1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, The Richard H. Driehaus Collection at Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage; Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZC4-11941-D
Compared to other luxury sedans of its era, the long, sleek Pierce, with its sweeping lines, streamlined headlights, slab sides, prominent reveals, and impossibly sexy razor-slit rear windows, was a rocket ship on wheels. The Pierce-Arrow, built in Buffalo, N.Y., was one of the premier “Three P’s,” comprising Packard, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow. Catering to the carriage trade, Pierces were fairly conservative, except for the impudence of their faired-in headlamps. Ironically, this treatment was legal in nearly every state save New York, so Empire State buyers had to make do with drum-type free-standing lights. Pierce challenged Cadillac, Packard, and Duesenberg at the the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress, where four luxury automakers were tasked with building the car of the future. Pierce-Arrow triumphed, but they folded in 1938.
1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B “Xenia,” Collection of Peter Mullin Automotive Museum Foundation; Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt
The 1938 Hispano-Suiza "Xenia" is surrounded in mystery … Jean Andreau’s advanced design, built on an older 1932 Hispano H6B chassis, is simply stunning. This car was a rolling showcase for some of Dubonnet’s advanced features, like a panoramic windshield, gull-wing windows, sliding parallel doors that opened rearward with a patented pantograph mechanism, and a body that resembled the sleek fuselage of an airplane. Named for Dubonnet’s deceased first wife, the lovely Xenia Johnson, this one-of-a-kind coupe disappeared during WWII and miraculously reappeared in June 1946 at the opening of the St. Cloud tunnel. It impresses all who see it. French car experts Richard Adatto and Diana Meredith called it “yesterday’s vision of the future."
1930 Ruxton Model C Sedan, The Richard H. Driehaus Collection at Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage; Photo © 2016 Peter Harholdt
The 1930 Ruxton’s Depression-era launch timing couldn’t have been worse, and that was true for its closest competitor, the Cord L29. While not the first front-wheel drive sedan—a few Frontmobiles were built in New Jersey in 1917—the bold Ruxton, designed by William Muller, styled by Joseph Ledwinka, and improbably produced in St. Louis by New Era Motors, had a lowslung, handsome silhouette that attracted considerable attention. This effect was magnified by the few examples produced using architect, illustrator, and theatre set designer Joseph Urban’s clever horizontal color bands in graduated hues. A few Budd-bodied sedans were assembled from leftover parts after the company went out of business. This distinctive car is known to be the penultimate Ruxton.