1916 Pierce Arrow 36
This 1916 Pierce Arrow is one of the cars that belonged to Lee N. Wolff of Strongsville, Ohio. I have known Lee since I was fifteen and worked as a busboy at his Strongsville Holiday Inn. For more about that life-long friendship, refer to the story about the 1927 Chandler. He is a good and honest man whom I came to know at an early age, and I still cherish his friendship these forty-one years later.
By 1972, I was frequently helping Lee with repairs and service on his collection of antique cars. It was that year that he purchased and had restored this 1916 Pierce-Arrow. The restoration was historically accurate and cosmetically beautiful. But in an effort to retain as many original parts as possible, some mechanical parts were used that probably shouldn’t have been.
Very soon after receiving the car, Lee started to notice a grinding sound that came from somewhere under the body. The exact location seemed to move from day to day, anywhere from the front to the back of the car. Lee asked me to take a ride with him to try to determine the exact location of the noise. My father and his friend Bob Hannaford were both present that day and I asked them to ride with us to try and determine the source of the grinding noise. These were my mentors and the authorities that I would refer to in any situation, so it made sense to confer together.
While taking the test drive, we each came up with a theory based on our aural perceptions. My dad felt that the sound was coming from the transmission. Bob thought the sound was coming from the drive shaft. I thought the sound was coming from the pumpkin (differential). We conferred and confabbed. The consensus was that we could only know by opening the differential. There were other diagnostic options, but this was the shortest route to excluding one of the theories (mine).
I took the Pierce over to my dad’s shop and removed the rear end of the car. Upon viewing the internal parts of the differential, it was apparent that the ring and pinion were out of alignment. They had been re-assembled without being properly aligned and the ring gear had suffered the consequence.
I was thrilled to have “out-heard” the source of the problem. My dad and Bob had been my mentors for the last ten years and finally, I had risen to the level of diagnostician in auto restoration and repair that made both of them proud.
As soon as Lee and I knew the source of the ever-increasing problem, I began a search for parts to replace the ring ad pinion gears for the Pierce. I found I location in Pittsburgh that used to be a Pierce Arrow dealership. They had parts that were still in the original boxes. But they still operated as a car repair site.
Lee and I drove to Pittsburgh in the hopes of finding replacement parts. I had located this facility through contacts and friends that I knew through the old car clubs. What we found was little less than Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The service garage that we arrived at had been in business since 1915. On the walls of the shop were original parts for Pierce Arrow parts dating back to 1910. They even had parts books that made you think that you had stepped back in time, and were standing at a parts counter sixty years earlier.
They had the correct ring and pinion gears available and they were still in the original box. Because they were packaged in oil at the beginning, they weren’t even corroded. They were as good a new!
While reveling in our find, Lee noticed a musical instrument attached to the wall. It was a trombone that was produced in about 1910. It was hanging on the wall and it called my name. Lee saw my attraction and immediately asked the owner “how much more if we add the trombone?” The guy added a few dollars to our ring gear purchase and we now had tools for both of us; his Pierce Arrow and my musical aspirations.