appearance because it would have narrowed Cord’s wide center divider, the windshield no longer needing to flip forward for ventilation. Another easy change would have been to reverse the location of the front door hinge and handle to bring the car to modern standards. A more significant change that smartly responded to customer demand for added luggage space would have been to tool new rear quarters and decklid fully integrated with the body. Besides looking better than the awkward bustle back then in vogue, it would have negated the need for rear seats that slid forward. I don’t show it but an optional rear mounted spare would have freed up even more luggage space and given the car a nice “Continental”” look.

    Lots of opportunity had Cord and Pierce-Arrow worked together. Certainly there was no need for Pierce to tool an entirely new car to save itself.”


    All great points, Paul.

    With the changes you mention, the car would have been wonderful.


    I like your willingness to challenge history and your abilities to illustrate

    the changes you would like to see are fascinating. The Cord design is a

    masterpiece that suffers from the tiniest deviation. I’m not repulsed by the

    side view you show (though fender skirts are a hard sell with me which is part

    of my California upbringing).I bet the front end would be a deal-breaker. The

    Cord couldn’t sell worth a hoot, though everybody wanted one. I have a 1937

    812 Cord Arm chair Westchester (yes the ACD Club knows of 3 survivors). It

    was built in 1936 and they couldn’t sell it. They retitled it to be a 1937

    model. Cord had a choice to sell a car for its customers to address its

    engineering issues, or to not sell a car at all. A Cord could cruise at 80 MPH

    all day with minimal noise. Ab Jenkins set a world record at 101.72 for 24

    hours in a supercharged stock model. Even the tires had to be factory ones.

    His best speed was 108.34 for ten miles. I doubt that a Cord type body with

    the weight of a P.A. engine and rear-wheel drive would handle like a Cord.

    I’ve been in the A.C.D. Club forever and at one Meet in the ’70’s, got to talk

    to Gordon Buehrig. I’d like to see the P.A. styling cues on the PACord. For

    all the Cord’s shortcomings, a half of them made still exist. Not too many

    American cars can equal that performance.


    Glad you like it, Craig. And Anthony, I was hoping there was a PAS member who also owned a Cord! That car was not only a styling but also an engineering tour de force. For you to have talked to The Master himself, well that just takes the cake.

    Your comments do make me wonder if the Cord unibody would have been able to carry what likely would have been another 500 lbs of Pierce weight. Cord’s front suspension probably would have been fine, the weight of Cord’s V8, front transaxle and supercharger probably in same ballpark as Pierce’s V12 alone. But the Pierce’s rear transaxle and independent rear suspension would have been much heavier than Cord’s simple setup and resulted in dumbbell weight distribution, which would have affected body flex. Given the success Pierce’s engineers had in strengthening the 836’s Studebaker-based frame they probably could have identified and solved any issues that cropped up. But as you said, the car would not have been as nimble as the Cord. On the other hand, compared to contemporary Cadillacs, Packards, Lincolns and Rolls-Royces it would have been a revelation.

    There was one additional issue that Pierce would have needed to address: Cord’s small backlight, and again technology could have saved the day, this time in the form of Imperial’s one-piece curved windshield that launched in 1934. Pierce would have needed to lean on the glass industry to pull ahead a large curved backlight that would appear en mass a few years later. Distortion need not have been a concern, folks just wanted better visibility. Doing so with a stylish one-piece solution is what was expected of a luxury maker. In fact the entire car, with its advanced features and design, and 61 inches tall vs 64 for Cadillac’s Sixty Special, probably would have been the biggest about-face that a car maker had ever made. And yet, perfectly believable and welcomed as a Pierce-Arrow.

    Not sure I posted this image in past threads, shows better view of front styling had it been adapted from the bigger Pierces. I think it would have looked striking and very luxurious. Pierce could have fielded its versions of Cord’s 125 wb 2-door models.


    Here’s a VERY rough rear three quarter look at that big backlight. Have also added a trunk rack, which would have been a simple way to increase trunk capacity for those occasional needs and a style element the rest of the time.


    And Anthony, here’s your non-skirted version.


    David Coco also owns a Cord. Pipe up, David!


    I think Paul’s renderings are very interesting. I think Mr. Costa says it best, many have tried to improve the look of the Cord, very few if any have been successful. The Cord design is just so timeless…..


    Paul, I like your front-end styling on the black car. After viewing all the

    botched customizer’s attempts during days past, with heaps of scorn, I think

    you’re on to something.


    Thanks Anthony. Came across a few Hupp Skylark videos recently, learned that they had actually incorporated one of the above suggestions: front and rear door vent windows. They also managed to fit their Six in a 10 inch shorter axle-dash length, which suggests that Pierce’s V12 would have had a good chance of fitting in Cord’s longer space.

    The Skylark demonstrates that at the very least a Pierce could have been created with conventional RWD using Pierce’s own transmission and solid rear axle. The trans tunnel would have cut into front passenger foot space as shown in the Hupp videos. Whether this would have been a non-starter for a critical mass of would-be Pierce customers would have been a question that needed quickly answered. There was one unsolved aesthetic issue with the Skylark’s use of Cord’s dies atop a conventional RWD layout: the rear port of body sat an inch or so higher to clear the solid rear axle; see image in third link. Not sure what exactly was crashing into what but if it was top of axle hitting bottom of rear seat, this need not have been an issue with the taller 132 wb Cord body . Was at the St. John’s Concours in Plymouth, MI today and got a chance to eye-ball a Cord up close. The distance between grill slats looked to be about an inch and a half. If it is true that the 132 car’s extra grill slat adds that amount to overall vehicle height, the rear seat could have been raised that much without loss of headroom, thus clearing the axle without having to raise the rear of the car.

    Another issue that apparently foiled Hupp and Graham was that Cord’s dies were not meant for volume manufacturer. For Pierce this would not have been a problem… Elmwood Ave would probably have have been happy as a clam to sell a few thousand cars a year, probably could have broken even at a thousand.


    I agree with Tony re: fender skirts. The open rear wheel looks better to me. I like the back window slight wrap around.


    Speaking of Hupps, a 1935 Hupmobile Aerodynamic 527T owns me. Designed by

    Raymond Loewy and Amos Northup of Murray. It came with a 127 inch wheelbase,

    power brakes, a 120 Hp eight, and many do-dads that Chrysler had on it’s

    Airflow (both were introduced Jan. 1, 1934). Any P.-A. upgrading would have

    to be sure not to down grade its wind tunnel tested wind cheating design.


    That’s a very special and rare car! Remember seeing a maroon one cruise down Michigan Ave through Dearborn probably 15 years ago. Well-balanced body style in same general category as 836A though more sporty and modern looking. Makes one wonder if the new P-A owners reached out to Hupp before deciding to do the in-house entry car for ’34.

    Let’s take a look at that R3Q without skirts. Gave me chance to tweak other things and wake up the trunk rack.


    Wish I had the money to build the black car, and it’s incredible to me how the Pierce fender lights work so well with the Cord body.

    Thanks for these dreams. If someone really built one, wonder who’d fuss at them the most, Pierce guys or Cord guys?


    Good pics from WheelsAge showing trans tunnel on Cord-based RWD Graham-Paige, click on image to scroll. Pretty wide tunnel up front, not much room for foot on gas pedal. Pics of rear seat show what the tunnel width would roughly be up front if gearbox were part of rear transaxle. Much less intrusive but a real technical challenge. Would Pierce have been up to it? Of course they would…


    You’re welcome David, these are fun. One thing I have learned from all this study and contemplation of automotive history is that by the Thirties luxury makers needed to learn to borrow with pride. For decades Cadillac did it masterfully but eventually showed what happens when taken too far. I believe it was Pierce-Arrow and Studebaker who did it first, and did it successfully.


    I’ll put a down payment on one if you add a fashionable hood ornament. Maybe

    a naked lady with a sword in her hand (as opposed to a naked man with a bow

    and arrow- naked men, please don’t take offense).

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