Fancy birdcages. That's how the Pierce-Arrow company got its start. Actually, it was called Heinz, Pierce and Munschauer back then before George Pierce acquired the whole company when he bought out his partners. Alongside the birdcages, Pierce added bicycles and in 1901 cars were introduced to the product list as well. Just eight years later, President Taft purchased a pair of Pierce Arrows.
Fast forward to 2017, and Jay Leno is giving us a glimpse at his own Pierce-Arrow, a car that has never been restored.
Jay's car is extra special as it carries a large distinction, literally. This Model 66 from 1918 boasts the largest engine ever fitted to a production vehicle. Under the hood cowl you'll find a 14-liter engine with six massive cylinders. That's more than 825 cubic inches of displacement. Compared to a Rolls-Royce of the era, the Pierce Arrow has an engine twice the size of the British luxury saloon. This car also happens to be the very last Model 66 ever made.
Leno bought his example from Pierce-Arrow club member Patrick Craig. He welcomes Patrick into his garage to help explain the history and significance of the Model 66. Patrick is clearly an expert on the topic of all things Pierce Arrow. He even knows who designed the headlights. We also learn that Pierce Arrows were the American Rolls-Royces of the day, and this car cost about $6,000 new, which was about five times the price of a new house at the time.
As per his usual practice, Jay takes this 100-year old, 6,200-pound beast out on the street. It's amazing to think that there are 14 liters of engine ahead of him that deliver a horrible 4 mpg. It's not surprising that this engine would go on to be used in fire engines and the like. By comparison, the largest muscle cars that bark and roar on the street today have engines half the size of the Model 66. While this Pierce Arrow won't growl like those muscle machines, it does seem to present an impeccably smooth vintage motoring experience.