Forty-five summers ago, a young Tony Zappone was already well-versed in the history of Pierce-Arrow. While many a casual antique car aficionado could recite the economic impact the stock market crash of 1929 had on the luxury automaker, Zappone had committed to memory finite details, such as production figures of particular post-crash models.
Then driving a 1936 Pierce-Arrow coupe, Zappone met a truck driver that summer who insisted that he knew where a convertible sedan lay waiting. Skeptical at first, he took a chance on the trucker’s tip, and at 5:30 in the morning made the trek to examine to rare convertible. As it turned out the find was legitimate, and after discussing the vehicle with its owner a purchase price was negotiated. In April of 1968, Zappone became its new custodian.
The convertible sedan has since been finely restored. It is a 1936 Model 1601; its history completely documented, including its original sale from a New Jersey Pierce-Arrow dealer. Under the corporate-redesigned 1936 aluminum skin lies a 150hp, 384.8-cu.in. straight-eight engine backed by a Borg-Warner three-speed manual with overdrive, both of which are secured to a 144-inch wheelbase chassis. In spite of the relatively lightweight body, the car tips the scales at a staggering 6,000 pounds.
Basic facts aside, it was rarity that pushed Zappone into making the offer.
“These convertible sedans [offered in the Model 1601 straight-eight and Model 1602 V-12 guises] came out so late in the model year that they don’t appear in the company’s 1936 catalog, and even though the model was offered in ’37 in company literature, none were built,” Zappone said. “Altogether, just six of these were assembled, and this was the only one built with a formal division window. Today, only three of them are known to remain; one of which is a 1602 V-12.”
Recognized as a Full Classic by the CCCA, it will be accompanied by a growing list of other Full Classics, as well as Jaguar E-types, Pre-1976 BMW Automobiles and Motorcycles, American Fiberglass Specials of the 1950s, Early Ford V-8s, 1953-1973 Corvettes, 1966-1971 Street Hemis, Class of 1958, European Sports Cars, American Muscle Cars, Vintage Trucks, and our other standard classes; we are still accepting submissions for each class.
We relate the details on Zappone’s Pierce-Arrow largely because the ultra-rare automotive treasure will go on display at this year’s Hemmings Motor News Concours d’Elegance at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. The three-day extravaganza begins on Friday, Sept. 27, with our annual opening event and rally from our home office in Bennington, Vt, to the museum in Saratoga Springs. Our Cruise-In Spectacular, open to all cars, trucks and motorcycles, starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and the concours itself takes place on Sunday. For more information about the New England Concours d’Elegance, visit Hemmings.com/events/concours.