The 1910 Pierce Arrow Camper

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The George N. Pierce Co. of Buffalo, New York made bicycles in the 1850s, produced its first car in 1901 and was renamed Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. in 1910. English-born David Furguson, who remained with the company until 1921, designed the first light cars which had single-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engines. The 'Great Arrow' of 1904 saw the arrival of a 4-cyl. model, the 3770cc engine rated at 24/28HP driving through a 3-speed gearbox with column-mounted shift lever and shaft drive. It also introduced cast aluminium sections to the Pierce-Arrow body structure, a feature which remained until 1921 when the company went over to pressed aluminium sheet.

The Pierce-Arrow quickly established itself as a prestige marque and when in 1909 the White House dispensed with horse-drawn carriages for everyday transport two of the Buffalo company's models were included in the first presidential motorised fleet. In 1910 rationalisation saw the company concentrate on the upper end of the mushrooming auto-mobile market with just three 6-cylinder models: the 36-UU of 5866cc, the 48-SS 7424cc and the 66-QQ 11,700cc. Among the body styles offered was a touring Landau, unveiled in January 1910 at Madison Square Garden N.Y., which could be fitted out as a camper. Owners, of course, would still expect to be chauffeur-driven on their expeditions into the great outdoors and there was a telephone installed for communication between passengers and driver.

Built to order, the Camper came with a deluxe specification which began with tooled leather upholstery. It has a water tank, toilet and a washbasin built into the back of the front seat. There was a rear boot for trunks, a roofrack and storage boxes were set along the sides where normally would have been plain runningboards. The basic price was $8,250 and first choice options included the fitted set of trunks for the boot, $200, and the picnic set for the sliding drawer under the rear seat, $65.

Pierce-Arrow's President, George K. Birge, had one of the campers with an interior specially designed by the company's Herbert M. Dawley and including a rear seat/bed conversion and hot and cold running water. An owner from San Francisco substituted an icebox for the standard washbasin, whilst others specified fitted Thermos flasks and compartments for cutlery and crockery. A breakfast cereal tycoon, Charles William Post, and his wife are reported to have travelled extensively in their specially equipped P-A Touring Camper which also had H & C on tap, a food storage compartment, hampers, toilet, four trunks on the back plus two more on top. It was painted an eye-catching combination of old coach yellow and black.


Note: Article published in Motorhome Monthly, Britain's former number one motorhome magazine, by Chris Burlace, now an author at Motorhome and Campervan Magazine.

Did You Know?

First cross-Canada trips by car: 1912, when Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney drove their four-cylinder REO from Halifax to Victoria. The trip took 52 days. "Roads were bad", Mr. Haney wrote in his diary on just the second day of the expedition. By the time they reached Ontario, the roads were "rotted, full of deep holes. Had to ford two creeks today, bridges out." Where there were no roads, Wilby either hoisted his automobile onto a railway flatcar or simply drove bumpily over the railway ties.

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