1912 Pierce 592cc Single Engine no. 4525 (see text)
* Premier American marque * Extremely rare * AMCA concours winner
America's first four-cylinder motorcycle, the Pierce was manufactured by the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company at its factory in Buffalo, New York and was launched in 1909. Although inspired by the Belgian FN four, one of which Percy Pierce had brought to the USA in 1908, the Pierce differed in detail design, its engine eschewing the FN's 'atmospheric' inlet valves in favour of mechanical side valves in 'T-head' configuration, a arrangement FN themselves would later use. According to its makers, the Pierce would be: 'Vibrationless, give motor car comfort and travel comfortably from a mere walking pace up to the speed of the motor car', and capable of proceeding from 6 to 60mph in its single gear. Nowadays we take such attributes for granted, but at that time the majority of motorcycles were slow, single-cylinder models with direct belt-drive transmission.
It was not just its multi-cylinder engine that made the Pierce unusual; the frame too was novel, being constructed from 3½"-diameter steel tubes that housed fuel and oil, and, like the FN, final drive was by shaft. Early models employed direct drive, but from 1910 onwards a two-speed gearbox was standardised. Fast and well made, the Pierce soon had a string of city-to-city endurance race wins to its credit. At the time of its motorcycle's launch in 1909, Pierce-Arrow was embarking on a policy of building luxury cars only, many of which would come to be regarded as among America's finest. This approach was reflected in the quality - and cost - of the Pierce motorcycle and would ultimately lead to its downfall. Priced at $325 in 1909, it cost $400 when production ceased in 1913, at which time the basic Ford Model T was priced at $525. Alongside the four, Pierce offered a 592cc single-cylinder model from 1910, the sidevalve motor of which was redesigned with two-cam valve operation for 1912. A top speed of 55mph was claimed for the smaller Pierce, which was said to have the 'efficiency of a twin with the simplicity of single-cylinder construction.' Production ceased at the same time as that of the four.
Pierce motorcycles are very rare and highly sought after nowadays, only infrequently turning up on the open market. Restored to an exceptional standard, this single-cylinder Pierce comes with State of California Certificate of Title and four AMCA concours awards. It should be noted that the VIN is incorrectly recorded on the CoT.