Hector man’s 1915 Pierce-Arrow has unique story
Curtis A. Sampson, of Hector, is a collector of a variety of different things. Besides all the businesses in which he is involved, he collects boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles and antique cars. He is probably most known as the chairman of Canterbury Park in Shakopee. He is also chairman of Communications Systems, Inc. which includes Transition Networks, Suttle and JDL Technologies with more than 2,000 employees worldwide.
Curt Sampson with three of his antique cars. On the far left is a 1933 Chevy and then the 1915 Pierce-Arrow followed by a 1933 Pierce Arrow. He has nearly 40 antique cars in his collection. Photo contributed.
One of his “hobbies” in his semi-retirement is collecting antique cars. He currently owns about 40 antique cars and stores them in a garage in Hector. According to Lance Sorenson, who helps Curtis with the restoration of the vehicles, many people have toured the collection and are amazed. His most famous antique car is the 1915 Pierce-Arrow (shown on Sampson’s right) he acquired in September 1995 at an estate auction in Atwater. He was bidding against two other prospective buyers, including entertainer Wayne Newton and a collector from Omaha. Both had semi-trucks on the scene to transport the Pierce-Arrow as they expected to be the successful bidder. At the insistence of his wife Marian, who accompanied him to the auction, Curt was the successful bidder at $78,000.
Sampson also purchased a 1914 Model T car, which was the first car that Sydney Strong sold when he became a Ford dealer in 1914. He sold the car to be used for rural mail delivery and later bought it back.
You may wonder how this 1915 Pierce-Arrow got to Atwater. Mr. Strong, who was a renowned car collector and owner of Strong Motors, came across the vehicle in a Hopkins junkyard in 1946, and he purchased it. He chopped the tires out of the ice, put some air in the tires, and pulled it to a gas station for a battery, gas, oil, more air and anti-freeze. Much to his surprise, it started, and he drove it to Atwater. The junkyard owner wanted the car back because his wife wanted it in their front yard, to fill with dirt and plant flowers in it. What could have been a flower garden turned into a luxurious antique car. It being made of aluminum, it is surprising it wasn’t junked during World War II.
Since Sampson purchased it he has driven it in parades. Mr. Strong also drove it across the United States, including a trip up Pike’s Peak in Colorado.
History of the Pierce-Arrow
Sign in front of Sampson’s Pierce-Arrows with some of the unique facts about the classic car. Contributed photo
The George N. Pierce Company became the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in 1908 and began manufacturing larger luxurious automobiles for an affluent market. Pierce-Arrow’s luxury brand was featured in advertisements that were quietly artistic and sophisticated. Pierce-Arrows were marketed as much more than a car. They were symbols of wealth and status.
In 1909, President Howard Taft requested two Pierce-Arrows to serve as official cars of the White House. Pierce-Arrows served as presidential vehicles from Taft to Roosevelt. Foreign royals, diplomats and business tycoons, including John D. Rockefeller, the Shah of Persia, J. Edgar Hoover, the secret service, and many more all drove Pierce-Arrows. Famous Americans like aviation pioneer Orville Wright and Hall of Fame baseball player Babe Ruth also had Pierce-Arrows in their personal car collections.
Pierce-Arrow was known for many automotive innovations. The most notable and distinctive was the fender light designed by Herbert Dawley in 1914. He also designed the hood ornament known as the “Helmeted Archer,” which was used on the 1928 Pierce-Arrow. More stylized archers were used on Pierce-Arrows through 1938.
Pierce-Arrow introduced larger, more powerful cars in 1915 and 1916, that offered more luxury options. Pierce-Arrow’s success reached its peak during World War I, producing a great number of trucks to be used in the war in Europe. The war ended, and Pierce-Arrow’s success and popularity continued to grow.
Sampson’s 1915 Pierce-Arrow Touring car is a seven-passenger, cast aluminum body vehicle with a 48-horsepower, six-cylinder engine and weighs 5,100 pounds It has a 12-volt ignition system, and the headlights are in the body mounted on the fenders. The gas tank is solid copper and holds 32 gallons. It gets about nine miles to the gallon. The wheels attract special attention. Their size is 36×4½ inches and the wheelbase measures 142 inches. One famous trip that Sampson’s 1915 Pierce-Arrow was in was when First Lady Bess Truman and other dignitaries rode in it in the Aquatennial Parade during President Harry S. Truman’s visit to Minneapolis. President Truman was scheduled to ride in the Pierce, but it was decided he should ride in a bullet-proof limo.