scott12180

Packard Twelve versus Pierce Twelve

Recommended Posts

Would anyone care to share some experience and opinion on the relative merits of the Packard Twelve versus the Pierce Arrow Twelve of the early-to-mid-1930's?

I'm sure everyone has their favorite, but from an engineeing point of view, from a reliability point of view, from a practicality point of view, etc. How would you compare the cars. I am speaking of owning one today, not necessarily back then.

Perhaps another way to phrase the question might be, what are the negative aspects of either car? Why would you avoid owning either one? It would be nice to hear from someone who has owned both and can really compare the two.

thanks for the thoughts. . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi- I've owned the Pierce 12, and can say that the torque and power are incredible. Mine was a '34 production Silver Arrow, and with all standard, original gearing, would go 70 to 75 easily. The mid 30's Pierce 12 was 462 cubic inches, while the Packard 12 was 385 cubic inches. That info was a quick Internet search, so I can stand to be corrected, and it may have varied through the years.

I've been inside both engines in the 8 cylinder configuration, and would rather work on and drive behind the Pierce 8 any time over the Packard. I've not worked on 12's, so it'll be interesting to see what the experienced engine builder might say here.

From an actual hands-on engineering standpoint, I believe the Pierce to be superior, it may be just a factor of 10 or 15 % better, but better. Stronger castings, more robust construction, hydraulic lifters vs. mechanical, are all good points about Pierce.

Let the fun begin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, I should have gone to my Packard book, was in a hurry, searched Internet and must have picked up an 8 cylinder number, sorry. Would still love to hear from someone who rebuilds 12's, a good experience opinion on the engineering and how robust, from a real standpoint. Fun stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe there were 2 Pierce 12s? One when they were with Studebaker and the later bigger one? Somebody that knows what they are talking about can jump in right here for me :-).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That much I can help with.

There were (at least) three Pierce Twelve engines.

In 1932, they offered a 398 cu-in (3-1/4" x 4) and a 429 (3-3/8 x 4). The 398 was only marginally more powerful than the 366 Eight due to the added internal friction and was dropped the following year.

In 1933 and later (not sure how much later) they offered the same 429 as the "small" Twelve plus a 469 (3-1/2 x 4) as the big Twelve.

--Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what it is worth on relative merits of cars, back in the 1960s I knew an old-time Cadillac mechanic who had worked on the great V-8s, 12s and 16s during the 1930s. And that's what he chose to work on when old cars became a hobby to him.

However, he said that he really respected Pierce Arrows -- but also, that Packards were great too.

Maybe the point is that they were both darn good, admirable cars -- and so were the Cadillacs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a general observation, the "Packard Guys" & "Pierce Guys" both seem to really love their respective marques. Chances are you won't go wrong with either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd still like to hear from a mechanic who has worked on both 12's. The machinist who works on my engines has told me what he thinks, not on 12's, but on both my '38 Packard Super 8 and a '31 Pierce 8 engines. He's been into both of them, soup to nuts, and he says he'll take the Pierce engine anytime, more robust construction, easier to work on, etc.

I agree, both are great engines, and great cars. Engineering design, and the execution of that design into the metal that makes the engine, can differ, however.

For example, if you talk to people who know the late 30's Packard engines, you'll find out that a LOT of them (particularly 1938 Super 8's) have casting problems, which show up as cracks in the block. The most common location for cracks is between valve seats. For some reason, this doesn't show up in '37 or '39 engines. This would lead one to believe that it was a material or casting technique problem, as the '37 and '38 engines are basically identical for sure.

Anyone out there with hands-on rebuilding experience of both 12's????

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to expand this discussion as to which was the overall better engine, the 1932-38 Pierce V-12, or the 1932-39 Packard Twelve. Has anyone unearthed any SAE or vintage tech papers, articles? Hard facts, not opinion. Pierce got good public relations value from Ab Jenkins' 24-hour Bonneville speed runs in a multi-carbureted, finely tuned, stripped down Pierce 12 roadster. Packard owned what luxury market remained in the Depression so probably didn't feel a need for such a stunt, tho' a Packard Twelve did beat a golf ball in a well-publicized event at the Packard Proving Grounds, then the fastest track on earth.

Seagraves used the Pierce 12 in their fire trucks into the late 1950s or early '60s, but rather than this suggest superiority it should be remembered that Seagraves bought the tooling for pennies on the dollar. Similarly, American LaFrance used an enlarged version of the Auburn V-12 with twin ignition.

I'm especially interested in both engines' final guise, the 462-cid Pierce 12, and 473-cid Packard Twelve. The final generation 1936-38 Pierce-Arrow 8 and 12 came with standard Warner Gear overdrive, which the Packard Twelve could've benifited from. But that's a car disparity.

What i'd like to find out is which was the better engine? Which had the edge? Or is it just too close to call?

Paging Dr. Hartmann and others. But i'd really like to hear if there are any SAE papers, etc. Hard facts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd like to expand this discussion as to which was the overall better engine, the 1932-38 Pierce V-12, or the 1932-39 Packard Twelve. Has anyone unearthed any SAE or vintage tech papers, articles? Hard facts, not opinion. Pierce got good public relations value from Ab Jenkins' 24-hour Bonneville speed runs in a multi-carbureted, finely tuned, stripped down Pierce 12 roadster. Packard owned what luxury market remained in the Depression so probably didn't feel a need for such a stunt, tho' a Packard Twelve did beat a golf ball in a well-publicized event at the Packard Proving Grounds, then the fastest track on earth.

Seagraves used the Pierce 12 in their fire trucks into the late 1950s or early '60s, but rather than this suggest superiority it should be remembered that Seagraves bought the tooling for pennies on the dollar. Similarly, American LaFrance used an enlarged version of the Auburn V-12 with twin ignition.

I'm especially interested in both engines' final guise, the 462-cid Pierce 12, and 473-cid Packard Twelve. The final generation 1936-38 Pierce-Arrow 8 and 12 came with standard Warner Gear overdrive, which the Packard Twelve could've benifited from. But that's a car disparity.

What i'd like to find out is which was the better engine? Which had the edge? Or is it just too close to call?

Paging Dr. Hartmann and others. But i'd really like to hear if there are any SAE papers, etc. Hard facts.

We've had a couple of Packard 12s in the family and still have one, but the ongoing 40 year long restoration seems to have gone over schedule so I can't comment on driving one. I've always liked the Pierce Arrow, although I've never driven one of those either. I'm wondering how the overdrive gear worked on the Pierce? Was the unit integral with the transmission or mounted behind it. Does it work on all 3 gears or is it like Mercedes where it's an over the top gear off of 3rd?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DUCKfur There is a lot of wisdom in what you say. While I can't specifically relate this to the two engines in question, there is the component of age. What was great then, can be a disaster after 3/4 of a century of decay, and aging of the metals. Something equal or better then, might be less so, or even a disaster today. Aluminum parts especially are quite suspect at this point. The bigger heavier manifolds of the Pierce and Packard seem to be more stable than the Buick and Caddy slip joint manifolds. Most if not all running V-8 Cords have had their heads replaced.

Another example is steel framed bodies vs. wood framed bodies. The steel framed cars (Dodge and Ford), and other mostly non Classics far outlasted the wood framed GMC and other cars.

How might this affect the discussion of the cars?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My comment about the bodies was an illustration about comparing vehicles after time has worked on the vehicles. It is somewhat easier to understand for some than comparing the stability of driveline components after time has impacted the cars. Not ment to take away from your comments.

Manifold wise, I would prefer the Pierce or Packard over the big GM cars. Aluminum heads are wonderful, but you almost have to figure replacing an original aluminum head in the near future, if it has not already been done.

Regarding the ease of finding parts, today, I would prefer the Packard over the Pierce, although i the late 20's early 30's era, parts for any big iron is tough. I have been amazingly lucky in finding parts for my 1930 Nash Twin Ignition 8, far more blessed than I imagined when I bought the remains. Now if you can find me a coupe body - not the one at the Peterson... you were not on that fantastic tour... I will be very happy.

Other than Fatty's Pierce, a very non Pierce looking Pierce, there were no Pierce Arrows at the Peterson. I think there were 2 or 3 Packards, not including the "atomic powered" Packard. Now that would be an engine for discussion!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would that be a third generation V-16? I know a Pierce was featured in The Sting, but in the day, it seemed gangsters perfered Lincolns. Would that have included the 12's? If so, why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dr. Hartm--Duck Fur makes a good point in an earlier e-mail on this thread about the Packard Twelve's more generous water passages and, of course, the valve arrangement, shared with the 1936-37 Cord 810/812 Lycoming V-8.

But it would still be nice if someone here could unearth or direct us to SAE papers on both engines, as these were arguably the two best luxury mills in the nation, if not the world.

Alsancle asks about the final generation 1936-38 Pierce 8 & 12 overdrive, which i understand to be a Warner Gear R-1 unit which bolts to the back of the transmission, is largely mechanical, coming in to play centrifugally at speeds of 40-45 mph, and locked out with a cable, like the later Packard R-9 and R-11 units, which had electrical control. Packard's first year for overdrive was 1939, and since only 446 '39 Twelves were delivered, Packard saw little sense in adapting a Warner Gear unit for their Twelve.

Pierce's speedometer features three coincentric rings showing mph, rpm in 3rd gear underdrive, and in 3rd gear overdrive.

You'd think the principle designers of both the Packard and Pierce V-12s would've written about their work in the day's SAE Journal. Of course, they're both fine mechanisms, but it'd be enlightening to glean the subtle differences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can speak for the 473 Packard V12 as I have been working and driving one for 20 years now and it is a very reliable torquie engine. with roller lifter and rockers it is smooth and reliable.

Could use an OD as 65-70mph is a good cruising speed with all the original running gear.

I drive it around town and never have to take it out of third gear.

The 39 I drive has the HC heads on it and only problem Ive had is the heads finnaly rotted and had to be replaced.

Its not as fuel friendly as my 40 super 8 and will not hold a candle to it for everyday driving or long trips. My personal preferance would be the Packard Super 8.

I have not seen a Pierce Arrow V12 running around my area, guess those that own them wont drive them, Shame to waste a car like that to a static display.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also have a 48 Lincoln Conv Coupe(not CCCA qulified but much rarer than a continential)

The little V12 will keep up and eat the mighty Packard on the road while getting 18mpg with the edelbrock 2x2 intake in OD.

Another fun car to drive as a daily driver. The ignition is the only pain to work on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Also have a 48 Lincoln Conv Coupe(not CCCA qulified but much rarer than a continential)

The little V12 will keep up and eat the mighty Packard on the road while getting 18mpg with the edelbrock 2x2 intake in OD.

Another fun car to drive as a daily driver. The ignition is the only pain to work on.

Is the Lincoln stock? I've never driven one myself so I can't comment from experience but I've heard many guys call them dogs - especially complaining if they get stuck behind one on a caravan going up hill. Is this criticism unfair?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, this old thread now reminds me of the discussion on early teens Cadillacs----I've heard many time that they are beautiful cars with engines a work of art, copper jacketed cylinders.....but any other four cylinder brass car can pass them on a hill.....easily.....fun stuff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Lincoln is stock except for 3 ring aluminum pistons, opened up the intake and exhaust runners rebalanced and blueprinted the entire engine and added slightly larger exhaust and the 2x2 intake manifold. I have driven it up hwy 80 from Sacramento to Reno and it will do better than hold its own on the steep grades. Most people dont know how to maintain thier old engines thats why they get a bad rap for being slugs. I drive mine all the time so I keep it in top shape.

But with the right gearing you just cant beat the Packard V12 for its dependability and power.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm shocked to see that Ed Minnie has not replied to this thread.   One thing I have learned in the last year is that it is very easy to warm over a Pierce 12, bring it up to almost 500 cubic inches and really make it a performer all without altering appearance, idle, or durability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now