The H.H. Franklin Manufacturing Company built the most successful American direct air-cooled cars from 1902 to 1934. 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. 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.
The Franklin Manufacturing Company initiated a strong advertising campaign that promoted their high quality and lightweight vehicles. Their engineering was progressive and introduced many new features. Wilkinson used a wooden frame constructed of three-ply laminated ash. The benefits were two-fold; decreasing the weight of the vehicle and providing a better material to absorb shocks.
In 1924, Wilkinson left the company. The designs of the vehicle dramatically changed over the next few years, mainly in response to criticism from dealers. The most visual of these design changes was the radiators which became more conventional in design.
When Wilkinson left the company he was replaced by Frank DeCausse, a well known designer who had made a name for himself through work he had done at Rolls-Royce and Locomobilie. DeCausse refined the Franklins, ever increasing their appeal. Unfortunately, DeCausse died around 1928 leaving the Franklin Company without a lead designer.
In 1928 the Franklin Company hired Ray Dietrich as a replacement for DeCausse. In only a year, Dietrich had created some of the most exquisite designs the Franklin Company had ever produced. The designs attracted a new breed of buyers but it was the Great Depression that was responsible for the demise of the brand.By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2011