19-20 January 2012

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Lot 139

1915 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 7-Passenger Touring

  • Chassis no. 12472
  • Engine no. 12472

Sold for $206,250

Series Three. 48 bhp (NACC rating), 524 cu. in. T-head inline six-cylinder engine with aluminum crankcase, four-speed manual transmission, shaft drive, semi-elliptic leaf spring front suspension with Westinghouse air-spring shock absorbers, three-quarter-elliptic rear leaf spring suspension, and two-wheel mechanical rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142"

• An older, high-quality restoration by Eric Rosenau of Escondido, California

• Toured 27,000 miles since restoration

• Correctly presented and well equipped with desirable period accessories

• Excellent touring car

The enduring reputation that Pierce-Arrow enjoys today owes no small credit to the systematic approach of its entry into the fledgling automobile business at the dawn of the 20th century. Investigations into horseless carriages progressed from steam to internal-combustion engines, with Pierce’s final choice made clear in January 1901 when David Fergusson was hired to lead the company’s gasoline-powered design work. The first Fergusson-designed, de Dion-powered Pierce Motorettes were produced later that year, and Pierce’s existing bicycle dealers provided an instant distribution network.

Early success with Motorettes, Stanhopes, the Arrow and four-cylinder Great Arrow brought the need for more capital, much of it supplied by company director George K. Birge. The growing influence of Birge and other investors created friction with George and Percy Pierce, who left the automobile business to concentrate on bicycles and motorcycles in 1908. The automobile business, acknowledging the strong reputation now associated with the Arrow name, was renamed the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.

The first cars to carry the Pierce-Arrow name included the company’s first six-cylinder engines, rated at 36, 48 and 60 hp. By 1910, only sixes were built, setting the precedent for all subsequent Pierce-Arrows until the eight-cylinder engine debuted for 1929. In 1913, Herbert Dawley, who oversaw Pierce-Arrow design since 1907, patented the signature Pierce-Arrow headlight design, which integrated the headlights with the front fenders.

The Pierce-Arrow sixes featured cylinders cast in pairs, supported by aluminum crankcases. Every component was of the finest quality, and the marque’s T-head engines were among the most powerful. Quality control was impeccable, with all engines dynamometer-tested for performance before being completely disassembled, inspected and tested yet again for smoothness. The mighty NACC-rated 48-hp engines actually produced 92 hp or more on the Pierce-Arrow dynamometers, delivering more true power than many of the company’s competitors.

Pierce-Arrow automobile bodies were usually made from 1/8-inch aluminum panels cast in Pierce-Arrow’s own foundry. Customers usually specified the colors, interior materials and accessories, and Herbert Dawley frequently visited clients to work with them and translate their specific requests into physical reality. In short, with their almost-obsessive quality, Pierce-Arrow’s sixes were arguably the finest American-designed automobiles of the 1910s and 1920s.

This 1915 Model 48 7-Passenger Touring Car is one of only four known examples to remain in existence. David and Fred Webber of St. Louis, Missouri acquired it in about 1975 before it was eventually completely restored by Eric Rosenau of Escondido, California with upholstery work by Ken and Cindy Nemanic of Vintage Automotive Upholstery in Walnut Creek, California. In 1993, the well-known Pierce-Arrow collector and restorer Patrick Craig, of Stockton, California, acquired the Model 48 from the Webbers. In 1996, Mr. Craig sold the car to George Van Beek of Portland, Oregon. Mr. Van Beek and his wife drove the car a remarkable 27,000 miles in Horseless Carriage Club touring events, suffering only one mechanical failure, a broken ring gear that was replaced with factory high-speed gears, throughout their 15 years of ownership, a true testament to the car’s high-quality restoration and the exacting quality of its original manufacturer. Most recently, the Model 48 was reacquired by Mr. Craig and is now offered from his distinguished collection.

Now offered with about 27,800 miles since restoration, the car remains in excellent condition, with a deep maroon finish, beltline and wheel accents as well as a black folding top. Other desirable features include folding jump seats, dual side-mounted spare tires, a correct rear trunk rack, with an original trunk, and very nice brightwork. Another interesting feature is a pair of Westinghouse air-spring front shock absorbers, complete with manufacturer’s tags. Described by Mr. Craig as “breathtaking to drive,” the Model 48 remains correct throughout with the sole thoughtful exception being a switch from the correct 1913-vintage barrel-type carburetor to an improved Series Four carburetor of the type introduced for 1916.

As one of only four known examples remaining today, this 1913 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 Touring is immensely desirable on several levels and embodies the Pierce-Arrow marque at its finest. Pierce-Arrow automobiles of all production years remain highly regarded even today for their mechanical sophistication and drivability. A proven touring candidate, this high-horsepower motor car is perfect for any number of different driving events, and its rarity will certainly make it a welcome sight on the concours circuit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more