The H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company was a maker of automobiles in the US between 1902 and 1934 in Syracuse, New York. Herbert H. Franklin, the founder, started out in the metal die-casting business (in fact, he invented the term) before entering the automobile business with the engineer John Wilkinson.
All Franklin cars were air-cooled, which the company considered simpler and more reliable than water cooling, and the company considered light weight to be critical in making a well-performing car given the limited power of the engines then available. Most Franklins were wood-framed, though the very first used an angle iron frame (1902) and, beginning in 1928, the heavier cars adopted a conventional pressed-steel frame. Lightweight aluminum was used in quantity, to the extent that Franklin was reckoned to be the largest user of aluminum in the world in the early years of the company.
Offerings for 1904 included a touring car model with a detachable rear tonneau and which seated 4 passengers. The transverse-mounted, vertical straight-four engine, producing 10 hp, was mounted at the front of the car. A 2-speed planetary transmission was fitted. The car weighed 1100 lb. List price was $ 1300. By contrast, the Ford Model F in 1905 was priced at $2,000, the FAL was $1750, a Cole 30 or Colt Runabout was US$1500 the Ford Model S $700, the high-volume Oldsmobile Runabout $650, Western's Gale Model A $500, the Black could be as low as $375, and the Success hit the amazingly low US$250.
Franklin cars were technological leaders, first with six cylinders (by 1905) and automatic spark advance, in 1907. Demonstrating reliability, L.L. Whitman drove a Franklin from New York City to San Francisco in 1906 in 15 days 2 hours 15 minutes, a new record. Franklin were undisputed leaders in air-cooled cars at a time when virtually every other manufacturer had adopted water cooling as cheaper and easier to manufacture. Before the invention of antifreeze, the air-cooled car had a huge advantage in cold weather, and Franklins 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.
Franklins were often rather odd-looking cars, although some were distinctly handsome with Renault-style hoods. Starting in 1925, at the demand of dealers, Franklins were redesigned to look like conventional cars sporting a massive nickel-plated "dummy radiator" which served as an air intake and was called a "hoodfront". This design by J. Frank DeCausse enabled the Franklin to employ classic stying. The same year, Franklin introduced the boat-tail to car design.
In 1930 Franklin introduced a new type of engine which ultimately produced 100 horsepower, with one of the highest power-to-weight ratios of the time. In 1932, in response to competition amongst luxury car makers, Franklin brought out a twelve-cylinder engine. Air cooled with 398 cubic inches it developed 150 hp. It was designed to be installed in a lightweight chassis, but the car became a 6000 pound behemoth when Franklin engineers were overruled by management sent in from banks to recover bad loans. Although attractive, the Twelve did not have the ride and handling characteristics of its forebears. Unfortunately, this was simply the wrong vehicle to be building after the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed. The cars sold poorly and came nowhere near to recouping the company's investment. The company declared bankruptcy in 1934.
This nicely restored example is in excellent running and driving condition, and is very nice cosmetically as well. This CCCA Full Classic presents an affordable option for participation in Club events and Concours, and is a rare and unusual car that will be the only example of its kind wherever you take it-unless of course you go to a Franklin Club meet! The Franklin Club is an active and supportive group-so spares are readily available and, and expertise is willingly shared.