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Peerless Motor Car Company

The Greatest Car You've Never Heard Of.

In 1900, the Peerless Motor Car Company began production of a one cylinder Motorette, prior to 1900 the company had built clothes wringers and bicycles. The Cleveland based company quickly rose to prominence as a premiere car builder and automotive innovator. Peerless was the first company to adopt what would become the standard of automobile design, a front mounted engine driving the rear wheels through a solid drive shaft. This design is still used extensively and until the early 1980's, when American companies began building front engine/front wheel drive cars, was virtually the only design employed by American manufacturers. Center mounted engines, under the drivers seat, driving the rear wheels through chains had been the norm.


1903 Peerless

1903 Motorette

By 1904, Peerless was building a four cylinder car with a C channel frame. Other manufactures soon followed their lead and C channel frames are still extensively used. Perhaps the most advanced feature of the 1904 model was the tilt steering wheel, which was not adopted until the 1970's by most major manufacturers. In 1904, the company produced a 60 horsepower racer. World famous race car driver Barney Oldfield was hired to drive the "Green Dragon." Oldfield and the Dragon began setting speed records across the country. The Peerless name was soon revered from coast to coast. Peerless built a series of Green Dragons each replacing its predecessor following race track accidents.



1913 Peerless

1913 Roadster

By 1906 emphasis was shifted from racing to luxury. Oldfield and the "Green Dragons" were soon gone. 1,176 cars were built that year and the slogan "All that the name implies" was adopted. By 1907, Peerless had introduced a 6 cylinder model. Large expensive well appointed motor cars would soon become the trade mark of Peerless.


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Peerless continued to set the pace in luxury cars. In 1914, Automotive Trade Journal described the interior of the ‘Salon-Sedan’ as follows: “A car with an interior resembling a cozy and luxuriously furnished drawing room...The carefully harmonized and tasteful fittings are imported from European workshops. The interior colors of the car are dark mahogany, ivory, and green, blending from the darker to the lighter shades. Dark green linoleum covers the floor boards and is bound with German silver moulding. The carpet is high-piled English Axminster. At the floor and the side walls is a base-board of mahogany about four inches wide. Above this is wool frieze cloth and a chair rail of the same design, only smaller. Around the windows is a veneering of ivory enamel and the sashless panes are set in a veneer of three quarters of an inch wide mahogany. The shades are silk taffeta. The festooned draperies are silk broche’ lined with silk taffeta. The dome ceiling is lined with plain wool tapestry laid in a panel with flush lights in each of the four corners. Pillows are of Italian brocade with silk tinseled velvet border. A toilet case is of mahogany with fittings of silver and mahogany-colored goat skins. All the interior metal parts are quadruple silver plated. At the rear corners are two disappearing Pullman electric lights for reading. Compartments are furnished for gloves, books, papers and slip covers.”



In 1916, Cadillac introduced a V-8, Peerless not to be out done, soon followed with its own. This, however, marked the end of Peerless’ automotive innovations. The company’s ownership and management seemed to be in a constant state of flux. There were no major improvement to the Peerless until 1925. The company tried to survive on its laurels, but its reputation soon began to slip. By 1924, the company was out of the top end motor car market. A new slogan was adopted, which signaled the end “Now There’s a Peerless for Everyone.” The technically advanced V-8 was dropped in favor of the more tradition straight 8 design, two different models were offered. One built by Peerless and one produced by Continent. A Peerless In-Line 6 was also offered. Prior to 1915, Peerless was known for its extreme mechanical precision. Critical mechanical parts were made of extremely durable chrome-nickel steel. The chrome-nickel pistons and rods were weighed and balanced to within hundredths of an ounce. This type of precision today is only available on the most expensive handmade production cars or custom made automobiles.

By the late 1920’s the depression had taken its toll on all the luxury cars makers. By the mid 1930’s Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, and Pierce-Arrow were all gone from the Auto market. Peerless made one last ditch effort at survival in 1930. The famous designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky created an aluminum bodied sedan powered by a V-16 engine. Cadillac and Marmon were the only other car companies to produce a V-16 engine. The production number of this special sedan is in dispute, but at most two were built. One still survives. The second one, if ever built, is unaccounted for.

In June of 1931, the last production car rolled off the assembly line. Any cars that hadn’t been sold by the end of 1931 were marketed as 1932 models.

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Own a Peerless? Send me a photo and I'll include it in the Photo Gallery.
(Before and/or after pictures are welcome).

Peerless Owners' Gallery



This page last revised: 5/27/2004

This page created: 11/08/2000


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"All that the name implies"


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