Buffalo, New York-based Pierce-Arrow was one of America’s most luxurious marques in the early 20th century. At the time the auto industry was still in its infancy with new companies starting and failing on a regular basis. Some, like Pierce-Arrow, enjoyed marginal success before their demise, and though they may not be around today they have forever left their mark on the automotive industry through their design, engineering, and historical significance.
With their gaze firmly set on quality, Pierce-Arrow sought to create only the most luxurious cars for the well-to-do, this Model 43 Roadster was no exception. The car was delivered new to Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, known today for the character of the same name in the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” who was based on O’Daniel himself. When he purchased the car new, he was a popular musician, he went on to enjoy a successful political career as both Governor of Texas and as a Senator. He was also the only person to have ever defeated Lyndon B. Johnson in an election.
Undoubtedly, one of the most recognizable features of the car is its unique mascot. The “Helmeted Archer” sits boldly atop the grille, kneeling with bow drawn. Designed by Herbert Dawley, the hood ornament is instantly recognizable and is the perfect character to represent such an elegant yet forward thinking company.
Donated by Jim and Nancy Scharfeld, the Model 43 was completely and professionally restored to factory standard, including a rebuilt drivetrain and restored upholstery and accents. The flawless dark red and crème paint is the perfect complement to the car’s long and sweeping lines while a rear jump seat and custom leather luggage add practicality to the attention-grabbing machine. Today, the car looks, runs, and drives just as it did when delivered new to O’Daniel.
Now making its home at the Petersen, the Model 43 sits proudly among other greats of its generation. Visitors can explore the vaults throughout the year as part of the museum's guided vault tours, where a wide variety of vehicles are stored when not on display in the museum’s main halls. From 19th century carriages to modern open-wheel racecars and everything in between, stop by and check out the Pierce-Arrow Model 43 Roadster and all the other intriguing cars in the Petersen vault.
By: Jeremy Malcolm