Friday, January 18, 2013

"Never Would Have Been a Ford"

"'From the beginning,' Herbert H. Franklin said concerning the Franklin car, 'it was my aim, in which John Wilkinson (Franklin's designer and engineer) concurred, to retain lightness and simplicity of design. We used wood frames and pioneered in use of aluminum to the extent that Franklin was rated the largest user of aluminum in the world.

1910 Grand Touring Model G

"The first Franklin sold, the one on exhibit in the Smithsonian at Washington, was remarkable for those qualities. The small car-building force in Geddes Street (in Syracuse, NY) had built two other cars, considerably after the pattern of the assembly John Wilkinson followed in his first air-cooled car.

(In 1904,)...a four cylinder stock car Franklin made it from coast to coast in 32 days, 23 hours and 20 minutes. The triumph of the light air-cooled engine car sent demand for Franklins zooming.

The two silver-colored levers are brakes

"Coming from fire-ravaged, quake shattered San Francisco, they wheeled their way to New York in a six-cylinder stock Franklin car in 15 days, two hours and 12 minutes, for the road distance of 4,100 clocked miles. Carrying two teams of drivers, the big car went over 8,000-foot grades, plowed through trackless desert, traveled 30 miles on railroad ties, and suffered 66 hours of delay, not deducted from the total elapsed time for the transcontinental trek.

"Floods caused 10 hours of the interruption in the run. Quicksand held them up 12 hours. Police interference cost 12 hours. Accident took 32 hours, after the machine went off the road between Erie, PA, and Conneaut, 0H.

1931 Deluxe Town Car Model 153

"Carris at the wheel, somersaulted out, suffering only a sprain. The others were unscathed. The flexibility of the car was demonstrated. Plunging down an embankment and through a creek it hit an abutment. Towed out and back to Conneaut it was running again after comparatively simple, but in those days, time-consuming repair."

The pieces of material on the trunk (below) show examples of the material used to line the trunk.

1909 REO Touring

(Continuing) "It had been doubted before the Winton run (the 1903 San Francisco to New York run completed in 63 days) if any car would ever make such a trip.
"In 1906 the press of the nation hailed the Franklin. The Scientific American said it was doubtful if any but a powerful lightweight car could ever equal the new Franklin record. The achievement took planning as well as doing. Gasoline had to be provided at prearranged pick-up places, for commercial supply spots were almost unknown over wide reaches.
1918 Touring Model 9B

"Such was the stamina of the machine that after completing the transcontinental run in 1906 it turned around for a record run to Chicago. Operated for 500 miles without any fan, the car nevertheless clipped nearly two hours off the previous record for the 1,000 miles. The Franklin made it in 56 hours."
Barely visible at the base of the engine block (above) is a stem. This stem is part of an air compressor. A flat tire incurred on the road could be repaired and then inflated using a hose from the air compressor.

1924 Sedan Model 10C (with the "horse collar" grill)

1933 Olympic Convertible Coupe

(Continuing) "So Franklin showed the way, with the first four-cylinder air-cooled car, the first six-cylinder engine in 1905, the first to use drive-through springs, and in 1907 the first to adopt automatic spark advance.
"Franklin pioneered sedan or closed bodies in 1913 and aluminum pistons in 1915. Franklin was first to use electric carburetor priming to speed up cold weather starting in 1921 and led in narrow steel pillar body front design in 1925.

"The company here had 570 men at work at the peak in 1904 and 1,200 in 1906.

1934 Club Sedan Model 194

The interesting thing about the trunk is that the suitcases that fit so nicely had been made for this auto.
"Col. Charles Lawrence, developer of the Wright 'Whirlwind' engine that powered Col. Charles A. Lindbergh’s "Spirit of St. Louis" in solo crossing of the Atlantic, credited Franklin cars. He said in 1928 that air-cooling of airplane engines was rated a mechanical possibility first because of demonstrated success in the Franklin automobile engine.

"This amazing enterprise, the lengthened shadow of a man and a machine, Bert Franklin and the air-cooled engine of John Wilkinson, had its bad times, in the money panic of 1907 and in 1910 again when not one car was made in May or June. It was to go a long way and live years yet. It remains an unfinished story. The seed of the idea has germinated in far places.

"'I told my directors I would show them $1,000,000 profit in a short time,' Mr. Franklin said. 'We saw it realized on schedule. But if we had priced the Franklin lower there never would have been a Ford car'" (

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