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. By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
The Franklin Motor Company, based in New York, produced vehicles from 1902 through 1934. John Wilkinson, an engineer and company's vice-president, had introduced several innovative creations. His engines did not use a water pump, hoses, fans, anti-freeze, or gaskets because they were air cooled. He promoted a wooden frame chassis constructed of three-ply laminated ash. The design was lighter than steel and proved to be better at absorbing shock. Their lightweight design, quality, durability, and style were aggressively promoted by the companies advertising programs.
In 1924 Wilkinson left the company after the vehicles were given the 'appearance' of having a radiator, something he fought against.
This 1929 Franklin Model 135 Convertible Coupe with chassis number 35185899L14 has a 274 cubic-inch Franklin Airman air-cooled six-cylinder engine capable of producing 60 horsepower. It has a 125 inch wheelbase, hydraulic brakes, and is considered to be a very rare convertible coupe.
At the 2006 RM Auctions at Meadow Brook it was estimated to sell for $40,000 - $50,000. It found a new home at just under that estimate, at $37,400. By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2006
Sold for $44,000 at 2011 RM Sothebys. For 1929, the Franklin Series 13's were given steel chassis frames across the model range. They retained Franklin's traditional full-elliptic leaf spring setup and the four-wheel hydraulic brakes which had been adopted the year before. Three wheelbase lengths were not offered, plus a larger air-cooled, overhead valve six that displaced 274 cubic-inches and delivered 60 horsepower.
This Model 135 Cabriolet was given a body-off restoration during the mid-1990s. It was given a new Pale Yellow exterior finish with a red interior upholstery, and fitted with new tires. Since the restoration, which included a rebuild to the engine, has been driven less than 40 miles since being finished. After the work was completed, the car earned a Blue Ribbon award in 2010 at the second Concours d'Elegance Le Mirage, held at the Blainville Equestrian Park north of Montreal, Quebec.
The vehicle features a golf-club compartment and a rumble seat. Other period accessories include dual side-mounted spare tires, a rear luggage rack and trunk, dual Trippe lights and whitewall tires.
In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Amelia Island sale presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $50,000 - $60,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the car was sold for the sum of $44,000 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2011
Franklin automobiles were air-cooled, a featured that the company considered simpler and more reliable than water cooling. Another important feature to the H.H. Franklin Manufacturing Company (1902 to 1934) was light weight components to be used to create a well-performing car. Most Franklins were given wood-frames, though the very first used an angle iron frame (1902) and, beginning in 1928, the heavier cars adopted a conventional press-steel frame. Lightweight aluminum was used throughout the vehicle, to such an extent that Franklin may have been one of the largest user of aluminum in the world in the early years of the company.
The company was a technological leader, with such features as a six-cylinder engine - first used by the company in 1905 - and automatic spark advance, in 1907. Reliability was demonstrated by L.L. Whitman who drove a Franklin from New York City to San Francisco in 1906 in 15 days 2 hours 15 minutes, a new record.
Air-cooled cars had a large advantage in cold weather to their water-cooled counterparts. The Franklin automobiles were popular among people such as doctors, who needed an all-weather machine. The limitation of air-cooling was the size of the cylinder bore and the available area for the valves, which limited the power output of the earlier Franklins. By 1921, a change in cooling - moving the fan from sucking hot air to blowing cool air - led the way to the gradual increase in power.