Car History Year 1925
Date: Sunday, September 26 @ 22:13:58 UTC
Herbert H. Franklin was a foundry operator in Syracuse, New York, when, in 1901, he was introduced to a young graduate engineer named John Wilkinson. Upset because he had not been paid for building two prototype air-cooled cars for the New York Automobile Company, Wilkinson took Franklin for a ride in one of them which convinced the foundry owner to enter the automobile industry.
The first of a dozen Franklin automobiles produced in the initial twelve months was delivered in July 1902 and, from then on, the company prospered and grew. Development and improvement of the air-cooled engines continued over the years, and subsequently many endurance tests were carried out to prove the superiority of the Franklin over a standard water-cooled car. One such arduous undertaking happened in August 1915 with an 860 mile drive in bottom gear between Walla Walla in Washington and San Francisco. High and second gears were removed from the transmission and the unit sealed before the start, and the engine was never stopped during the running time of 83 hours and 40 minutes - representing an average speed of over 10 miles per hour through some of the most testing terrain.
Up until 1923, the front of a Franklin was readily distinguishable from most other makes of automobile because it didn't have a radiator. Being air-cooled, it obviously didn't need one, and the engine cover was a single cowl, hinged at the front and easily removed for maintenance work. In some respects it bore a passing resemblance to the electric and steam-powered cars of the day. However, in the summer of 1923, a group of Franklin dealers visited the
Syracuse factory and threatened to give up their franchises unless the company produced a more conventional-looking car with a dummy radiator grille.
Herbert Franklin was quickly convinced that the dealers were right, but John
Wilkinson couldn't accept the idea of a false radiator and resigned in protest. After consultations with both the Walter M. in Murphy company in California and Frank de Causse in New York, the task of creating a different body design was given to de Causse, and the new Series 11 cars were introduced in March, J 1925. In addition to the sedan style that Franklin were already best known for Causse's new designs also included a boat tail speedster - a very stylish departure from any of their existing or previous models.
The construction of the Franklin engine bears some investigation. Without the shrouding to direct the air flow, the engine looks rather like a giant, old-fashioned motorcycle unit with six cylinders. Each cylinder is a separate item with the head and barrel cast as one and copper cooling fins attached to the outside. The cooling fan is driven directly off the front of the crankshaft and the air is fed directly to the top of the engine and forced down between the cylinders.
And if the Franklin engine sounds a bit oddball, the rest of the car has its share of quirks too. All Franklins used a wooden chassis exclusively up until 1927, long after other manufacturers had switched to steel frames. The suspension system was also rather special in that it retained the full elliptic leaf springs front and rear, but the cars were noted for an exceptionally comfortable ride. The restyled 1925 Franklins were a great success and the company continued producing air-cooled automobiles in quantities. It was only a disastrous attempt at an inappropriate V12 luxury car following on from the effects of the Wall Street Crash that caused Franklin to cease trading in 1934.
Quotable quotes of '25 include Calvin Coolidge saying: "The business of America is business," Henry Fords "Machinery is the modern Messiah," but probably the most telling was a judge who declared that the automobile was "a house of prostitution on wheels." John Wilkinson might well have agreed that the Franklin had prostituted its looks by adopting a false radiator, but even in his deepest disgust he would surely never have equated such a fine automobile to a whorehouse.
Cast iron - 6 cylinders in line
274 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
3 1/2 x 4 3/4ins.
Sports; Sedan; Coupe; Cabriolet; Tourer; Limousine
No. of seats
3,750 lbs - 4,000 lbs
$2,500 - $3,000
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