Peerless Model 48 Six Roadster

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Model 48 Six Roadster





Established in Cleveland in 1900, Peerless Motors began producing De Dion-Bouton "machines" under license from the French Company. Engineer Louis P. Mooers designed the first Peerless models, as well as several proprietary engines. The first Peerless-branded vehicles appeared in 1902, with a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels through a shaft. This later became the standard vehicle propulsion layout for automobiles. In 1904, Mooers penned the Green Dragon racecar and enlisted Barney Oldfield to drive it. The Green Dragon brought notability and success to Peerless, as Oldfield used it to set a number of early world automobile speed records.

In 1905, the 35-horsepower Green Dragon, competed in the world's first 24-hour endurance race in Columbus, Ohio. Piloted by Earnest Bollinger, Aurther Feasel, and briefly by Barney Oldfield, the Peerless led the race for the first hour before crashing into a fence, later finishing in 3rd place.

From 1905-1907, Peerless experienced a rapid expansion in size and production volume. As the Peerless namesake grew in notoriety, the company began producing increasingly higher-priced models with a focus on luxury. Notable customers included Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. In 1911, Peerless was one of the first car companies to introduce electric lighting on their vehicles, with electric starters added in 1913. In 1915, the firm introduced its first V8 engine, intending to compete with the Cadillac V8 introduced a year earlier. This model became Peerless' staple production vehicle until 1925, when engines produced by other manufacturers were first used in Peerless models.

Peerless Model 27 is an elegant and desirable brass era collector car. Sporting a 30 horsepower 4 cylinder engine, the Model 27 was one of the more popular Peerless cars. The wood elegantly offsets and softens the black finish, and complements the brass trim. Inside, the Peerless is like a tiny English gentleman’s club, with red seats, button down tufting, and sprinkles of chrome and brass creating a yesteryear environment of elegance.

In 1910 Pierce-Arrow made an audacious move by introducing a model with an engine displacement of over 800ci. This model would even better the massive Bugatti Royal by over 1 liter. This colossal but civilized brute named the 66hp could have been offered without a transmission for it had ability to conquer anything in high gear.

Peerless model numbers were introduced more or less sequentially, although fours were mixed with the sixes and some numbers were left out. The six in 1909 was designated Model 25 and its wheelbase grew to 136 inches, though the engine was unchanged. Renamed Model 28 for 1910, with a 1/8-inch increase in bore the six became the Model 31 in 1911.

For 1912 there was a big change. Peerless was very much into sixes, with three sizes available. A 38-horsepower Model 35, also known as “H,” was available in seven body styles on a 125-inch wheelbase. The mid-range Model 36 or “K” was rated at 48-horsepower and offered six styles on a 137-inch wheelbase. Largest and most powerful was the 60-horsepower Model 37 or “L,” for which another six styles were catalogued on a 140-inch wheelbase. All sixes had seven main bearings and a Gray & Davis system provided electric lights and a generator. There were also two fours, the 26-horsepower Model 29 or “D,” and the 40-horsepower Model 33, also known as “J.” Left-hand drive, which had become available in 1907 on some models, became optional across the board.

Since 1907, Peerless had been championing the slogan “All That the Name Implies,” the implication being that Peerless had no peers, the other members of the “Three Ps,” Packard and Pierce notwithstanding. From 1908 to 1911 this was certainly true, as Packard had no six. But while both Pierce and Peerless had a similar range of comparable sixes over the period to 1912, closer examination shows Peerless as excelling in suspension (platform as opposed to Pierce’s three-quarter-elliptic) and use of electric lighting. The prices of the two makes were equivalent, which Peerless, in the 1912 catalog, argued was irrelevant: “The three elements in the satisfaction which a good motor-car affords its owner – mechanical efficiency, comfort, and beauty – are all founded in quality. It is impossible to obtain these when there is the slightest tendency to allow quality to be dominated by cost, either in the product as a whole or in its least conspicuous detail."

Peerless production was modest in its day, just over 1,700 cars in 1912, fewer than either Packard or Pierce. Production of the Model 36 did not reach 450 cars, which explains why they are seldom seen today. About 15 48-horsepower Peerless cars of all types have been known to exist since 1952, but the whereabouts of only five are known today.

By 1913, Peerless had fully grown into its slogan “All That the Name Implies.” Three models of sixes and two fours carried over from 1912, but the more-or-less sequential model nomenclature had caught up with the cars’ horsepower ratings. This caused some confusion, so the sixes were now designated 38-Six, 48-Six and 60-Six, according to their taxable horsepower ratings. The four were called 24-Four and 40-Four, in like manner. There were few mechanical changes save for a shift from dual to single ignition, which eliminated one set of spark plugs. The makers explained that since most driving was done on magneto, the plugs for the battery ignition system were rarely fired, resulting in carbon build up that rendered them unusable when called upon. The gear-driven cooling fan was replaced by a belt-driven type, and Truffault-Hartford shock absorbers were made standard equipment on front axles.

Peerless had been a pioneer in automobile electric systems. Gray & Davis generator-charged lighting had been adopted for all models in 1912. For 1913, electric starters, six-volt Gray & Davis units, became standard on all six-cylinder cars. The two-unit system contrasted with Cadillac’s Delco equipment, which combined the starter and generator into a single compound-voltage unit. The two-unit system eventually won out in the marketplace and even Cadillac adopted it after 1925.

Not content with being battered by Pierce, Peerless launched a behemoth of their own in 1912, the Model 60. At 826ci in six-cylinders it tied Pierce-Arrow for the honour of the biggest of the big.

The engine was a T-head design with cylinders cast in pairs. It had a cylinder bore and stroke of 6" x 8" and fed through two giant valves per cylinder. A central carburettor on long brass runners would feed the enormous engine. The engine just squeezes in under the top of the hood.

Far less known today than the famous Pierce 66 the Peerless 60 is equally refined and well-engineered. In 1912 at $6000 the model 60 it was actually priced slightly higher than Pierce-Arrows astronomical figure of $5750. This is likely a factor in why the Peerless are less common then the Pierce Arrows.

During World War I, Peerless manufactured military vehicle chassis and trucks.

In 1929, the entire Peerless range was redesigned to compete with other vehicles produced by Stutz and Marmon. This move saw increased sales, and for 1930 another design refresh was undertaken. However, the Great Depression that began in 1930 spelled the end of luxury automobiles. Peerless stripped-down production and attempted to market one line of vehicles to wealthy Americans who were not affected by the depression. In 1930-31, Peerless commissioned Murphy Body Works to design what the company envisioned as its 1933 model. The task was assigned to a young Frank Hershey, who produced a remarkably clean, elegant vehicle. A single V16-engined 1931 Peerless was finished in June 1931, the last Peerless ever produced.

Peerless remained an idle business until the end of Prohibition in 1933 allowed the manufacture of alcohol. Peerless then revamped its factory and gained a license to brew beer under the Carling Black Label and Red Cap ale brands.

Hershey's single prototype remained in Peerless factory until the end of World War II and it is now owned by the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.

The following Peerless vehicles - 1925 Series 67; 1926 — 1928 Series 69; 1929 Model Eight-125; 1930-1 Custom 8 and the 1932 Deluxe Custom 8. However, all Peerless vehicles are considered collectible.

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