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Alameda Barn Find: 1926 Pierce-Arrow Series 80 Sedan

One thrill of working for or reading Barn Finds is that, once in a while, you see a remarkable car pop up out of nowhere and wonder how it managed to stay hidden so long.  You would think all the big discoveries would be over by now, but you would be wrong.  Take for example this 1926 Pierce-Arrow sedan for sale on Craigslist in Alameda, California.  Having emerged from what looks more like a garage than a barn, one has to wonder how long it has been hidden and how it managed to escape the prying eyes of the collector car community.  While rough around the edges, this stately old Pierce looks complete, and the engine still turns.  Is the $6,500 asking price out of line for a car of this caliber?  What would it cost to restore it to its former glory?  Could it be restored by a home restorer?  Thanks go to T.J. for this awesome find!

For those of you not versed in your prewar classic automobiles, Pierce-Arrow was one of the marques that occupied the upper crust of the automobile industry.  The company’s products were on the same level as those of Peerless, Packard, Duesenberg, Cadillac, and Lincoln.  Perhaps what made Pierce-Arrow automobiles stand out the most was the unusual practice of mounting the headlights on the fenders rather than the usual practice of flanking the grille.  Pierce-Arrow also had the distinction of providing one of the first presidential vehicles to the White House for President Taft, and later examples served as the presidential limousines for Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.  The company also was able to boast that its cars were well represented in the automotive fleets of royalty throughout the world.

Over the years, the company went through many ups and downs.  New management, a sale of the company to Studebaker, becoming an independent maker again, and the introduction of the beautiful Silver Arrow in 1933 were all milestones in the company’s history.  Sadly, the effects of the Depression and the dwindling market for high-end luxury cars forced the venerable company to shut its doors forever in 1938.  Their reluctance to produce a lower-end car to generate profits and keep the company alive is attributed to the company’s ultimate downfall.

The 1926 Pierce-Arrow you see here is a bit of a wrinkle in that theory.  Pierce’s old management team eventually retired at the end of World War I, leaving a new team to begin work on a less expensive six-cylinder car to reverse plunging sales figures.  Branded the Series 80, this less expensive to produce but still thoroughly luxurious and advanced Pierce-Arrow hit the sales floor in 1924.  The investment paid off.  Sales figures, while modest in hindsight, doubled immediately.  While less expensive than senior offerings still being crafted one at a time in the company’s Buffalo, New York factory, the Series 80 still boasted a 70-horsepower engine and even power-assisted brakes starting in 1926.  The body was also crafted in aluminum just as the more expensive models were.  This was at a time when aluminum was relatively expensive and hard to come by.

That certainly explains the complete absence of rust on the otherwise weatherworn body of the Pierce-Arrow we see in the advertisement.  The pictures tell a story that likely starts with some elderly car collector passing away and heirs struggling to clean out his property for sale.  While intact for the most part, this Pierce-Arrow represents quite a conundrum.  On one hand, it is a remarkable prewar classic that is quite technologically advanced for its time.  On the other hand, hardly anyone in the hobby is willing to sink the king’s ransom needed to restore this rare and remarkable car.  If you say a prayer tonight, pray that it doesn’t end up as a rat rod.

If you aren’t Pebble Beach bound and you have the same amount of scratch that it takes to buy an unrestored Ford Model A of the same era, this car could be a very interesting purchase.  The seller tells us that the engine still turns over.  Add to that the fact that Pierce-Arrow build quality will likely mean that the parts will have to be restored not replaced.  If everything is there and the seller is flexible on the price, this might be a great buy.  You’ll just have to do all the work by yourself and focus on preservation, not perfection.  A Pierce-Arrow for Model A money doesn’t seem like such a bad deal after all.

Would you take on this Pierce-Arrow project?  Do you think a home restorer could bring it back from the dead?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. HoA Howard A Member

    Oy, okay, continuing from GP post, it may not look like much, but the epitome of travel for its time. Granted, it’s no ’64 GP, but the P-A was top of the line. Hollywood, foreign dignitaries, leaders of 3rd world countries, all had P-As, for good reason. They weren’t cheap, and most sold for over $10grand( over 1/4 mil today). California is a big place, and I bet many of these that graced Hollywood are still around. For the rest of the country, P-As had a much different function. Many, as they became beaters, had the bodies cut off and made into tow trucks. In the 30s, trucks were still slow, clumsy vehicles, an old P-A was high class towing. A fate of many full classics. Should be noted, P-A motors went into all kinds of applications later, including fire engines.
    Again, what to do here? Is there really someone left who would take this on? I mean, you’ll have 2 RAM pickups worth into this thing, if that matters, and for what? The headlights, a signature feature, always looked odd to me, and even if some old timer that has any connection to these fantastic vehicles, takes this on, I wonder if they could even finish it.

    Like 14
    • Derek

      I’d rather have this Pierce than two Ram pickups!

      Looks like it’s been used as a van, and the wings/running boards look chocolate brown, which fits with the tan body.

      Good solid starting point.

      Like 14
    • Old school

      I always thought and still think these headlights are ugly.

      Like 0
  2. Harvey Harvey Member

    You could be a redneck if duct tape holds your doors shut.

    Like 10
    • GHC

      Call Jay Leno, he can afford to fix it. Has the connections to get the parts too

      Like 6
  3. H Siegel

    I really like this Pierce Arrow when I was a younger man I would have bought this and restored it. One of the things that still bugs me today is that all of the cars that so called collectors held onto and did nothing with are now coming out of the wood work. Why would you hang onto a car for so long when it could have been sold to someone that would have restored it and enjoyed it. Just my honest opinion. GLWTS

    Like 10
    • Al

      I see your point, I have a 1970 Olds 442 W-30 in my garage with 105,000 miles on it. It has been in my family since new.
      I also have a 1981 dodge ram 3500 royal frontier class b RV with 81,500 original miles I’ve owned since 1981.a few years ago.

      However, I did sell a few years ago my 1931 Hudson Boattail Speedster. Was actually offered more than what I listed it as. Unbelievable.

      My only regret was my grandmother sold her 1936 Packard 12 7 Passenger Sedan for $50 when I was 12.

      Like 7
    • Richard B Kirschenbaum

      It’s called hoarding

      Like 0
  4. BigDaddyBonz

    I always thought that they were kind of ugly but can’t deny their fit, finish & engineering. Hope it goes to a good home. Best wishes.

    Like 7
  5. Den

    I certainly hope “restored to it’s former glory” doesn’t mean being a delivery van for Dunlap Caterer.

    (Their food isn’t that great)

    Like 0
  6. Kurt Member

    My first impression was, the carpentry necessary to rebuild the body is probably a lost art. It would be magnificent if someone takes it on. I hope all the trim is there somewhere.

    Like 6
  7. Tom

    It would be wonderful to read some stories about these kind of vehicles that Barn Finds writes about AFTER they go to someone new. What happens to them and what they look like after a year or two. AT age 80 I can afford to buy this PA and then have it restored. BUT. would I live long enough to actually drive it and enjoy it ?????

    Like 10
    • Kurt Member

      With that great attitude Tom you will live past 100 so go for it!

      Like 5
      • Tom

        I am sure going for it. Never smoked. Tried alcohol once and hated it. My weight is the same as when I graduated from college. I survived that Hell known as Southeast Asia and I have a wonderful wife to enjoy the journey with me. If I had someone in mind to be able to restore it I would go for it. I am seriously thinking about it. What a dream to drive down the road or in a local parade. ( parades ).

        Like 6
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Tom,

      A former client who has plenty of cash to have cars restored [I say former client as I retired & closed my shop in 2001], had a car under restoration at another shop about 10 years ago. He was diagnosed with a medical issue that meant he probably would not survive to enjoy the car.

      I advised him to find a friend who had an interest in continuing the restoration of the car and also had the financial ability to follow thru. His will stipulated that the car go to this friend, no matter what the condition the car was in. On his death the car went to the friend, who continued the restoration to completion.

      I don’t know the friend, but the shop owner who did the restoration told me the friend and his extended family all love the car, and he was able to complete the car [and get paid to do it], instead of having to stop the work, put it all back together or boxed up, and the car sold at auction for a substantial loss to the heirs.

      My former client said that knowing the car would be completed and enjoyed by others he knew, made it less stressful in his final days.

      Like 6
  8. William Stephan

    Hafta call this one CHUMLEY from the Glen Miller Story!

    Like 0
  9. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    What did enterprising body shops do to large luxury 7-passenger sedans that were [at the time] going on 10 years of age? In the 1930s no one wanted them, so these local shops turned them into hearses for low cost mortuaries. Some were designed to quickly convert from a 7-passenger sedan to a hearse, something funeral homes often needed

    Over the last 5 decades I’ve bought numerous big sedans that were converted into hearses; several Packards, Cadillacs, even a Daimler 8 limo and 2 Rolls-Royces. That rear door screams hearse conversion to me!

    Like 2
    • Kurt Member

      Well I’m not taking this lying down…🙄

      Like 4
      • Tom

        Ha ha ha. great comment. Thanks for the laugh.

        Like 1
    • "Edsel" Al leonard Member

      Good story and point Bill, I know of more than a few of these oldies stashed away in barns never to see the light of day again..too bad I’m not 30 years younger..I’d add a few more bays to the shop!!

      Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Al, the 1947 Daimler I mentioned above was spotted by me for sale in Hemmings in the mid 1980s. My partner & I went to upstate New York & bought it. The limo was a rare big Daimler DE-36 with the long straight 8 and a Wilson pre-select gearbox with the fluid flywheel. The body was a former Hooper & Co. limousine that the rear seat had been modified to fold like an American station wagon, and a hatch added to the back body panel.

        We determined thru research that the car had been one of 5 Daimler DE-36 cars created by Hooper & Co for the 1947 British Royal tour of King George V!, so we did some restoration work to bring it back to the original configuration. Ended up selling it to a collector in Miami about 30 years ago.

        Like 0
  10. theGasHole

    Haven’t seen a Hills Bros. coffee can in quite some time.

    Like 1

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