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Rare 1933 Silver Arrow, made in Buffalo, comes home

Only five Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow automobiles were ever built, and just three of the Buffalo-made cars exist today.

Beginning Sunday, one of those cars will return to Buffalo and be on view.

"This is probably the rarest and most exciting car we will ever have," said James Sandoro, co-founder of the Buffalo Transportation and Pierce-Arrow Museum.  "It's breathtaking. I have no other words for it. It's breathtaking."

The luxury four-door automobile was sold in 1933 for $10,000.

When collector Charles Mitchell purchased the car at auction last month, he paid $2.3 million.

The car's many  innovations included aerodynamic styling, big fender skirts, enclosed spare tires in compartments behind the front wheels and recessed door handles made to open like a vault door. The roof and body were crafted in steel, headlamps were integrated into the front fender, which Pierce-Arrow patented, and the car was designed without running boards.

The Art Deco features of sleek, streamlined shapes and flowing lines, designed by famed auto designer Philip Wright, offered a glimpse into the future.

"It gives you in 1933 the car of 1940," Pierce-Arrow literature said at the time.

The car could reach 115 miles per hour and the speedometer showed 130 MPH, at a time when few cars went above 90, Sandoro said. A speedometer and odometer were also mounted in the back so passengers could also see how fast the car was going and how many miles it had traveled.

"The styling makes it one of the most beautiful cars ever," Sandoro said. "That car shocked the automotive world."

James T. Sandoro, founder and executive director of the Buffalo Transportation museum, examines the dashboard of the Silver Arrow. Sandoro did not have the money to buy the rare 1933 car when it was available. "It was one of my greatest regrets," he said. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum contains some of the most show-stopping automobiles of the last century. But none quite compare to the Silver Arrow, Sandoro said.

The car is scheduled to be at the museum for about a year before touring other cities. Visitors to the museum will find the 1933 Pierce-Arrow in the company of 1931 and 1932 Pierce-Arrows, both of which had dramatically different designs.

The lifetime automobile buff had a rendezvous with the car about a half century ago. Sandoro stored it for friend and mentor F. Robert Greene, a Pierce-Arrow collector who helped found the Pierce-Arrow Society. After Greene died, the estate offered it to Sandoro for $20,000 in 1971, but he didn't have the money.

"It was one of my greatest regrets," Sandoro said. "But, conceivably, it could be here one day permanently, anyway. The gentleman who bought the car is a good friend, and he ultimately wants it returned to Buffalo."

Executive director James T. Sandoro, left, and facilities coordinator Steven Potycz, check out the enclosed spare tire cabinet in the 1933 Silver Arrow luxury automobile, a feature unheard-of for that period. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

The Silver Arrow was unveiled at the New York Auto Show on Jan. 1, 1933, before going to Boston for another show. Another Silver Arrow went to the Chicago Auto Show. That car will be loaned to the museum in June 2018, allowing both to be displayed before the museum stages the 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race.

Sandoro said only a handful of Silver Arrow models were made because the cost was double and triple the going rate, and at a time when the Great Depression was at its peak.

Mitchell has also loaned the museum a one-of-a-kind 1932 Duesenberg Model J Town Car purchased at the same auction in Hershey, Pa., for nearly $1.5 million. The automobile was built for Countess Anna Ingraham, heiress to the American clock and watch fortune. She paid the-then staggering sum of $25,000, equal to more than $400,000 today, and was the most expensive Duesenberg ever built, Sandoro said.

The custom-designed Duesenberg, with its blueish-silver color, gold-plated interior with floral upholstery and roof rack to carry the countess' luggage, is located in the museum's International Women's Transportation Hall of Fame gallery, near the Silver Arrow.

The Silver Arrow had a Back seat dash board had a clock and speedometer so the passengers could monitor time and speed. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Other new entries to the Pierce-Arrow Museum include seven rear and restored British motorcycles, including Douglas, BSA and Norton models, worth $400,000. A donor called out of the blue two weeks ago offering to donate them," Sandoro said.

"We've had just this year almost $10 million worth of stuff donated," he said.

There's also a 1931 Pierce-Arrow Roadster, another Buffalo-made automobile that arrived white and Sandoro had painted orange. He didn't know that was the original color, but restorer Joe Russo discovered that was the case after seeing orange underneath the fenders.

Sandoro is considering taking the car to the 2018 Toronto Auto Show for his first-ever major display there.

But right now, his focus is on the Silver Arrow.

"If you asked me what the one car was that I wanted to have, it would be this particular Silver Arrow," Sandoro said. "Having it here is beyond my wildest dreams."


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