The 28 horsepower Model D combined the agility of a small car with the speed and comfort of a large touring car. At just over 2,000 lbs, the power to weight ratio also allowed for excellent hill climbing ability. While faster cars were sold by competitors few, if any, could match the Franklin D in speed over the typical roads of the day, all the while turning in impressive fuel economy. Cars came fully equipped with lamps and tools but, as was common to all manufacturers, tops and windshields were optional extras and many cars were sold without either.
The four-cylinder engine displaced 227 cubic-inches and offered 28 horsepower. The wheelbase measured 106 inches and had a factory price of $2,800.
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