On Day 6 of my trip through the Northeast, Vy and I visited the Pierce-Arrow Museum. I didn’t want to take up the majority of that ride report day (coming soon) with 40 photos from one location, so here’s a separate post dedicated to a great museum!
This is an 1899 “Pierce Courting Tandem”. It was available in a traditional tandem frame as well as what you see here: a “combination frame” that uses a women’s frame design up front and men’s frame in the back – perfect for courting! Both options were available in 22 or 24 inch frames, and either way the price the back then was $85 ($2,643 today)
A “railroad bike” prototype designed by bicycle mechanic Charles N. Teeter, who would create the Light Railway Inspection Car Co. in 1895. The name would change several times, though this design basically continued in production until 1977. Teeter’s company would eventually become Perfect Circle Corporation, a manufacturer of piston rings (note the reproduction advertisement in the background):
This is the Autoped, the first mass-produced motorized scooter in the US. Built between 1915-1921, the Autoped was marketed towards the well-off to provide a more convenient alternative to walking, though some companies (such as the New York Postal Service) saw commercial applications for it as well. Top speed was a claimed 35 miles per hour, though reports suggest that it was unstable above 20.
The motor is a 4-stroke, 155cc unit and a electric version was briefly made available after the design was bought by Eveready, the battery company. For more information, check out this wonderful story on the Smithsonian – they have a 1918 model in their collection, and they note that the Autoped was even used by ‘delinquents who repurposed them as getaway vehicles.’
This Corvette was at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It featured fuel-injection and had several custom features like a larger front grill, larger side exhaust, dual side mirrors, and 15 coats of candy apple red paint.
A 1932 Duesenberg Model J Town Car. It was built for Anna Ingraham, daughter-in-law of Elias Ingraham, the founder of the Ingraham Clock company.
The Pierce-Arrow museum also has some Buffalo-related exhibits. One is this 1948 Playboy, one of 98 examples built by a company that couldn’t sell enough stocks to raise the necessary funding – investors were slightly spooked as Tucker Motor Company had gone bankrupt the same year.
It was a fine machine – the Automotive Engineer magazine called it best in its size class because of the 48 horsepower motor, all-steel unibody (and steel convertible top), independent front suspension, and more. But the car is best known for inadvertently giving its name to the famous magazine. Hugh Hefner’s friend’s mother worked at the Playboy car company and he liked the name so he used it after the company folded.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed a gas station in 1927 intended for a corner in downtown Buffalo, but it never came to fruition. In 2002, the museum decided to build a replica inside “to complement automobiles, motorcycles, and bicycles on display.”
Two of the last cars that Pierce-Arrow made were bulletproof limos ordered by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, one for himself and one for President Roosevelt. The museum says that the serial number of this car is the one that Hoover kept for himself. Both cars were V12-powered and capable of 110 miles per hour.
“The entire body, including the roof edges were lined with 1/16″ special alloy steel armor plate. The doors had a second 1/8″ layer of steel plate installed on the inner door frame to further reinforce the armor across the side of the vehicle…as you can see bullets easily pass through the body metal but only dent the armor plate.”
Per the museum, after the car was taken out of government duty, a private party bought it and shot it with .38 and .45 caliber rounds, “after which it was used as a touring display claiming it had been owned by the notorious gangster Dillinger.”
The final stop on our virtual tour is the 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow. Just five were built, and three are known to exist. The first one built sold for $2.3 million at a RM Sotheby’s auction in 2017. A different one sold in 2012 for $2.2 million at a Barrett-Jackson auction.
Marketing copy said “It gives you in 1933 the car of 1940” and called it “America’s First True Streamline Car.” The design came from Phil Wright after being told to “create a car that couldn’t be ignored.”
The (presumably) well-heeled owner, if sitting in the back while being driven around, could keep tabs on the velocity as there was a separate speedometer/odometer (as well as a clock) on the back of the front bench.
The archer hood ornament debuted on Pierce-Arrows in 1928, and they were used through 1938, when the company filed for bankruptcy. The original was wearing a helmet, though he got more stylized throughout the years.
Vy and I had a wonderful time at the museum. The $10 fee is more than reasonable for what you get to see, and the docents were very knowledgeable and personable. Like most non-essential businesses, the Pierce-Arrow Museum is currently closed. But hopefully you enjoyed this little tour, and it inspires you to check it out when it opens back up!