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


karguy12
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More interesting facts about this truely amazing car....

I identified the 300MPH speedometer as an aircraft unit. But I was wondering how they converted it to a mechanical reading for the automotive application. Well, they didn't. Apparently there was a wind speed indicator or opening on the car somewhere because the guage is hooked up to air hoses! Check out the pics. The lettering on the back of the guage says "CAUTION: DO NOT BLOW INTO TUBES". Notice the one line hooked up to the guage.

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I agree it's a 31 series 43 with the small engine and gear driven cam. It should have 6 lug 19 inch wheels, only used on 1931 series 43 cars and No others. I have been reserving judgment on when and why it was built. It MAY be prewar, and like others said, possible movie prop or back yard / home made dream car. Looks like it's ben outside a LONG time. I'm sure I have never seen a photo of it or a rumor that it even existed. So it has been out of sight for decades. Here are a few photos of what came on the chassis new.

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The wire for the electric door latch has a plastic crimp on connector, if installed when the car was converted then it is post war, when did they start using the plastic crimp on's?

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I'm glad your saving it. I think it is very unique and cool. :cool: As far as the Pickers go, I can see why they passed it by. They are in the market for smalls that ship easily though the mail, or stuff in better condition that they have a good idea they can flip quickly. As seen on their show, cars are not their strong point. They pass by old tractors, rusty vehicles, and stationary engines all the time. They go for toys and signs and odd stuff that they know will flip quickly. Something like this car they most likely would have had sitting on for a long time trying to move it.

It is a very interesting find and I am glad that you are sharing it with us. Looking at you photos, and seeing what you have, I do believe it was built out of parts by a race fan, and not by Pierce. Welding in the spark plugs is nothing pierce would ever had done. Diesel engines have much more compression than any gas engine ever built, and injectors and glow plugs are threaded in all the time. Even in the old Caterpillars from the 1930's and other diesel engines of the 20's and earlier. I agree about the springs. Wrapping them was common place back in the day. I also agree about the metalurgy of the 30's as being very good. I had a feeling the gages were aircraft and your research has proven it correct. My two nickles worth. Dandy Dave!

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)
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I've never thought for a minute that this car was ever a factory built car. Most LSR's weren't. What I have said though is that there was a lot of thought and engineering that went into this car. Somebody spent a lot of time, or money or both building it.

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I've never thought for a minute that this car was ever a factory built car. Most LSR's weren't. What I have said though is that there was a lot of thought and engineering that went into this car. Somebody spent a lot of time, or money or both building it.

There were many specials or hot rods that had tremendous workmanship put in to them. It is possible that the builder intended it to be an LSR and we won't know that until you are able to come up with some history. If it ever made any runs then I'm sure you will be able to find that. I'm skeptical because of the powerplant. The Pierce was a very high quality car, but that flathead straight 8, even with all the speed modifications would have a hard time pushing that car over 110, 115 mph. That would be with a axle ratio well higher than stock.

Did the seller give you any information at all? Given that this has been up for a few days and no period pictures have surfaced I think you will need to go backwards from the seller. There is someone local to that car that knows part of the story or all of the story.

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I have been going back through the previous owner and reached out but no response as of yet. The car was purchased from a wharehouse in Ormond Beach in 1988 then brought to where I found it. There was supposedly another wrecked early land speed record car in the wharehouse at the time along with a couple of other cars.

There were many "speed" records in all types of categories other than ultimate top speed. The way the car was built it is clear it was not for any street driven purpose. With it being complete, menaing everything done, interior in it, nothing missing, full body at one piont in time, it had to have been brought out sometime, somewhere.

People in the historical societies in Ormond and Daytona are looking. It has only been "exposed" for a few days so we will give it more time. I am sure something will shake out sooner or later. An email is going out tomorrow to 33,000 car collectors World wide so maybe that will generate a response. Either way, it's still fun to look into the history and see what turns up! :)

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Yes, it's the same engine and chassis as my '31 phaeton! I can tell you that I haven't quite gotten it to land speed record mph yet....

Interesting that the builder would choose that engine, the smallest engine Pierce built in 1931, since a slightly later engine would have not only more horsepower but hydraulic lifters, a Pierce engine design first....

If it was run for speed there's a picture and documentation somewhere.

I'd be curious how you have a database of 33,000 car collector emails!

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When asked about the car, the fellow standing in his back yard stated $20,000 was his asking price....

I'm sure it was acquired for substantially less than that, but also think it's poor form to publicly ask someone what they paid for a vehicle........very few people want their business so widely distributed....

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I like the comment, when asked "what's the least you'd take for the car", the reply from seller is "I can't sell it and buy it by myself, what's your offer?"

When $500 apart, asking price vs offer, buyer says " it's only $500".... And seller replies "it's the same $500 you're arguing about..."

Back to thread, a good one!

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Some of you already know this, but this is not the first unusual streamliner I have been fortunate enough to uncover and save. I located and saved this 1937 Adler Lemans race car from the yard it sat in outside for 30 years. The one photo with the older shirtless gentleman is what it looked like when I found it. the others are from it's past and present life. It raced at Lemans in 1937 and 1938. In 1938 it came in 7th overall and won it's class. It was the first streamliner and closed car to race at Lemans as well as the first woman to race at Lemans. It too was a fun car to research and document. I'm hoping I will be able to fill in the missing history on this Pierce Arrow too.

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Fascinating car!

Here's another avenue you may wish to pursue: Look into the old patents for flexible, lightweight automobile bodies made of fabric. You may find your body construction matches one of these patents and it may lead you back to your car's creator. For instance, inventor Charles Terres Weymann was well-known for his Weymann bodies, the construction of which appears similar to yours. I'm sure there are others who may also have improved upon his methods, so a patient patent search may be warranted. Sometimes a drawing is supplied to the patent office that illustrates a method of construction, but it also shows the complete car. Possibly this car was built to showcase the body and its advantages over steel bodies. When these fabric-skinned bodies were done properly, you couldn't tell them apart from steel, yet they offered considerable weight savings over their metal counterparts. Here's just one of the Weymann body patents, but he also did considerable work on automobile door latches and describes them in great detail (at the very least, just reading through his patents gives you a much better insight into the thoughts of one of the pioneers in automobile innovation):

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When I saw the car on the show, I thought it was a wasted old piece of crap.

If the new owner can salvage it and breathe life into it again, I say power to him!

All you need is $$$, and a Dream, and you can bring back any pile of rust from the dead also. :cool: Dandy Dave!

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The quote I use is "Its amazing what you can do with an unlimited amount of time and money".

The key here is finding a period picture and some build info. A prewar build and it should be brought back as original. Post war and there is a lot of latitude.

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The quote I use is "Its amazing what you can do with an unlimited amount of time and money".

The key here is finding a period picture and some build info. A prewar build and it should be brought back as original. Post war and there is a lot of latitude.

If it has WWII airplane gages in it, most likely surplus. that would make it a post war built, would it not? To put is back as the original car as it came from the factory in 1931 would totally loose it's mystique as a racer, wheather it was built for fun, or for a dream at a speed record. Find the newest part in it and anything goes from that time back. Dandy Dave!

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What I meant was "as originally constructed as a speed car". The WW II gauges tend to make you think 1948 but it is possible the car went through some phases. Still worth saving as a post war build but the outlay for restoration should be less. Hence my use of the word "latitude".

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Well it has been about a week and nobody has been able to identify the Pierce Arrow so I had this idea. I saw on TV how when they have an unidentified body that is just a skeleton they reconstruct the face using clay so that people may see the face and recognize the missing person. So.... I did the same with this car's skeleton. I replaced some of the missing ribs and sheathed the car in aluminum foil just to give the appearance of what the body would have looked like sometime in it's past. It is obviously a little crude because aluminum foil is hard to work with without ripping or wrinkling, but here are the results.... At least it gives a better idea of what the car used to look like. The Artist rendering is courtesy of MotoArigato.com

Moto Arigato: Florida Man Saves Pierce-Arrow Land Speed Record Car Featured on American Pickers

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Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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Good job with the foil. You will increase the odds of identifying the car by 300 percent. Sure has a long hood line. It would be very imposing driving down the road in it's era. Movie car is the direction I am leaning towards, but that would not explain the electric door latch. Looks a little like the Phantom Corsair. Keep the thread alive ..... you will get an answer sooner or later. Ed

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KARGUY, the fascinating things I stumble across when I rarely wander out of the Buick Forums...

I'm appalled that no one has yet commented on your Adler resurrection. That's an amazing accomplishment and one with way more documented provenance than the mystery you've got on your hands this time around. The LeMans photo of this enormous Rennlimousine* among the bitty racing gnats reminds me of Briggs Cunningham's Cadillac Le Monstre, on the same road course in 1950. It was also a class winner, in spite of and because of its hideous but effectively aerodynamic form.

* That's German for "racing barouche".

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Edited by Rob McDonald (see edit history)
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I wonder what other components can give clues as to how this car came about. I was wondering about the tires - assuming this covered very few miles, what kind of shape are they in in terms of tread wear and are they a matched set, etc. Where I am going with this is, if they are a matched set with little actual signs of miles it may point to a pro build, a mis-matched or worn out set could point more towards a budget type build. I could almost see a group of talented guys working on this in the postwar period, inspired by something like the Corsair, and of course the lines of WW II planes that inspired the auto designers as well. That could explain touches that could be popular with the hot rod/customizers like the electric door latches. Of course that may have actually been the simplest way to get working, streamlined doors?

In any event, +1 to A.J.'s suggestion on aluminum sheathing - bring sunglasses to the sand!!

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Several of the intruments have been identified as having been used in a P-40, but these same intruments were also used in multiple other aircraft including the P-36 that flew in 1935. The one Kollsman altimeter has a patent date on it from 1933. I have not removed any of the instruments from the dash, but there are other tags on the back of the other instruments that can not be read while they are still in the car. I will pull them and date them eventually.

It would not suprise me if this car was also a Harlan Fenglar creation similar to the Thunderbowl Comet, because there are similarities in shape and construction, but of course I have no information to support that. Harlan Fengler was also pursuing multiple speed records and was actually the person that drives the Thunderbowl Comet in the 1936 movie "Speed".

Another interesting note is the 1941 Popular Mechanics article posted at the link provided above by revkev6 ...

http://www.gregwapling.com/hotrod/land-speed-racing-history/land-speed-racing-thunderbowl-comet.html

The article talks about the Comet, then called the "Golden Eagle" preparing for a land speed run with three seperate engines in order to attempt three classifications of records including one attempt with a straight 8 engine for the then 152mph record set by Harry Hartz and Fred Frame on Murdoc dry lake. The article also talks about the 7 inches of ground clearance on the Golden Eagle. So while this Pierce Arrow car may not have been attempting the all out speed record, there were land speed records within its grasp even as late as 1941 when this article was written.

Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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Wow.... I can't beleive that this car has stumped the entire internet! I have posted these photos here and on the HAMB (one of the greatest resources of auto related memory) and several other sights and these have been zero facts uncovered! With such an unusual and bizarre car that amazes me.

Edited by karguy12 (see edit history)
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