Vintage Cars of ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Peerless Eight

What Cars Would Jay Gatsby Have Really Bought?

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan - is their love doomed?

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan – is their love doomed?

A 1919-1921 Shopping List by Igor Spajic

PEERLESS Eight – Model 56

Peerless, together with Pierce-Arrow and Packard made up the ‘three P’s’ of the American luxury car motordom. Peerless had built powerful, expensive touring cars almost from the start in the early 1900s. The displacements of its four- and six-cylinder engines was rivalled only by Crane-Simplex, Pierce-Arrow and a handful of other fine car makers in the immediate pre-World War I era.

A turbulent series of shake-ups in management hampered the company’s ability to re-design and upgrade its products. Peerless was still building obsolete T-head sixes in 1915 when Packard was selling strongly with its V12 Twin-Six and even Cadillac – a relative upstart in the luxury field – had introduced a fine V8.

Peerless adopted the new Herschell-Spillman V8 engine for 1916 but the motor was under-developed and given to harsh vibration periods unacceptable to the demanding buyer of expensive cars. Peerless quickly re-engineered the Herschell-Spillman unit into the smooth powerplant it should have been from the start.

1919 Peerless Model 56 Sedan. Fitting transport for The Great Gatsby.

1919 Peerless Model 56 Sedan. Fitting transport for The Great Gatsby.

In addition, Peerless engineers were the first to include an accelerator pump in their carburettor, providing the V8 with an instant increase in power when the driver demanded it. This ‘dual-range’ V8 was proudly advertised by Peerless, who obtained an easy 80 bhp from it.

Peerless was still independent and selling well with this V8 chassis when Jay Gatsby began looking for fine cars to buy. It would have made a good choice for either limousine or touring car.

1919 Peerless Model 56 Roadster.

1919 Peerless Model 56 Roadster. Fast, fair weather travel for four.

As the Twenties progressed however, Peerless adopted a policy of styling stasis. During this era that thrived on novelty, Peerless’ lack of product upgrades and restyles hurt the company.

New management forced the luxury car maker to tarnish its image by going downmarket into the middle-price six-cylinder category. A last attempt to return to former upscale glory with a V16 powered model was foiled by the severity of the Great Depression. Peerless management abandoned the car market altogether in order to become a beer brewer when Prohibition lifted.

Peerless Motor Car Company

Peerless Eight – Model 56

1919 prices – $2,760 – $3,720

1920 Peerless 8 Ad

An excellent car for Jay Gatsby – 1920 Peerless Eight touring, with accelerator pump in the carburettor.


The Great Gatsby

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