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1938 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow design


Mahoning63
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More image work-ups of what a Pierce might have looked like had the company continued body sharing with Studebaker after the 1933 split. This thread focuses on 1938.

First is a '38 Studebaker President on 122" wheelbase. One of the biggest changes this year was a wider body forward of the B-piller.

Second is a Pierce torpedo sedan. Roof and rear fenders are the same as the President to save tooling costs. Front axle has been moved forward 5", rear axle moved back 10" for a new wheelbase of 137".

Third works in Silver Arrow show car styling. 1938 was probably Pierce's first real opportunity to do a production version of the show car in a cost-effective way because they could use Studebaker's new wide roof.

All thoughts welcome!

Paul West

12/23/11 UPDATE: added Torpedo Sedan image sans running boards.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Pierce's big problem was the obsolete solid front axle chassis. Other makers were going to IFS, only a few cheap cars did not have this feature.

It was not just the IFS ride they were after. Designers were moving the engine forward, between the wheels, to get more passenger room on the same wheelbase chassis. It is impossible to make the car low, and still have room for axle movement under the engine. The combination of forward engine, low build and decent suspension movement demands IFS.

Could Pierce have afforded a new, lower chassis in the modern mode with their own IFS design? If they could, then offering a modern lower priced straight eight with mass produced bodies would have made sense.

Would it have been possible for Studebaker to make the bodies by using Studebaker sedan sides and doors with a wider roof panel? This would have required tooling a new roof along with fenders, grille etc. Was the Stude body wide enough and roomy enough for an out and out luxury car?

Studebaker could have supplied bodies in white i.e. unfinished body shells with no glass, upholstery or instruments, for Pierce to finish to their own high standards.

Such a car with 150 HP Pierce straight eight, IFS and all steel body would have been strong competition for senior Lincoln Cadillac and Packard . They might even have made inroads in the Buick, LaSalle Lincoln Zephyr and Chrysler market.

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There is another "trick" for getting a bigger body out of the existing tooling. That is to make a body with interchangeable front and rear doors.

The Studebaker already had rear hinged rear doors. What if you made a longer body with the same front doors also used as rear doors? You would have a longer roomier luxury car body at a minimal cost of tooling.

Cord did the same trick with their sedans. Only they used a "trim die" to cut a notch in the bottom of the rear doors for fender clearance.

This would not be necessary on a long wheelbase Pierce. Look at the Chrysler Airflow. I don't know if they used interchangeable doors but the rear doors certainly resembled the fronts, and had no notch.

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On second glance it looks like you already took advantage of this idea in your Pierce renderings.

You have a good theme going. If Pierce and Studebaker could have stuck together, it might have been possible to keep Pierce alive.

In a few more years all car plants were converted to war production anyway. The Allies could have used the Pierce expertise in high quality production for aircraft engines, tanks etc.

And in the car hungry post war world there might have been a place for another luxury car. Packard more or less conceded the top spot to Cadillac without a fight. It would have been interesting to see what Pierce might have done in the fifties.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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All interesting points. Pierce never was serious about the lower priced market. The only attempt by the company was the 836 in the mid-30's, and it was a feeble attempt. Eliminating hood louvers, changing the grill from louvers to stamped, and a few other minor changes, do not get you in the lower priced market effectively.

Packard did it correctly, with the 110,115, 120 series in the mid to late 30's, and that saved them. The volume of Packard Senior cars (for example, 1938 was 2500 senior cars total, 8's and 12's) would hardly support a large manufacturing effort.

Interesting styling concepts, thanks for sharing....

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I don't know if Pierce should have considered a lower price market. Studebaker had that covered. Pierce Arrow dealers dualled with Studebaker would have had a lower priced bread and butter line if they needed it.

Looking at the Silver Arrow from 1933, I think the first mass produced car to integrate the front fender line into the body in this way was the 1947 Studebaker. Wonder what a 1947 Pierce Arrow with Land Cruiser body would have looked like?

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Great insights and observations! Let’s keep digging, this analysis is probably long overdue.

IFS

You nailed it Rusty, this was a key element. And great point about the engines moving forward.

Here are some related questions surrounding the possibility of Pierce using Studebaker’s planar wheel suspension, which would have saved Pierce a boatload of money:

- What was common between the suspensions of the ’32 Commander/’33 President 82 on 125” WB , ‘32/’33 President on 135”WB, ’32 Pierce Model 53/54 and ’33 Pierce 836/1236?

- If there was sharing in whole or in part, how did the heavier Studebaker President 337 Eight on 135” WB and the Pierces handle the extra weight? If they simply beefed up the shocks etc, maybe it could have been done again with Studebaker’s ’35 Planar Wheel IFS.

- Is it possible that Studebaker overdesigned its’ IFS either because it was a first attempt, or to protect for a possible rebirth of the 337 Eight President, or because design work began prior to that car’s cancellation in mid-1933?

If any of this occurred then an IFS was potentially available to Pierce. If not, one more burden to shoulder.

Chassis

To what extent did the two companies share frames, steering, etc for the ‘32/’33 models listed above? Not wheelbases, we know they were different, but everything else… frame cross sections, cross members, body mount locations, running board flanges, etc. To what extent could Pierce have used Studebaker chassis parts post-1933? If significant, more money saved for Pierce. One thing is absolutely clear: Studebaker’s rooflines and beltlines were a few inches lower than Pierce’s senior cars from 1932 on. This is what most customers wanted. By losing Studebaker, Pierce headed in the wrong direction in 1934.

Body

To Rusty’s question of whether the ’38 Studebaker body was roomy enough for a luxury car, width-wise I would say yes. Luxury cars weren’t much wider in those days than medium and even some lower priced cars, in some cases they were narrower inside. The question was really one of rear legroom. For 34/35, Pierce could have used Studebaker’s numerous body stampings to build up lots of different body sizes to suit its needs, as they had in 32/33. The ‘36 Studebaker one-piece all steel roof considerably reduced the body possibilities available to Pierce but does raise a question: could they have cut and welded in roof center sections to add length? (did Packard do this with its ’38 and later long-wheelbase Junior line? Did ANYBODY do this?). The good news was that the ‘36 Studebaker touring sedan, like most touring sedans of the day, still had limo-like rear legroom, so Pierce could have put the roof on a long wheelbase chassis to create a more cab-forward club sedan body just like they did with their ‘32/’33 club sedans. I worked up one design possibility that some of us discussed last year.

The ’38-40 Studebaker roof looks to be a few inches shorter than the ‘36/37. Was it enough for a ’38-40 Pierce luxury car? I would say yes so long as the car continued the close-coupled 3-box sedan theme that I suggested for ’36. More and more people by then were willing to accept the trade-off of less rear legroom for sportier styling. (Note: I have added an image above that deletes the running boards, for buyers who preferred clean sides like the sporty Cord 810).

Regarding Rusty’s suggestion for common front/rear doors, definitely yes if it were to have saved money. For the work-ups above I added a few inches to the front doors assuming Pierce could trim Studebaker’s longer coupe doors and the doors would fit the for-aft curvature of the sedan’s roof. I also added several inches to the rear doors to maintain the same termination point above the rear fender. There were many other approaches; Pierce would have needed to explore them all. My guess is that tooling new rear doors would have been within their financial reach but that the roof needed to be used as is with the rest of the car being designed around it.

Will need to give a ’47 Land Cruiser the Pierce treatment. Had avoided it because Studebaker went mid-size that year. My thought was that had Pierce saved themselves pre-war they might have been able to purchase from Studebaker the pre-war tooling so they could continue producing the pre-war models until 1949 or so. After that… fodder for another thread!

Low-Priced Car

Agreed, a lower priced car like the One Twenty was unwise and unaffordable. By hoping until the bitter end for $11M to magically materialize, Pierce squandered a small window of opportunity to realistically save themselves. In retrospect it is clear that the Buffalo businessmen should have never surrendered the body sharing arrangement that Pierce enjoyed with Studebaker. It should have been a precondition to the 1933 purchase. Equally true, Pierce could have approached Studebaker at any time post-1933 to resume sharing, such as for the 1936 cars.

Last-Ditch Effort Survival Scenarios

Let’s assume that Pierce did none of these things, the Travelodge still happened and suddenly it was late 1937 and they found themselves engaged in one last desperate attempt to survive, still thinking the $700 - $1000 car was the only option. There are strong arguments to be made for instead pursuing a heavily Studebaker-based car priced in the $1500 - $2000 range. I’d like to instead flesh out rationale for a $2500 - $3000 car.

Had Pierce been watching the market carefully in late 1937 they would have witnessed a new window of opportunity suddenly open up that was perfectly aligned with their longstanding mission in life – to make the world’s best luxury cars. The opportunity was made stark plain for all to see in October 1937 with the introduction of the Cadillac Sixty Special. With it came a new look of luxury and a new lease on life for the luxury car market. By December 1937 consider the data that Pierce had in front of them:

- By reducing their labor force from 2400 down to 700 in 1935, they had established a new break-even volume of only 1000 units

- 1937 Packard Twelve with IFS and priced from $3450 sold an astonishing 1300 units. This and the Lincoln Zephyr demonstrated that the market would buy a V12.

- 1937 Packard Super Eight priced from $2335 sold 5793 units

- Packard’s 1938 Senior cars were now priced from $2790 with total sales tracking at 3000 units despite the recession, demonstrating modest sales viability in the $2500+ market.

- 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special priced from $2085 was tracking at 3000+ annual sales and was handily outselling Cadillac’s lower priced models

- 1938 Studebaker’s lower, wider, sportier design was well received

In light of the market’s demonstration of modest but genuine sales viability in the $2500+ luxury market and the fact that such a price represented, realistically, the lowest priced car that Pierce was set up to produce with minimal or no factory modifications, and given Cadillac’s sudden dramatic reinvention of the luxury car, perhaps all Pierce needed to ask themselves were the following questions: “What if we were to make a car like the Cadillac Sixty Special but at the next higher price level? Could we do it with low investment, good profit margins and annual sales comfortably above 1000 units?”

After which might have ensued the following conversation: “Let’s start by focusing on what we know how to do and have done before. We definitely know how to turn a low priced Studebaker into a $2500 - $3000 Pierce that is worthy of everything we have long stood for. We know the ‘38 Studebaker has advanced technology and progressive design elements such as a wider body and steeply raked windshield just like the new Cadillac, and the roof looks to be of sufficient size and perfectly shaped for such a car. Front fenders and axle-to-firewall look a bit short but we can change that and maybe even use our existing front fenders. Rear fenders look fine. To give the car the length and flow it needs, we can move the rear wheels back around 10 inches just like we and Studebaker’s President did in ‘32/33. And conveniently, we still have the phone numbers of everyone in South Bend that we would need to call to arrange all this. But they’ll probably want a carrot in return for letting us buy their body and chassis pieces. Maybe we should retire our Eight and relieve them of the burden and plant complexity of casting it. We know the market still wants a V12 if it powers a thoroughly modern car, and we shouldn’t assume these same folks would buy such a car powered by our Eight if it costs several hundred dollars more than the Sixty Special V8. Let’s not worry about Cadillac’s new V16, it still has too many cylinders for its own good and isn’t selling. Let’s instead go V12 across the board and settle the score in the public’s eye as to who the premiere luxury maker really is.”

With this December 1937 revelation complete, the next steps would have been fairly clear:

- Call Studebaker and begin negotiations.

- Buy a President 5-pass sedan, 5-pass coupe and 3-pass business coupe and start cutting and welding. Trim and square the front of the hood, trim the coupe’s front door back several inches, trim the business coupe’s decklid to fit into newly fabricated rear quarter panels. Cut and lengthen the frame in two places, up front and at mid-length. Cut and lengthen the floorpan. Fabricate new motor mounts that marry the V12 to the frame. Fashion a Pierce grill that blends tradition with modernity.

- Work around the clock and ready the car for the January NY Auto Show. Lock down approval from Studebaker for the plan, then show the car and watch the energy build.

- Leverage the rave reviews to attract capital needed to bring to production. Convince the judge to allow more time to pay off creditors.

- Accept advance orders and ready the car by April or May similar to how Studebaker rushed the ’34 Land Cruiser to market.

- Create an expanded dealer network that includes Pierce’s existing dealers plus select Studebaker dealers capable of showing and servicing the cars to the high standards demanded by Pierce.

- Start making cars again! Maybe 750 – 1000 for the remainder of the model year with month over month increases well into 1939.

- By mid-1939 be operating in the black and start working with Studebaker on the 1941 model changeover.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Paul

Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Studebaker could have supplied bodies in white i.e. unfinished body shells with no glass, upholstery or instruments, for Pierce to finish to their own high standards.

Was remiss in addressing this, Rusty. Great idea. Upside would have been big production savings since Studebaker could have probably built up the bodies more efficiently. Downside might have been same issue Packard had in considering Nash-built bodies; i.e., shipping a substantial amount of air. The other factor was Studebaker's willingness to take on more plant complexity. On balance, maybe it was the way to go for a car based more fully on a Studebaker where everything was common aft of the firewall. Under that scenario, letting Studebaker make the whole car and shipping them the unique parts might have worked too.

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According to an old book on Pierce Arrow, the Pierce and Studebaker had nothing in common.

There was some confusion about this. Pierce brought out a new straight eight about the time of the merger and some have assumed the Pierce engine was a reworked Stude. Not true, they were completely different engines.

The Pierce engine was designed in Buffalo by Pierce engineers. Some parts were made by Studebaker in South Bend. This was a common sense use of Stude facilities. Castings were made using Pierce supplied tooling, using iron alloyed according to Pierce specs. In other words, the same as if Pierce had bought castings from any outside foundry.

I thought Pierce built bodies in their own shops with traditional aluminum panels over wood frames. Would be interesting if they did use Stude bodies in the early thirties. Of course any customer could order a Pierce chassis and have it bodied by their favorite custom body company.

By the late 30s the industry had gone over to mass produced all steel bodies. Even for expensive cars like Packard and Cadillac the mass produced jobs accounted for probably 90% of sales.

There was no reason for Pierce to produce a "tin lizzie". But if they could have put a car in the showrooms, of Pierce quality and appointments, to sell in the $2000 to $3000 bracket they should have been able to sell 5000 to 10000 per year. Especially if the larger Studebaker dealers had also been able to handle Pierce sales and service.

I believe one of the problems Pierce had was their image. In the New Deal age they resembled a throwback to the bad old days, a car for dowagers and tycoons, the sort of people who were blamed for the Depression.

If they could have mounted some sort of publicity or advertising campaign to update their image, possibly by associating their product with famous actors and actresses, athletes or successful young business and professional men and important government figures it might have helped sell the car to younger buyers. And of course, you can always sell a young man's car to an old man but you can't sell an old man's car to a young man.

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If Pierce had brought out an independent suspension chassis it would have had to have been much heavier built than the Studebaker.

Don't forget, they would have used the same basic chassis, in different lengths, for the straight eight production models, long wheelbase straight eight custom models like limousines and professional cars, and also the 12 cylinder equivalents.

They would have needed a heavier suspension and also a more sophisticated one to give the ride quality demanded of a Pierce Arrow.

A new IFS and chassis design would have been expensive to tool, but could have been used with minor modifications for 10 years and on various models. Brakes and rear axles could have been bought from the usual suppliers with no expense for new tooling.

This would have been practical IF they could have sold enough cars. From the statements above, they cut their costs to the point where break even was only 1000 units a year but that was producing existing designs. If they could have got sales up to 5000 or 10000 a year they would have had the money for a new chassis.

They would have had to put all this in hand long before 1937 or 38. It should have been part of future planning in the early 30s, but this assumes the Pierce Studebaker merger had continued after 1933 and that the combination was not so strapped for cash they could not afford new tooling. Indeed, before the depression Studebaker and Pierce were both in a very sound condition financially but some bad decisions dissipated their resources and left them financially weak.

It is easy to play the what if game. But if they had done things a little differently both Pierce and Studebaker could have come through in much better shape.

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My understanding is that Pierce and Studebaker shared very little if anything on the chassis and drivetrain, late 20's and 30's.

Anyone who's restored a Pierce will attest to the robustness of the engineering and build, over engineering that was found in very few vehicles of the time.

Most Pierce bodies of that period were built in house, with the exception of some open body styles. Many of these were produced by the LaBaron shops, and delivered "in the white" to Pierce for completion. These were not LeBaron bodies, but rather bodies built to Pierce design by LeBaron. There were many custom bodied cars of course, but I'm referring to factory available body styles.

The long and short of it is that Pierce management always wanted to maintain the image of a high dollar, fine automobile. Sure, they made trucks and travel trailers along the way, but the core business was the automobile. The 1936-38 models were as fine a road car as was available, with plenty of power and an automatic overdrive, and a newly designed geometry for the steering that made such cars effortless to steer.

1938 saw many fine cars disappear from the automotive scene. No more Pierce Arrow, Cords, Duesenbergs..........as the economy worsened, prior to the war (which, although sad in loss of life, actually helped the economy by creating tens of thousands of war time jobs).

Of course, the other thing the war did was destroy tens of thousands of what are now collectable cars.........survival rates for many cars would be much higher had the war never happened....

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Rusty hit the nail right on the head. They needed to market a young man's car. The 32/33 Studebaker-based models were moving in that direction. Take a look at the '32 Model 53/54 Club Sedan. One hot car.

Colorful but Dignified | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Pierce should have kept the momentum going after the split with Studebaker. One way or the other, by 1938 they should have found their way to a modern interpretation of trimacar's "high dollar, fine automobile" that both the old and new money preferred. A step-up car from even the 60 Special, 75, 90 and Packard Twelve at a price that offered just as much value, in its own way, as a Ford.

Personally I think the Buffalo businessmen held the cards to Pierce's ultimate fate, not the Depression or Studebaker's '33 implosion. Pierce needed vision from someone in that group with the total package - design sense, manufacturing sense, marketing sense and hard-nosed business sense. The $1M payed to Studebaker should have been held out to South Bend like a free falling climber's last rock to grab. The businessmen's choice of the Postmaster General for the top spot in 1937 pretty much summed up their knowledge of the car business. They needed a leader who could deliver great cars, not the mail.

On the question of commonality with Studebaker, literature through the years seems to have laid to rest the question surrounding the Eight. It was all Pierce in design, almost completely Pierce in components. The bodies in 32 and 33 were a different story. Pierce abandoned aluminum-over-wood in 1929. I don't know if there was body sharing in 1929-31 but by 1932 the President and Model 53/54 shared quite a bit. Not exact bodies in most cases but many body stampings, rearranged by Pierce in unique ways. The cars were largely made of steel with minimal use of wood and were apparently darn good, in some respects a better overall package than the more senior Pierces.

I like the argument for a 5000 to 10,000 unit per year line-up of cars, would have been a stable position for a luxury maker to operate from if a volume company like Studebaker were helping foot the bill for major stampings and research into key technologies like IFS and automatic transmissions.

Here's more eye candy that fills out the line-up I suggested earlier. These cars would have been derivatives of the sedan and could have been readied for the 1939 model year or possibly earlier. The Pierce coupe uses Studebaker’s 6-pass coupe roof (which was around 4 inches shorter than the sedan) and front door (around 10 inches longer than the Studebaker sedan and 6-7 inches longer than my Pierce sedan). Decklid and rear quarter panels would have come from the new Pierce sedan. A convertible version with roll down rear quarter windows would have been an easy conversion. A 7-pass touring sedan/limo would have needed around a 5 inch wheelbase stretch over the sedan and use of the sedan's front and rear doors (with a smaller notch trimmed from the rear door's fender curve). It would have also requried a cut and lengthened sedan roof (assuming this could be done) and unique decklid and quarter panels. Convertible sedans and town cars could have been catalogued with minimal investment.

(12/26 UPDATE: rescaled the images and included the sedan again so you can better see the changes from one model to the next. Have also included two 127" wheelbase Eights priced in the $1750 - $2000 range that would have used the 5 inch longer hood/fenders established by the V12s but otherwise have used Studebaker bodies and rolled down the Studebaker line. V12 cars would have been built in Buffalo and priced in the $2750 - $3000 range.)

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Here's the Twelve line-up with running boards included. Also worked out a different 8-pass sedan, this time using the Studebaker coupe's front doors, sport sedan's new rear doors and Studebaker touring sedan's rear quarter panels and decklid. Would have added 15 inches to rear legroom compared to Studebaker's touring sedan. Might have been a bit tight for 8 people but the car itself would have involved very little investment on Pierce's part.

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Here's some data comparing the 1932 Studebaker and Pierce Model 54 to the 1940 Packard. I chose these two years because the Studebaker President and Pierce Model 54 largely accomplished in 1932 what Packard took another 8 years to fully achieve, namely the creation of a new rationalized line of luxury cars that borrowed body stampings and other components from lesser models.

The low-priced Studebakers and Packards matched up fairly well except that Packard didn't have anything to offer in the $1,450 range until the Clipper came out in mid-1941.

At the luxury end, the Studebaker President and Pierce 54 sold much better as a percentage of total sales than the One Sixty and One Eighty. Interestingly, the Pierce sold quite well compared to the less expensive President while the One Eighty was a bit of a flop compared to the One Sixty. Perhaps one reason was that the Pierce Model 54, and to a lesser extent the President, offered a unique style and image compared to the low-priced Studebakers. The One Sixty and One Eighty, by contrast, were too close to the One Twenty and even One Ten, a weakness aggravated when Clipper styling was cascaded throughout the entire 1942 line-up.

What all this suggests is that Studebaker and Pierce had created a winning formula as early as 1932, one the entire industry would eventually follow in whole or in part. Even GM was caught off-guard, the LaSalle not sharing with lesser GM models until 1934 and Cadillac not until 1936. Had Pierce somehow kept its clever sharing arrangement with Studebaker after the 1933 split, improved industry sales were only a few years away. And had Pierce also jumped on the new 3-box luxury sedan bandwagon, success was all but guaranteed. Even Packard couldn't dial in such perfect arrangement: the less expensive Studebakers delivered the volumes needed to amortize most of the tooling while Pierce hovered above the fray, few customers ever realizing the full extent to which they borrowed with pride.

Of course, Cadillac used the same strategy and with great results although they sometimes drifted dangerously close to GM's lesser models. This is one reason I am not an enthusiastic fan of strategies involving Pierce using entire Studebaker bodies to create a sub-$2,000 car. Pierce made a nice living off sales of 2000 - 3000 units when its products were at the pinnacle of American luxury and the market could support. Such a combo was possible in the Thirties once Studebaker got involved and new styling trends reignited the luxury car market.

Other opinions?

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Here's an update to an idea I posted some time ago for a '41 Studebaker-based Pierce-Arrow. The formula is the same as the '38 above... start with Studebaker's roof and build a flowing sport sedan around it. For this work-up I moved the rear wheels back 4 inches to get rid of Studebaker's stubby cab-rearward look, used the Studebaker coupe's rear quarters and decklid, got rid of the body insert between the front and rear doors by switching to reverse opening rear doors, moved the front axle forward about 4.5 inches and fashioned a Pierce grill up front. I didn't touch the headlights but Pierce could have fiddled with a number of shapes and locations, though by now they would no longer be able to claim the industry's only fender-mounted headlights. Using the Studebaker coupe's one piece windshield would have lent a new element of exclusivity. A coupe, convertible and 8-passenger sedan were also possible without too much new tooling. Such a line-up could have carried Pierce through 1947, maybe longer with a freshioning in say, 1948 that included flow-through front fenders and other updates.

The goal of all these work-ups is to hopefully demystify how Pierce might have survived the Depression. It wasn't necessarily an impossible task nor did it require tons of money or a cheap car for volume. The road to success was pretty simple when you boil it down, in hindsight anyway: collaborate with a mass market company that had a good handle on design (like Studebaker), buy their body stampings and other technologies, and mix it all together to create the next big thing in luxury car design.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Here’s a thought on how Pierce might have approached the $1000 market in the late Thirties that minimized investment and kept the Pierce mystique alive. The idea would have been to offer custom-bodied styling and a quality interior on a humble yet competent chassis. The donor car would have been the all new $700 1939 Champion 3-pass coupe with a 78 HP Six, 110 wheelbase and 2300 lb weight. Pierce would have received from Studebaker the Champion chassis and body stampings, then lowered the body a few inches and welded in a new greenhouse with chrome windshield and frameless windows. A convertible would have also been offered but not a 4-door because the short wheelbase would have ruined its proportions. Front seats would have been individually adjustable, and two rear jump seats would have flipped away for extra cargo space. Maybe a two-barrel carburetor could have been fitted for extra power. Sales volumes for these little $1000 Motorettes would not have been high, maybe 1000 – 2000 units per year, but the new series would have helped to keep the plant busy and brought in younger customers looking for their first taste of the good life. The market would have viewed the cars as “junior” in all respects but still possessing much of the ritz, glamour and quality of Pierce's large cars.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Here's a front three quarter comparison between the 1939 Studebaker Champion and proposed Pierce. I made most but not all of the changes suggested earlier; still need to blend in a chrome windshield. I kept the Champion's ovoid headlights to minimize tear-up to the fenders and blended in a more traditional '34/35 Pierce grill but it did raise the question of what was next for Pierce with frontal design. Change was happening all around them and they needed to stay modern but still maintain good taste and distinction. Packard faced the same challenge. I wonder what the Pierce designers were thinking for '39/40. Maybe this car would have been a good candidate for a new design.

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Edited by Mahoning63
Replaced the images with an update that has a different grill shape, longer hood and archer. (see edit history)
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Here's a great article on a Champion custom that hints at what the car's potential was.

1940 Studebaker Champion Images, Information and History | Conceptcarz.com

Had Pierce-Arrow offered a Champion-based sport coupe and convertible, Mr. Griswold may well have bought it over this Derham-bodied Champion phaeton for his wife's 21st birthday. He fit the profile perfectly: rich, enjoyed the sporting life and appreciated stylish, lightweight, intelligent cars. A small market to be sure, but one that Pierce would have enjoyed all to itself.

NOTE: updated the image above.

Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's an exploration of how Pierce-Arrow might have survived in the immediate post-war years. The strategy would have remained the same... stay small, keep investment low, live with higher piece and labor costs and work out a sharing arrangement with a volume car maker on top of its game.

Assuming Studebaker's shift to medium cars after the war would have happened even if Pierce had collaborated pre-war (a big IF?), Pierce would have needed to go shopping for another car company. Hudson would have been a possibility as would Nash. I chose a '49 Nash Ambassador-based Pierce because the Ambassador had potential with only modest body re-work, which would have freed up Pierce to channel more of its limited capital towards a new OHV or OHC engine (I like a V12 to keep P-A above Cadillac) and an automatic transmission. Also, George Mason, Nash's CEO, would have probably been receptive. The new series would launch in 1949 and include a sedan, coupe, LWB sedan and 7-pass sedan. As a side benefit to working with Nash, the 1950 Rambler would have provided a great basis for a new coupe/convertible.

For these images of the entry level Pierce sedan I chose to keep the doors, floorpan, hood and most of the unibody stucture. New items would include front fenders and grill, rear fenders/decklid/end panels and underlying unibody structure and a new rear roof section to be welded to the existing front roof section. Underhood would be, let's say, a 429 CID V12 with OHVs or OHCs and 200+ HP, manufactured on the same line as the old V12 to keep investment down. Something light (for a V12) and efficient. Also new would be an automatic transmission that Nash would help fund and use in its own products.

Could the Nash have been made to look pretty? My feeling is (to quote GF II)... "Difficult, not impossible."

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's a '49 Lincoln Cosmopolitan-based Pierce-Arrow work-up. Front axle has been moved forward 5 inches, rear overhang extended 4 inches. Car would have been about 3-1/2 inches longer than the '49 Cadillac 60 Special with similar interior room. A modern OHV V12 with automatic would have kept Pierce at the top of the luxury market.

I also tried '47 Kaiser and '48 Hudson-based Pierce work-ups. The Kaiser body could probably have been styled to look OK if dimensions were lengthened similar to the Lincoln work-up but the final product might have been too narrow for a luxury car. The Hudson's narrow rear track and crab shape would have been hard to overcome without major and expensive tear-up on Pierce's part.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Let's assume Pierce struck a deal with Ford to make the Cosmopolitan-based, V12-engined series for 1949. By 1952 the arrangement might have fallen apart when Ford began the Continental Mk II project, which would have competed with Pierce. Kaiser and Hudson would still have had little to offer but Nash would have developed a greatly improved car.

Here's an idea for a Nash-based 1952 Pierce V12 on a 130" wheelbase. Compare with the Ambassador on 121.5" wheelbase. The Pierce also has 16" wheels with a wider front track and fender cut-out, a taller grill, longer rear overhang, some clean up around the A-pillar and the archer out front.

Rambler or Nash-Healey might have served as a good basis for a new Motorette GT, possibly replacing a Pierce GT based on the 1951-54 Ford Facel Comete. I show that car because it has a definate familial resemblance to the Cosmopolitan. Another possible replacement for it was the 1954-60 Talbot Lago Grand Sport. Pierce could have had the chassis and body panels shipped from France to Buffalo then assembled the car and installed its own Six and interior. Same with the Comete. The Talbot car would have had a familial resemblance to the 1952 Nash-based Pierce large car because they were both influenced by period Italian design.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Here's a Town Car on a stretched 140" wheelbase. Convertibles, limos, 8 pass sedans, even phaetons could have been catalogued. Prices would have been high and volumes low but these were the types of cars that would have helped keep Pierce above Cadillac. All the more reason why Pierce needed to maintain its Buffalo factory's high level of proficiency with semi-custom body building. Nash probably could have built the basic sedan and hardtop coupe in its own factory and shipped them in the white, as someone mentioned in an earlier thread wrt Pierce/Studebaker.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Another direction that Pierce might have taken after the war would have been to continue its pre-war collaboration with Studebaker to create an updated small Six and large V12. Benefits, beyond some potentially excellent cars, would have included continuity with the dualed dealerships and possibly a new OHV V12 derived from Studebaker's V8. The biggest risk, in retrospect, would have been Studebaker's eventual weakened business performance.

The small Pierce could have used the '47 Commander's long hood and front fenders, with the body sectioned and lowered similar to the '40 Motorette. I brought the height down almost 3 inches, mostly from the body, some from the windshield. Chose to stay with the 110" wheelbase like the previous GT. New frame, roof, rear quarters and decklid would have been needed and the floorpan would have needed shortened.

The large Pierce could have used Studebaker's doors either in whole or trimmed, while Studebaker's floorpan and firewall would have needed sectioned to add both length and width. New frame, roof, windshield, front fenders/hood and rear quarters/decklid would have been needed. I added 2 inches to the 123" wheelbase Land Cruiser's body, 8 inches to its hood (15" to the short-hooded Champion, shown) and 9 inches to its rear overhang. Length would have been about an inch longer than the '48 Cadillac Sixty Special. Also bumped up the wheel size to 16" for proportions.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Decided to give the '49 Chrysler New Yorker a try with inspiration from the '33 Silver Arrow. Has unique front fenders, front and rear door outers and one piece curved windshield, modified roof and door window frames and lengthened front doors. Otherwise stock New Yorker. The 462 V12 might have still sufficed mated to GM's Hydramatic. Perhaps Pierce could have worked with Chrysler to develop an OHV V12 hemi for 1951 of 400 - 450 cubic inches, or an enlarged version of Chrysler's 331 V8.

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Edited by Mahoning63
Modified the design to use NYr's rear doors. Also has chromed window frames. (see edit history)
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