10-11 October 2013

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Lot 136

1910 Pierce-Arrow 48-SS Seven-Passenger Touring

  • Chassis no. 7940

Sold for $687,500

48 bhp, 525 cu. in. T-head six-cylinder engine, four-speed selective sliding-gear manual transmission, live axle suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and dual contracting band and expanding shoe rear-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 134.5 in.

  • Offered from single-family ownership since 1950
  • Known history since new; formerly the property of Frank V. du Pont and Thomas Marshall Sr.
  • Spectacular, national award-winning restoration
  • An exceptional, no-excuses, high-horsepower brass car

By 1910, the luxury car market in the United States had come to be dominated by what would be known as the Three Ps: Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow. These marques were set apart not only by the vast price and locomotive-like engineering of their products, but also by the statement they made.

When a buyer took delivery of his Model 48-SS from the George N. Pierce Company’s Buffalo, New York, works, it was a marker of taste that was conservative but fine and an appreciation towards quality and solid design over the modern “flash and dash” exhibited by other, less genteel, automakers. Nonetheless, the Pierce offered style and power in abundance: 525 cubic inches in six cylinders, running 48 horsepower to the ground through a four-speed selective-gear transmission, and all of this is on a wheelbase that stretches over 134 inches and is wrapped in Pierce-Arrow’s innovative cast aluminum coachwork. A Pierce was strong and built to last forever, while also running at speeds that few roads of the era could accommodate.

The Model 48-SS Seven-Passenger Touring presented here was acquired new by prominent Delaware socialite James Winchester. It was eventually passed by Winchester to his society friend, Frank V. du Pont, a member of the prominent chemicals family and the chairman of the Delaware State Highway Department. Mr. du Pont was an early antique automobile enthusiast, almost before the phrase was invented, and he assembled a small group of very carefully selected big Brass Era automobiles. Reportedly, he once used the Pierce to deliver presents to the estates of other du Ponts at Christmas.

When du Pont parted with his collection, the Pierce was acquired by Thomas Clarence Marshall Sr., another Delaware resident, who would serve as the national president of the AACA in 1952 and is best remembered today for his preservation of many Stanley steam cars. The fact that a man who was so accustomed to precision engineering could appreciate this internal-combustion automobile is a testament to the outstanding quality and originality of this Pierce. Nonetheless, its place in the Marshall Collection was soon taken by a Doble, the crown jewel of steam car collecting, which resulted in the sale of the Pierce to Marshall’s friend and fellow early enthusiast, William Ball.

Writing to the Chester County Antique Car Club Newsletter in 1958, Ball recalled that “everybody in the family was tickled pink when, in 1952, we acquired this Pierce…It needed some restoration, but basically it was in excellent usable condition.” He spent several years reconditioning the car, and then began to drive it.

The Ball Pierce-Arrow rolled from the 1950s through the early 1970s in grand style, completing many local tours, journeying to Bill Swigart’s annual meet in Pennsylvania, and participating in several of the AAA Glidden Tours. Ball’s son recalls the 1957 Glidden, which began in Virginia and ended at the AACA Eastern Fall Meet, as “one tour that started and ended in foul weather; the cars were all dirty from back roads and rain. Dad parked the Pierce inside the Hershey football stadium with all the mud and mess that had accumulated over the week of touring. The judging result? The AAA Award, for the most typical Glidden Tour car. Our local AAA head, a friend of my parents, requested, and was given, the permission to ‘retire’ the award with Dad and the Pierce. We still proudly display this award.”

In 1975, Ball took the Pierce-Arrow apart in preparation for restoration for the 1978 meet, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the George N. Pierce Company. Like so many projects, however, once begun, the car was not completed, and in fact, it remained apart until after its long-time owner’s passing in 2000.

Two years later, Ball’s son took the family car to Gaslight Auto Restoration, which was engaged to perform a 100-point, detailed restoration on the “complete, but completely apart” Pierce. Most of the work was performed in-house by Jon Fleck. New wheels and rims were acquired from Calimers Wheel Shop, of Pennsylvania, while renowned upholsterer and Pierce-Arrow owner Loren Burch, of California, created a stitch-by-stitch copy of the original upholstery and top. The block water chambers were expertly metal-stitched by Frank Casey, of Massachusetts. In every detail, the car was precisely taken back to its original condition and appearance, with the only exceptions being a hidden electric starter and “pre-oiler” electric pump, which were added for ease of use. The car retains not only its original body, chassis, and engine, but it also has an astonishing amount of original trim. It is, indeed, every bit the car it was in 1910.

After seven years of hard work, the Pierce’s restoration was completed in February 2009. A month later, it attended the Amelia Island Concours, where it received an Amelia Award and a Second in Class, followed by First in Class honors at the Radnor Hunt and St. Michaels Concours. A First Junior at the AACA meet at Gettysburg led to the receipt of the prestigious Pamphilon Distinguished Car Award, honoring “a pre-1916 self-propelled land vehicle of outstanding merit entered in a National Meet” at the national meeting in Philadelphia. The car would return to Amelia Island in 2011, at the invitation of the class judge.

Offered still in show-ready condition, this incredible 48-SS is perhaps the final outstanding restoration of an original, early “high horsepower” Pierce to be completed. Fifty years after its award-winning arrival in Hershey, it returns here to be offered as a beloved family heirloom, out of over six decades of loving conservation, enjoyment, and painstaking restoration. It will be accompanied by a wonderful collection of 1950s photographs, correspondence between the Ball family and James Winchester’s family, and receipts and tooling drawings from the car’s original restoration, as well as its AAA and AACA trophies and a pride of ownership in which only the new owner will be able to share.

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


+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


+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


+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


+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


+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