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1937 Series 1700 Sedan - 836A Successor What-If


Mahoning63
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Contemplating the last ditch efforts Pierce could have made to save itself, this work-up might have been one option. Would have been born in late 1935 once the company's officers realized that the 1936 design was not catching on in the market and companies like Cord and Lincoln were showing new types of designs that were modern, innovative and in the case of the 810, strikingly low. In the face of all this, Pierce would have decided that it needed its version of a modern progressive luxury car.

All-steel bodies were not in the cards for Pierce at that time, too expensive. What else was possible? The company had proved it could design a new frame in short order and for not much money, how about doing it again except this time with lowness being the goal?

Price also needed to be the goal, probably a few hundred dollars less than its standard sedan. The design also needed to be progressive, hinting at the 3-box proportion soon to dominate the market. The 836A took a step in this direction, how about taking it to the next level?

Here's what I came up with (and with gratitude to owner of original car). Most of the body panels are from existing stock of the last few years, including the decklid from the 836A. Frame is around 4 inches lower and enabling an optional running board delete. Price would have been around $2,950 in 1937, similar to the Packard Super Eight which sold almost 6000 units that year. Given Packard's performance, perhaps Pierce could have sold 1500 units, maybe more as its dealer network regained health. The money to pay for all this would have come from investors, the timing being much better than in early 1938 when Pierce approached them for a major investment in a new lower priced car similar to the Packard One Twenty.

All thoughts welcome.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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A couple variations that would have required more money to develop. The Aero Sedan would have been a nod to Cord and Cadillac, the Continental Sedan inspired by similar designs offered in Europe and occasionally made by American coachbuilders (the Lincoln Continental was still a few years away).

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A friend with a great eye for design suggested the rear overhang and rear fenders be extended, which noticably helps proportions. It's amazing how such a different car could have materialied changing only a few of the 1936 body panels and borrowing from prior models. The 836A's decklid would have still fit had it been tilted forward. These work-ups use the rear roof shell from the coupe because it looks more raked at rear, though this may have driven a narrower rear seat package. Most of Pierce's effort would have been in creating a new frame and grafting a transmission/driveshaft hump onto the floorpan. I wonder about engine cooling with a 4 inch lower radiator and less surface area. Might have been OK for the Eight but not the Twelve.

Photo comparison with 836A shows some of the benefits Pierce achieved in moving its bodies forward ~8 inches for 1936 and what lowness can do for appearance. Side view also shows that Pierce may have created it's rear doors for the 1934 836A using opposite side front doors including window frames and vent wndows. Cord did the same with the 810. The doors themselves appear to be a few inches longer than the standard door width that year; maybe Pierce cut back its wider front doors a few inches. The car's roof seems to have come from the club sedan. All these mix & match techniques, along with Pierce's awareness of what the Silver Arrow show car's longer rear overhang and rear fenders did to improve proportions, could have been channeled towards a quick re-working of the 1936 models to create this very unique entry for 1937. Of course, it's all water under the bridge now but I find it a fun mental excerise nonetheless.

Last image is attempt at period recreation of factory photo.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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A little fun with advertising, swapping this car for the original 1703. The ad copy is typical Pierce excellence: "But if you are one whose spine tingles as the newest transcontinental sky-liner takes to the air... you and the 1937 Pierce-Arrow belong to each other." "No one can eye it and still say that all cars these days are pretty much alike."

Here are some sales numbers (approximate) for 1937 in the fine car field:

Packard - 7000

Cadillac - 4800

Lincoln - 1000

Imperial - 1000

Cord - 1000

Pierce-Arrow - 166

Not too many years before, Pierce might have sold one car for every four Packards. For 1937, with the right car they could have probably moved 1500 units, maybe more, and earned a small profit. The year 1938 would have seen a sales dip, 1939 a rebound. For 1940 they would have needed a new car that really stood out from the pack.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Upon reflection, Pierce may not have needed to borrow a dime from investors in 1936 to bring the proposed car to market for 1937. The money spent on the Travelodge could have covered the whole project and probably allowed a retool of the rear fenders, decklid and rear quarters. With this in mind I updated the image in the ad to increase the rear overhang and fender length a full 7 inches over production, and fashioned a new decklid with more bustle for better appearance and more cargo volume.

Just my humble opinion but looking at this ad, Pierce had a real chance to stave off bankruptcy at this late point in its history. Its break even had apparently been reduced to 1000 units by late 1935. If this 1937 turnaround effort had proven successful, might have been enough to convince investors that the company could make a thoroughly modern car for 1940, an even lower, wider car and now with an all-steel body and independent front suspension, maybe even the company's patented semi-automatic transmission design. Certainly numerous stamping operations such as Briggs, Budd, Murray and Hayes were available to keep the body investment affordable. The challenge would have been in making the overall business case work with all-steel bodies, which a stunning design might have gone a long way towards enabling.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Miscalculated certain dimensions so decided to modify the original advertisement's more straightforward 7-pass limo image. New 1700 "Club Sedan" (as Pierce may have chosen to call it) now sits on familiar 139 inch wheelbase, has 4 inches added to rear overhang and 4 inches removed from frame's height and subseqent floor and vehicle height. Final image shows major new body panels. Also needed were a transmission hump added to floor, new trunk floor, lowered steering wheel, underhood component repackaging and minor electrical and fluid line mods. Key would have been the frame... how to make it strong yet low and several hundred pounds lighter.

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Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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Better they should have given a program such as this a try rather than continued as they did. Waiting for the market to completely kill off any chance of revival when all was lost and no financing could be had was a lousy business strategy.

Thanks for giving us a look at what should have been.

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