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Lot 214

1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow

  • Chassis no. 2575029
  • Engine no. 360005

Sold for $3,740,000


160 bhp, 429 cu. in. side-vale L-head V-12 engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptical leaf-spring suspension and ball bearing shackles, and four-wheel Stewart-Warner power-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 139 in.

  • The car that inaugurated the streamlined automotive age
  • Recognized as the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair show car
  • Formerly owned by D. Cameron Peck and Henry Austin Clark Jr.
  • One of three known survivors of five originally built
  • An impossibly rare and desirable CCCA Full Classic


A CENTURY OF PROGRESS

On May 27, 1933, 427 sparkling acres of the best technology that man could produce opened to the world in Burnham Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline of Chicago. Dubbed “A Century of Progress,” the 1933 World’s Fair brought the world’s achievements to the Windy City. The Graf Zeppelin drifted in from Germany, the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game played at Comiskey Park, and the streamlined Zephyr train made a record-breaking dash into town for display.

Most dazzling for car enthusiasts was undoubtedly the Travel and Transport Building, which showcased the best and, frequently, most expensive automobiles that America had to offer. There was the one-off Duesenberg Model SJ Torpedo Sedan, nicknamed “Twenty Grand” for its cost in 1933 dollars, and Packard’s advanced V-12-powered Sport Sedan, known as the “Car of the Dome” for its central position in the building. Cadillac presented a sleek fastback Aero-Dynamic Coupe with no fewer than 16 cylinders.

Even among this rarefied company, Pierce-Arrow’s Silver Arrow stood out. Its creation was a meeting of the minds of youthful stylist Phillip O. Wright and new Pierce-Arrow President Roy Faulkner. Based upon a 139-inch-wheelbase, 12-cylinder chassis, it had an automatic clutch and power-assisted brakes, among other advances. But these advancements all paled in comparison to the gleaming silver coachwork, a streamlined design with a roof that covered, in one smooth plane, all of the way to the rear of the car; flush-fitting doors with door handles inset out of the airstream; and a “step-down” interior that predicted Cord by three years and Hudson by 15.

According to Paul J. Auman, the superintendent of Studebaker’s experimental body department, as quoted in the December 1999 issue of Collectible Automobile, the first Silver Arrow was sent to New York in time for the Automobile Show held there earlier in the year. The second, fourth, and fifth cars were sent to the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York, for various promotional uses. Meanwhile, this example, car number 3, was the one sent to Chicago for viewing at the “A Century of Progress” exhibition.

SILVER ARROW NUMBER 3

The car offered here is strongly believed to have been the number 3 Silver Arrow that was shown at A Century of Progress, and it has been recognized as such from very early on in its life. The World's Fair car is said to have been sold, following the festivities, to an artist living in nearby Lake Forest, Illinois. Lake Forest is roughly two miles from Lake Bluff, the town where, in the late 1930s, the car offered here was owned by Charles Overall, who was an illustrator known for his depictions of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Lindbergh.

Records held by the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library confirm that the car offered here, serial number 2575029, is that which belonged to Mr. Overall and that he eventually sold it for $250 to D. Cameron Peck, heir to the Bowman Dairy fortune in Chicago and a prominent early car collector. The car’s early Chicago provenance lends further credence to its having been the World’s Fair car, as neither of the other two surviving Silver Arrows are known to have spent time in the Windy City. Peck’s handwritten notes on the inventory form for this car also indicate it as the “A Century of Progress” car.

In the late 1940s, Peck began to move out of the hobby, and in 1949, he sold the Silver Arrow, still in unrestored condition, to Henry Austin Clark Jr., as is documented by paperwork on file.
Best remembered as the personable and colorful proprietor of the Long Island Automotive Museum near Southampton, Clark was a Peck contemporary among early enthusiasts. Clark’s interest focused on Brass Era automobiles, which he gathered extensively and, in the process, saved from certain destruction at the hands of scrappers. He was interested in Classics as well and was a longtime CCCA member. His interest in the Silver Arrow was likely provoked by its rarity and unique styling, as well as by its story. Always one to enjoy a good tale, “Austie” liked to muse that the car had probably been part of the Capone mob fleet.

The Silver Arrow was brought by train to New York State and was restored completely by the renowned Gustav Reuter’s Reuter Coach Works in the Bronx. Photographs on file from the Reuter Coach Works Archive dated June 18, 1950, show how well preserved the car’s bodywork was after two decades and that it remained solid, intact, and complete, making it an easy basis for restoration. Documents from Austin Clark’s files, copies of which are included in the file, note that the Pierce was refinished at Reuter’s suggestion in French Grey lacquer.

Following completion of the restoration, the Silver Arrow remained a favorite part of the Clark collection on Long Island for over a decade. It was, during that time, a favorite of enthusiasts and magazine editors alike, appearing in the pages of Mechanix Illustrated and in a beautiful color drawing in their competitor Popular Mechanics’ book How to Restore Antique & Classic Cars in 1954. In 1962, Automobile Quarterly, which would become one of the most famous automotive periodicals in the country, published its inaugural issue, Volume 1, Number 1, which included Henry Austin Clark Jr.’s selection of 10 great automobiles illustrated with paintings by the legendary Leslie Saalburg. Naturally, Austie’s own Silver Arrow was included, depicted by Saalburg in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1963, the car was sold at the first of three landmark auctions of Clark’s automobile collection. It eventually made its way into the collection of its present owner, where it has remained for over two decades. In the early 1990s, it was refinished, with the body painted a lightly metallic pewter with a dark charcoal molding, striped in red. The interior is finished in correct striped broadcloth, surrounded by beautiful tiger and birdseye maple. The Silver Arrow has been maintained over the years and presents nicely, retaining so much of the original character that has been stripped away from many cars during well-intentioned restorations.

Among the numerous legendary show cars that made a massive impression at A Century of Progress, the Packard “Car of the Dome” and Duesenberg “Twenty Grand” remain in long-term private collections from which they will not soon emerge, and Cadillac’s Aero-Dynamic Coupe no longer survives. That leaves the World’s Fair Silver Arrow—now offered publically for the first time in at least three decades—as the only present opportunity to acquire one of these dramatic visions of the future.

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
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

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
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

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
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

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
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

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
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

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
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

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

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

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
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

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
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

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
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

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
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

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
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