11-12 October 2012

Collection of George Grew

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Lot 173

1909 Pierce-Arrow 36 HP Three-Passenger Runabout

  • Chassis no. UU149
  • Engine no. 30149

Sold for $192,500

Model UU. 36 hp, 386.5 cu. in. T-head six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and live rear axle with three-quarter elliptic leaf springs, and two-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 119 in.

• Offered from the collection of George Grew

• Ready to show or tour

For the first three decades of America’s automobile century, prestige was spelled with three Ps: Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow. Packard arose in 1899 from a customer’s disappointment with his newly-purchased Winton, and Peerless in 1900 from a company that made clothes wringers. Pierce-Arrow was the youngest, entering the automobile market in 1901, from a history that included household items like bird cages.

George N. Pierce was a bicycle manufacturer. His industrial experience, however, was far more diverse, beginning as a partner in Heintz, Pierce and Munschauer, a Buffalo, New York company that made bird cages. As the nineteenth century progressed, the firm branched out into ice boxes and bath tubs. After Pierce bought out his partners in 1872, he renamed the company for himself and embarked on pedal-powered transportation. Taking notice of the interest in self-propelled vehicles, he built a steam car in 1900.

By that November, a gasoline-powered car was operating, and in 1901, the manufacturing of a DeDion-engined “Motorette” began. A defining moment in the evolution of the Pierce automobile came in 1904, with the introduction of the four-cylinder Great Arrow. Pierce’s son Percy drove one in the inaugural 1905 Glidden Tour, winning the reliability contest hands down. Pierces took the Glidden trophy for the next four events. “Pierce” and “Arrow” became so linked in the public eye that both car and company were renamed Pierce-Arrow in 1909. By then, Pierce-Arrows, which sold for $3,050 to $7,200, had joined Packard and Peerless in comprising the “Three Ps” of luxury American motor manufacture.

The early Pierce cars were principally the work of David Fergusson, a British-born engineer of Scots ancestry. He joined Pierce in 1901 and laid out the design for the company’s Motorette and Arrow models. In 1905, as the chief engineer, he toured Europe with Manufacturing Vice-President Henry May. They visited all the British and Continental automobile factories, looking at design trends and manufacturing methods. In particular, they noted the move to larger cars with six-cylinder engines. This would set the pattern for Pierce-Arrow cars for the next 15 years.

The first six-cylinder Pierce was the Model 65-Q, introduced in 1907. Like the fours that preceded it, the new powerplant was of T-head configuration, displacing an impressive 648 cubic inches. A smaller, 40 horsepower six, the 40-S, was added in 1908. The last Pierce fours were built in 1909, but that year there were three sixes of 36, 48, and 60 horsepower.

This 36 horsepower Model UU Pierce-Arrow was the last car purchased by George Grew during his lifetime. He bought it from Bob Robinson, a professional restorer in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, in 2004. It had been discovered in the 1940s by Warren Kraft on Long Island. Winford Smith made the car operable, mounting a serviceable but inauthentic body. After passing through the collection of James Bragg in Connecticut, it was purchased by Robinson for his personal collection. In 2002, he completed the painstaking and thorough restoration that it wears today, including the body, which is an exact replication of the 1909 Pierce Runabout.

According to George Grew’s daughter Janice, the Pierce Runabout was “the final car love of his life. As a former midget car driver back in the 1940s and ’50s, which he gave up when he married my mom, this car was the best combination of a beautiful and desirable antique car with plenty of speed. Despite an old race car superstition against driving green cars, which he always repeated, he bought this green 1909 Pierce and loved it.”

It is easy to see why. Low and lithe, it is the epitome of a pre-1910 sports car, with just enough bodywork to perform its intended function. The front view is as bold as brass, with a brass radiator with Pierce-Arrow script, brass Rushmore headlamps with Solar sidelamps, and a flying eagle on the radiator cap. The headlamps, hood, and steering column are highlighted with copper plating, and the chassis is pinstriped in gold on the bold green background. Matching green buttoned leather upholsters the seats, and diamond-pattern white rubber lines the running boards. The engine compartment shines, too, with plenty of polished copper and brass.

The car is outfitted for convenient driving and touring, with 12-volt electric starting and alternator. Not only is it eager for the road, it’s not shy on the show field either. It made an invitational appearance at the Newport Concours d’Elegance in 2009 and received the “Best Sports Car-American” award. Recently recommissioned and detailed, this Pierce-Arrow is ready to make its way into the heart of a new enthusiast who will show it, exercise it, and love it the way George Grew did.

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


+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


+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


+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


+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


+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


+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


+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


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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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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


+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


+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


+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


+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


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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


+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


+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


+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