Rare 1912 Pierce 3.5hp at Netley

July 2015


Pierce Four | Buffalo New York | 592cc


3.5hp Pierce 1912



It's 102-years old, and Charterhouse Auctions reckon it will make between £50,000 and £60,000 when it goes under the hammer at Netley Marsh Eurojumble on the 4th - 5th September 2015. Specifically, it's a 1912, 3.5hp, 592cc (600cc), single-speed, sidevalve single and is one of the rarest motorcycles in the UK—and not exactly as common as muck anywhere in the world.


1912 Pierce motorcycle 3.5hp


Pierce Cycle Company advert


The Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company was founded in 1901 in Buffalo, New York, USA. The firm ceased trading in 1938. George Norman Pierce's manufacturing plant was noted primarily for its six-cylinder and eight-cylinder luxury cars, but between 1909 and 1914 the business also built motorcycles and cycles under the Pierce brand. In fact, the Pierce Four is said to be the first four-cylinder motorcycle manufactured in the USA.


At one time, the company occupied 1,500,000 square feet of space at Arrow Bend employing 10,000 workers. Studebaker came on board in 1928, and the two firms pooled resources and expertise until Studebaker collapsed in 1933. After that, Pierce Arrow found new owners. But times were tough, so the business rationalised its motor car product and introduced a line of Travelodge Trailers (caravans).



1912 Pierce Arrow


Unlike the cars (and Pierce Arrow trucks and Pierce bicycles), the motorcycle side of the firm was not successful, neither in numbers built, nor in profits. Actually, the company recorded mostly two-wheeled losses. But the bikes were well designed, and as reliable as anything else of the era.


Breaking ranks with most competitors, Pierce Arrow designed its bikes with petrol and oil contained within the 3.5 inch steel tube/copper coated frames. Much of thinking behind the four-cylinder "vibrationless" machines came from studying Belgian FN bikes. But there was no question that Pierce Arrow manufactured its own product in its own way and deserve a place among the American greats.


Pierce Arrow Four


The multi-cylinder, shaft-driven machines (image immediately above) are well known. But in recent years, on this side of the Atlantic at least, the singles have been largely overlooked except by the most ardent collectors. Well this (Charterhouse) example (main image, this story) might help re-establish the firm in the minds of the singles-set.



"The Pierce Single Cylinder motorcycle with its high-powered, long stroke motor, marks a notable innovation in one cylinder construction. This is a machine which runs with an almost total absence of vibration, and for ordinary city or country use, it has the quiet smooth action for which motorcycles to date have not been noted. But better than all this, it is a machine which climbs the mountain side (sic) and does it with the same absence of labor which marks its running on level roads. Always smooth and easy running, always powerful to follow the steepest roadwaywhat more can be asked? We offer in every detail, the best that 'Piercecraft' affords."


The Pierce Cycle Company, Buffalo, New York



Pierce Arrow cars, incidentally, also enjoy the distinction of being the first vehicles used by the US White House for presidential transportation. The Arrow Bend factory premises are still in existence and are occupied by numerous unrelated companies.


One final point. It's worth noting that Pierce motorcycles are often erroneously referred to as Pierce Arrow motorcycles. Pierce Arrow is, or was, the parent company. Therefore, if you want to be historically accurate, it's Pierce Arrow cars, and Pierce Motorcycles or Pierce Cycles.


UPDATE: The bike didn't sell





— The Third Man


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