Friday, January 18, 2013

"Down There Somewhere" Museum

"If there was an easy way and a hard way to do something, Mr. Franklin would choose the hard way."

This was Bill's description of Herbert H. Franklin, the owner of the H.H. Franklin Manufacturing Company, which built the most successful American direct air-cooled cars from 1902 to 1934.

To find the Franklin Auto Museum and my tour guide Bill, I followed the directions on the Museum's brochure: "The entrance is on Vine Avenue" (in Tucson).

Turning onto Vine Avenue, I was greeted by this sign. I parked the truck and began walking toward (I assumed) the Museum.

After a two-block walk down the gravel road, I met a man and his dog. In answer to my question as to the Museum's whereabouts, the gentleman replied, "It's down there somewhere."

So I returned to my truck, drove past the "Do Not Enter" sign and "somewhere" down the road found the minimally-marked entrance to the Museum on the property of the former home of Tom Hubbard, the collector and restorer of several Franklin autos. Mr. Hubbard died in 1993, but the Franklin Foundation maintains the Museum.
1932 V12 Sport Phaeton

When the tour began, I was the only visitor, but less than ten minutes after we began, we were joined by two gentlemen. These fellows not only were knowledgable about cars in general, but the Franklins in particular.

They had plenty of question, Bill had the opportunity to share his knowledge--and I could listen, learn, and take photos.
1925 Coupe

"John Wilkinson was the engineer who built the first Franklin car and whose design principles combining high quality with light weight gave Franklin their distinct reputation for dependability and long life.
1931 Sport Phaeton

This car was driven cross country twice.

"All Franklins utilized air-cooled engines and double elliptical springs on all four wheels. Their legacy has been one of successful innovations and, of course, the unusual vehicles that survived.
1931 Speedster Model 153

"The Franklin automobiles were cooled by direct air flow. A fan was attached to the crankshaft and the air was directed by metal housings to the tops of the cylinders and through copper fins. They proved to be superior to liquid-cooled engines, especially on long journeys at high speeds.
1929 Convertible Coupe Model 135

"There were no radiators and thus, looked different from other American vehicles. By 1923, the company conformed to the contemporary look of other vehicles by placing a fake radiator at the front of the vehicle. This upset John Wilkinson, the chief engineer and designer for Franklin, so much that he left the company in protest.

1926 Sport Touring Series 11-A (air-cooled)

"Weight saving methods were implemented in the construction of Franklin automobiles. Franklin used high-grade, lightweight aluminum instead of the popular, cheaper, and proved cast-iron material. They became the largest consumer of aluminum.
1934 V12 Club Brougham

"The full-elliptic springs and a flexible wood frame were used to create a soft ride for the occupants. Other features, well ahead of their time, used by Franklin by the 1920s included full-pressure lubrication, electric choke, and automatic spark control.
1930 Pirate Phaeton Model 147

"In 1930 Franklin introduced new styling and power with their Series 145 and 147. In the front was a radiator, which was more a decoration than a functional piece of the automobile. It featured shutters which allowed air to come into the engine. The shutters were controlled automatically by a thermostat connected to the number-one cylinder. That cylinder, and the rest of the engine, continued Franklins tradition of air-cooled, six individually cast cylinders, and overhead valves.

"New for 1930 was the Pursuit, a dual-cowl phaeton that had a very smooth and graceful body that was void of door handles."
1932 Deluxe Pursuit Model 163

The second windshield would fold forward onto the metal piece, both would then lift forward, and then the door could be opened by reaching into the car.

The horn was in the center of the steering wheel. The lever just above the horn was the accelerator; the lever just below the horn controlled the lights.

"As the twenties came to a close and the start of the thirties began, the world entered into The Great Depression. Franklin closed out 1929 with record sales and an optimistic outlook for their future, despite Wall Street's warnings and predictions" (

1 comment:

Domenic Politi said...


Am reaching SS age now, so selecting the right time is soon to arrive for a FRANKLIN. I particularly like the Pirate series, which may well depict the theme that had pervaded the marque.
I am from the West Point/Hudson Highlands entrance to the Hudson River(Bear Mountain Bridge) area, Franklins are not commonly seen, so I would enjoy the comeback as being something other than run of the mill.
Are any of the Museum vehicles offered for sale?