In 1933, the $10,000 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow represented unattainable luxury for Americans after the Great Depression had seen half of America’s banks fail and one third of Americans unemployed
The “silver arrow” has been a constant throughout the history of story telling, from the bows of Eros (Cupid), Artemis and Apollo, through Robin Hood, to the nickname for the silver cars by Mercedes Benz that have regularly dominated motorsport. But in modern history, the silver arrow name was popularized by one car: the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow.
Only five were made, and they were the sensation of the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago and the 1933 New York and Boston Auto Shows. The streamlined design might not seem all that revolutionary these days but in 1933 it was a revelation, and looked so futuristic that it was advertised as “a 1940s car” and has influenced automotive aesthetic ever since.
One of the only five Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrows ever built, the New York Auto Show car is going to auction later this week.
The car sold by RM-Sothebys for US$3.74 million at its New York Driven by Disruption sale in December, 2015 was the World’s Fair Show car – a car that attracted global recognition as one of the highlights of the massive “Century of Progress” World’s Fair Exposition held over three and a half miles along the banks of Lake Michigan.
Only two Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrows have gone to auction in the last 40 years, selling for $2,200,000 (Barrett-Jackson in 2012) and $3,740,000 (RM-Sothebys in 2015), respectively.
The car going to auction at RM-Sotheby’s Hershey Lodge sale in Pennsylvania on Friday is the car that was first shown to the world on January 1, 1933 at the New York Auto Show. It was subsequently the toast of the Boston Auto Show in 1933, too.
Like the World’s Fair car, such automotive royalty is normally closely held. This car has been part of several famous car collections, including the F. Robert Greene and Brucker Family collections, and is being sold as part of the Thomas F. Derro Collection.
At the time of its showing, the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow represented unattainable luxury for Americans. It had a retail price of $10,000, which equates to around $185,000 in today’s money and is one of the reasons that only five were ever sold. Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, half of America’s banks had failed by 1933 and one third of the workforce was unemployed. It’s unlikely buyers will be as hard to find in Friday’s auction.