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1930 Pierce Arrow Land Speed Record Car from American Picker's TV Show Unearthed!


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Many of you have seen the American Picker's TV show where they discover a Pierce Arrow LSR car from the 30's. Well here it is unearthed and saved. Frame and running gear all appear to be 1929 Pierce Arrow with numerous modifications like the engine relocated to the point it almost scrapes the ground, lowerin blocks, custom controls, etc. It has a 300MPH speedometer! The body was originally canvass like the ol planes of the 20's and you can still see some of it on the aluminum birdcage frame.

Any information, photos or history for this car would be greatly appreciated! More photos to follow.

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I need nore detailed photos to properly ID the car. Engine number, engine details and photos, it has a modified exhaust manifold, custom intake, It would help to have lots more photos...... I also would post on HAMB as you will have a much wider group of people to ask. You can PM me and i'll send you my direct email if you like. Ed

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I need nore detailed photos to properly ID the car. Engine number, engine details and photos, it has a modified exhaust manifold, custom intake, It would help to have lots more photos...... I also would post on HAMB as you will have a much wider group of people to ask. You can PM me and i'll send you my direct email if you like. Ed

It's already on the H.A.M.B.

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I need nore detailed photos to properly ID the car. Engine number, engine details and photos, it has a modified exhaust manifold, custom intake, It would help to have lots more photos...... I also would post on HAMB as you will have a much wider group of people to ask. You can PM me and i'll send you my direct email if you like. Ed

The engine numbers are 44363 K*A*5 Trans numbers are T-74-178

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I remember the episode and the talk then, it was in a guy's back yard in Florida. Glad it's been saved, no matter what it is.

Agree with the airplane comment, that's so true, there's not a gear set ever made that would get that engine to move that beast anywhere near 300 mph.....

Interesting project.......are you going to restore it?

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I think it is cool. This is the L29 "LSR" I was referring to. It was built as a movie prop for a Jimmy Stewart Movie around 1937. In the 1930s there were a number of "Specials" built that looked like LSR cars but were really street speedsters.

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Whether or not it's a movie prop or somebody's pipedream, it's a very cool find. As I stated on the HAMB, it would be great to see it restored to it's original condition. That being said, I know finding speed parts for a 29 Pierce Arrow is going to be tough going. I suspect a lot of those parts were scratch built then, so at least that means it should be possible to recreate them.

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We took the car to it's firsrt car show fresh out of the mud less than 24 hours after extracting it from the backyard it sat in for 25 years. IT WON ITS FIRST TROPHY!! LOL There was a huge crowd around it all day much to the dismay of many a polished Ferrari owner. :)

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Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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In the 1930s there were a number of "Specials" built that looked like LSR cars but were really street speedsters.

Would those cars go as far as canvas bodies too or would they have used typical methods? That alone may help get some answers.

Karguy, I love that you found this, I remember seeing it on the show and was surprised that the guys just let it go, it seemed right up their alley so I thought they would at least call an expert in for an opinion, but they just went on to the next oil can or dusty motorcycle gloves. I think it's a good move to leave it exactly alone until you know what you've got, as you said do the research first, wise man. Depending upon what it turns out to be, it could make a great feature for West to have fun with!

I just noticed that the little girl in the stroller is actually taking a photo of the car with her cameraphone! There's proof that engaging the next generation is valuable and has an immediate payoff. She may never forget that car and you might see her in 20-years on the show field with her own special ride, in a vintage 2008 model.

Edited by MarrsCars (see edit history)
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There are way too many special features on this car for it to have been a "street speedster" or some other road going variant. There were never any lights or brake lights or even a rear window or mirrors to see out of on the car. The compression was so high on the engine that they literally welded the spark plugs to the head so that they would not blow them out of the socket on the speed run. The engine and trans are so low in the frame that with the air out of the tires, the trans is touching the ground. With air in the tires there would be about 4 inches of ground clearance. You would never have done anything like that on a 30's road car with the condition of those roads, but 4 inches of ground clearance is fine for sand. Four custom built intakes with ceramic throats for four seperate carbs. A custom modified exhaust manifold that again was ceramic coated inside and out. A machined and fabricated mechanical linkage for opening all four carbs with adjustments for each, extended controls to move the passenger compartment back to the rear axle area and aircraft grade body ribs with smoothed over countersunk aircraft rivets. A hood that opens outward like a clam but then unpins at each hinge, a special hand fabricated gear assembly to turn the 300mph speedometer and on and on. This was built to go fast, not run on the streets like the car in the 1936 Jimmy Stewart movie which was a road going movie prop. There is no doubt it was a land speed car. It may not have been sucessful, but they were trying to go as fast as possible. What the intent of the build actually was, we may never know.

I too was facinated by the car on the show. I could not believe that they didn't even call in an expert or give it another hard look. The show keeps all of their finds confidential so that someone doesn't see the show and then go rob these people with hoards of antiques or sworm them with people trying to buy their stuff. In the show they deliberately tried to make you think the car was in the Daytona area when they drove three plus hours to get to it. I would have thought though that SOMEBODY would have tracked the car down before I lucked up upon it.

The little girl was taking several pictures of the car and two professional photographers were taking photos of her doing it. There is one shot of just the arms and the camera coming out of the stroller! Prieceless!

AB Jenkins set 40 records in an almost stock 1932 Pierce Arrow so speed records come in all shapes and sizes.

Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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All the ones I have seen were aluminum so the canvas is pretty rare if not one of a kind.

I'll be happy if you prove otherwise but it is physically impossible to go very fast with that engine. Also, how fast would you be willing to go on those wheels?

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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Interesting discussion. Ab Jenkins drove slightly over 100 miles per hour, if I remember correctly. 300 mph is a different thing altogether.

With all the custom touches and special fabrication, it's hard to think that no one has some kind of documentation on this car. If it in fact did run for speed, it would have been at Bonneville. If there are no records of it running there, then it's probably just an engineering exercise executed by either a great fabricator or a person with deep pockets.

Hopefully some documentation will turn up. It's a fascinating car, surely it has a fascinating story to tell!!

Thanks for sharing....

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The welded spark plug deal sounds a bit hinkey to me. Do you know what the CR is on the engine? Many modern engines have run CRs of 10:1. Drag racers run much higher than that. Top fuel has cylinder pressures that are sky high, yet their plugs are screwed in, just like the one in my weed whacker. I think maximum, practical, CR on a flathead is about 8 or 9:1.

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The welded spark plug deal sounds a bit hinkey to me. Do you know what the CR is on the engine? Many modern engines have run CRs of 10:1. Drag racers run much higher than that. Top fuel has cylinder pressures that are sky high, yet their plugs are screwed in, just like the one in my weed whacker. I think maximum, practical, CR on a flathead is about 8 or 9:1.

Sure MODERN engines would not need welded plugs. But we are talking 30's metalurgy, 30's threads and 30's spark plugs. Fact is, the spark plugs are wleded to the heads. How do you propose I test the compression? ;)

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The car has 35 miles on the odometer and had been stored since the 30's. I don't think the heads were so rusty they

needed to weld them in in 1930 or 31 on a fresh build. I also don't think that they used a rusty old head on the build when they were using a new driveline and frame of a valuable car at the time.

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Sure MODERN engines would not need welded plugs. But we are talking 30's metalurgy, 30's threads and 30's spark plugs. Fact is, the spark plugs are wleded to the heads. How do you propose I test the compression? ;)
30s metallurgy is more than adequate to restrain those primitive plugs at the maximum CR a flathead could withstand. Do you think we were hammering out these cars over a dung fire with a bellows and a rock? We were building pretty good stuff by the 30s. Materials and tolerances were good enough to build the great war machines that came just a few years later. The fact that the plugs are welded in is, somewhat, frightening. To think that some genius thought that was a good idea, that they would never need replacement or servicing of any sort.

As far as testing the compression, you are the one that stated the engine has some astronomical CR, so I just assumed you knew this, for a fact, and weren't just blowing smoke.

I believe the car is someones backyard project. If it was a true LSR car, I think someone would know something about it or there would be pictures or something. I'm not suggesting it is a POS, just that it is an interesting curiosity

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The 'engine number' you posted in #5 does not resemble any **production** Pierce engine number. Pierce 8 engine numbers are hand-stamped into a small rectangular boss on the left side of the engine just below the head gasket, behind and above the generator and water pump. All except 1929 (the first Pierce 8) have an engine number consisting of six numbers. 1929 engine numbers have the prefix A followed by four numbers. If you can provide the engine number, we can identify the year and model and stock displacement (in 1930, there were three displacements--340, 366 and 385 cid) from the same block casting). And, by the way, the stock compression ratio for the 366 cid version was 5.01 to 1.)

Moreover, while Pierce-Arrow was still operating, Seagrave fire apparatus bought Pierce 8 and 12 engines to assemble and they assigned their own numbers--we probably have can confirm those too.

This is an interesting vehicle and we'd all like to help provide authenticating information; the actual engine number is essential for that. Please check out the Pierce-Arrow Society website at Welcome to the Pierce-Arrow Society (note: dot-ORG).

By any chance, is there a factory Pierce chassis ID tag (rectangular aluminum) riveted to the outside of the frame behind either front wheel? If present, that would have a seven-number chassis number. What is the wheelbase measurement? Are there any indications of the wheelbase having been shortened (or extended)?

This certainly appears to be a Pierce engine. If I am correct that I'm seeing cylinder head **bolts** rather than acorn covers over nuts, be advised that only 1933 **production** Pierce 8s used bolts rather than studs and nuts. The latter were used the rest of Pierce 8 production (1929-38).

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The 'engine number' you posted in #5 does not resemble any **production** Pierce engine number. Pierce 8 engine numbers are hand-stamped into a small rectangular boss on the left side of the engine just below the head gasket, behind and above the generator and water pump. All except 1929 (the first Pierce 8) have an engine number consisting of six numbers. 1929 engine numbers have the prefix A followed by four numbers. If you can provide the engine number, we can identify the year and model and stock displacement (in 1930, there were three displacements--340, 366 and 385 cid) from the same block casting). And, by the way, the stock compression ratio for the 366 cid version was 5.01 to 1.)

Moreover, while Pierce-Arrow was still operating, Seagrave fire apparatus bought Pierce 8 and 12 engines to assemble and they assigned their own numbers--we probably have can confirm those too.

This is an interesting vehicle and we'd all like to help provide authenticating information; the actual engine number is essential for that. Please check out the Pierce-Arrow Society website at Welcome to the Pierce-Arrow Society (note: dot-ORG).

By any chance, is there a factory Pierce chassis ID tag (rectangular aluminum) riveted to the outside of the frame behind either front wheel? If present, that would have a seven-number chassis number. What is the wheelbase measurement? Are there any indications of the wheelbase having been shortened (or extended)?

This certainly appears to be a Pierce engine. If I am correct that I'm seeing cylinder head **bolts** rather than acorn covers over nuts, be advised that only 1933 **production** Pierce 8s used bolts rather than studs and nuts. The latter were used the rest of Pierce 8 production (1929-38).

The numbers posted in post #5 were casting numbers. The second set appearing like the date casting numbers. I did not see any plates riveted to the frame but I will search more intently now that I know where to look. I will also check the engine numbers stamped where you suggest and measure the wheelbase. It does not appear that the frame was cut or altered length wise. Are there any other numbers or identification indicators I could search for?

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karguy12, thanks for hanging with us on this very interesting vehicle. I believe comments are all directed toward trying to identify this thing, and we do appreciate you sharing story and pictures.

Was there any title or paperwork that came with the car? Any leads at all on previous owners?

At some point it would be interesting to drop the pan, and see what the bottom end of this engine looks like. With all the other modifications, and the apparent plan to run fast, one would think that the internals of the engine might have been re-engineered also....

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How has the chassis has been lowered? Are there any springs? Are the brakes the original cable-operated mechanicals or hydraulics?

There are lowering blocks on the car (see photo) plus it appears the springs have been modified but i may be wrong about that. Each leaf spring is sheathed like the V-16 Cadillacs I used to work on. The brakes look to be rod actuated at first then convert to cable with huge hubs and drums. I don't know enough about Pierce Arrows yet to determine if they are stock or not. Here are some additional detail photos. The one photo shows the mechanical linkage design for the rod to cable 4 carb linkage. There is also a guage that is smashed over to the passenger side that I do not know what it is or does in the one photo.

The last photo is the most similar shape on another automobile that I can find. The sides of this Pierce Arrow would look almost identicle to the sides of the finished car in the Shlumpf museum. The sides on the Pierce Arrow are also of course taller and the Pierce perhaps longer as well. However, the front fender corners are very close in design to the Pierce Arrow. The hood of the car would have looked similar towards the rear but the nose of the hood would have just tapered gradually from the radius of the cowl to the same flat configuration just in front of the grille opening on the Pierce Arrow and would not have had the "nose" of the car in the museum. The hood on the Pierce was made in two long pieces that opened like a clam OUTWARDS towards the fenders. Each hinge then had a pin mechanism like a miniature hood release pin on a 60's car that released from cable pulls from inside the car so both sides could be removed independently. I assume the "clam" hood design would allow them to open the hood easily to allow the engine to cool and then allow either side to removed quickly if they needed to work on the car.

I really have not evenhad a chance to study the car myself. The junk has yet to be cleaned out of it! I am sure that many more interesting details will emerge as we clean the car and start to follow wires and cables and rods and examine the build design more closely. I will continue to post those discoveries here.

If any of you photoshop guys out there want to take a shot at converting the Shlumpf museum car to look more like the Pierce Arrow by removing the "nose" and making it a coupe with a split windscreen that would be fantastic!

Keep the questions coming.... we'll figfure this car out!

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Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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Sometime in the next week or so I will be sheathing the body in heavy duty aluminum foil just to get an idea of what it would have looked like to hopefully spark someone's memory about the car. It will be kind of like when they reconstruct a face over the skull of a unidentified person to help identify them. i will time lapse video the process and post photographs when I am done. :)

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The Warner T-74 transmission (see post #5), according to 1939 Hollander's (8th Rev. Ed.) was used on 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model C (132 wheelbase) and is **said** by Hollander to be a freewheeling unit. 1930 Models A & B used a Clark 4-speed (one-year only) and a few apparently used a 4-speed Brown-Lipe. The 4-speeds include a granny low gear, not an overdrive. Conventional wisdom is that Pierce did not install free-wheeling transmissions until 1931, and kept them through 1935, after which an overdrive was used with a Warner T-82.

In post #27, photo #5 shows a portion of the frame that is light colored, and it appears that's where the aluminum chassis (serial) number tag used to be. Removal of those tags was common. I think I can still see the two rivet heads and perhaps a fragment (the upper left corner) of the tag. Unfortunately, that was the ONLY serial number marking on the chassis, as Pierce did not stamp the serial number into the frame itself.

The photo of the rear lowering blocks appears to show (from what I can see) of a ca. 1929-31 Pierce rear axle housing. These were robust units, but slow-geared: Open cars came with approx. 4.07 ring and pinion and the standard for closed cars was 4.42. Also, if you ever remove the diff rear cover, count the splines on the axle shafts: 1929-30 had 8 splines and frequently break (as I found from experience); later ones have 10 splines.

Engine number location: Refining my previous comments, look above and a couple of inches to the rear of the oil fill cap, just below the head gasket, for a boss about 5/8-inch high and 2.5 - 3 inches long. It's hard to find if you're not specifically looking for it--and even when you are!

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I just examined a few details more closely. The trans looks like it has a 2*9*31 date on it. Engine number is 227460. Yes, the tag on the right front frame rail is missing with bits still stuck under the old rivets. Here are some additional photos of the fabricated tach or speedometer drive as well. Also, check out these amazing door hinges. i am thinking these must be aircraft and so are most if not all of the guages. One guage says "UP" and "DOWN" with a 1-10 reading on it. There are small tags on the rear of the guages that identify most of them as Kollsman guages. Some of the guages look identicle to the ones in a P-40 aircraft, so perhaps the build is later than thought or they did some upgrading over the years. The guage I could not identify is a Kollsman aircraft compass with adjustible settings. There are also tags that look like Airforce part number tags that I have seen before with patent, part number, order number info that should make ID'ing the age or type fairly easy.

Also included is the Electric door latch mechanism photos. Yes, it has electric shaved doors, lol.

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Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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The engine number (thanks!) is the easy part: That is a very late production 1931 Model 43, which consisted of 134" wb open and 3-window coupe models, and 137" wb closed cars. Bore and stroke were 3.5 x 4.75 for 366 cid displacement. These Pierce 8s had nine poured-babbitt main bearings, and the cranks and blocks were quite hard for the metallurgy of the time. In Pierce-Arrow Society records, that engine number has not been associated with any known chassis, so there is no previous ownership information to provide.

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The engine number (thanks!) is the easy part: That is a very late production 1931 Model 43, which consisted of 134" wb open and 3-window coupe models, and 137" wb closed cars. Bore and stroke were 3.5 x 4.75 for 366 cid displacement. These Pierce 8s had nine poured-babbitt main bearings, and the cranks and blocks were quite hard for the metallurgy of the time. In Pierce-Arrow Society records, that engine number has not been associated with any known chassis, so there is no previous ownership information to provide.

Was it possible to order only a bare chassis with engine in 1931? I forgot to measure the wheelbase but will do it this afternoon.

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Here are some photos of what is left of the body...... some places look like a stainless steel mesh with a fabric over that and then something that appears bondo like but it is something else with a gray look to it. I do not know whether this was the original bodywork or something added later in its life.

The entire interior structure of the car including frame, engine compartment, interior panels, etc was originally painted red. The red bucket type seats were covered in a blue leather. I can't find any indication of exterior color other than silver gray.

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I did not know Soss hinges were used on cars. I went to their website and read the history. Interesting. I have used them in construction. They are very nice and unique, but require careful measuring and mortising to get them installed correctly.

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The engine number (thanks!) is the easy part: That is a very late production 1931 Model 43, which consisted of 134" wb open and 3-window coupe models, and 137" wb closed cars. Bore and stroke were 3.5 x 4.75 for 366 cid displacement. These Pierce 8s had nine poured-babbitt main bearings, and the cranks and blocks were quite hard for the metallurgy of the time. In Pierce-Arrow Society records, that engine number has not been associated with any known chassis, so there is no previous ownership information to provide.

Wheelbase measures 137" from hub center to hub center......

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