Saturday, August 19, 2017

Northeast Classic Car Museum, Norwich, New York, Part 4--August 19, 2017: Franklins

The Franklin Wing of the Northeast Classic Car Museum
The Northeast Classic Car Museum's collection is based primarily on cars owned by the founder, George Staley (1919-2011), a local resident who grew up on a dairy farm but went on to become an accomplished engineer before starting a business overhauling aircraft accessories.  It began with three employees and by the time it was sold out in 1989 there were 250 at three locations.  In his leisure, Mr. Paley began to collect cars, particularly Franklins, and it is no surprise that with his aviation connection he had an affinity for cars produced with air-cooled engines and manufactured in his home state of New York.

Franklin automobiles were produced in Syracuse, New York, from 1902 until 1934 and were noted for their technical innovation and high quality.  A pioneer in the use of air-cooled engines and the first to produce a six cylinder engine, Franklins were lightweight luxury cars which for many years used wood frame chassis (until 1928) for shock absorption.  The company, once the largest user of aluminum in the world, never made much money and failed to adopt modern assembly-line construction even as competitors such as Cadillac and Packard were able to do so.  Although the company introduced the exotic boat-tail body style in 1925, Franklins, often owned by conservative bankers or doctors, were not especially noted for their body design.

1908 Franklin Series A 1-Ton Truck Prototype
The first truck made by Franklin, and apparently the only survivor, this example was purchased as a basket case in 1969 and restored in time for the Franklin centennial in 2003.  It is powered by a four cylinder engine and equipped with shaft drive.

Selden Patent Plate
This small plate indicates that the manufacturer had paid royalties to the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALMA), which controlled the Selden Patent.  The patent, deemed a "pioneer patent" that covered all internal-combustion automobiles, had been filed in 1879 by George B. Selden, a patent attorney and tinkerer in Rochester, New York.  With his knowledge of patent law, he was able to delay the awarding of the patent until 1895, when cars were beginning to appear.  He sold his patent in 1899 to what became ALMA and that group collected royalties of 0.75% from its members and brought suit against manufacturers infringing the patent.  In a celebrated court case, Henry Ford successfully attacked the validity of the patent and it was rendered worthless, albeit with only one year remaining before expiring anyway.  The "pioneer patent" argument was to bedevil the legal system again in the case of the Wright Brothers against Glenn Curtiss as the brothers essentially claimed that three-axis control in flight, rather than the system of how it was done, was their patent right.

1907 Franklin Model G 4 Passenger Touring Car
Introduced in 1906, when Franklin was the third-largest car manufacturer in the United States, the Model G marked the introduction of the "barrel hood" design of Franklin, which was the first change since the company began in 1902 and was used until 1910.  The Model G has a four cylinder engine of 12 hp and sold for $1,850.  At the time this example was built, Franklin employed 1,700 men at its plant in Syracuse.

ALMA license plate affirming payment of the Selden Patent royalty

1903 Franklin Runabout
Believed to be the third-oldest Franklin in existence, this 10 hp car bears serial number 102 of 219 cars produced in the 1903 model year.  It was priced at $1,300.  The oldest Franklin known is a 1902 model owned by the Smithsonian Institution.

1934 Franklin Airman Sedan (left); 1932 Franklin Series 163 Airman Coupe (right)

1934 Franklin Airman Sedan
From production of 14,000 cars in 1929, sales collapsed at Franklin until reaching the end in 1934, when 360 were built--but only 79 were sold.  This Airman Sedan, powered by a 100 hp six cylinder engine, was priced at $2,185 and is believed the have the last serial number given to a Franklin car.  The Airman was named in honour of Charles Lindbergh, a Franklin owner, as was Amelia Earhardt, and introduced in 1927, the same year as Lindbergh's historic New York to Paris flight.

1932 Franklin Series 163 Airman Coupe
Considered perhaps as the finest car Franklin produced, the Franklin, with its six cylinder air-cooled engine, offered impressive performance for the day.  The company introduced hydraulic front wheel brakes in 1928, and switched from its traditional wooden frames to steel in 1929.  This car's list price was $2,345 and it was one of 1,900 cars to leave the Syracuse factory in that model year.

1915 Franklin Model Six-30 Two Passenger Roadster
In 1914 Franklin went exclusively to six cylinder engines and this roadster, restored as a fire chief's vehicle, had a 30 hp engine equipped with aluminum pistons, an industry advance.  For many years the cars featured a fully-elliptical suspension for an excellent ride.  Coupled with the goal of light weight, Franklin did not offer demountable tire rims until 1923 as tire wear was negligible for the period  The roadster was priced at $2,150 and was used by museum founder George Staley to lead a parade at the New York State Firemen's Convention in Syracuse in 1999.

1912 Franklin Model G Touring Car
Produced from 1906 until 1913, the Model G was available in various body styles.  The 1912 version was either a runabout on a 100 inch wheelbase, with an air-cooled 18 hp engine, or, in the case of the museum car, a touring version on a 103 inch wheelbase and having a 25 hp engine.  List price of the car was $2,000.  It featured the distinctive Renault-style (or "shovel front") hood arrangement.

1910 Franklin Model G Two Passenger Runabout
1910 was the last year that Franklin used the "barrel style" hood on its cars.  This Model G, with its 18 hp four cylinder, was built on a 91" wheelbase and sold for $1,750.

1909 Franklin Model D Five Passenger Touring Car
1909 was the final year of the front-mounted gear driven fan used for engine cooling by Franklin.  This Model D has a 28 hp engine and sold for $2,800.

1920 Franklin Model 9-B Five Passenger Sedan
The Model 9-B, powered with a 25 hp six cylinder engine and built on a 115" wheelbase, came in five body styles, with this sedan selling for $3,750.  1920 was the last year Franklin used its Renault-style hood, replacing it in the 1921 model year with a popular "horse collar" style.  It was easy to retrofit the hood to earlier Franklins and this car was so converted.

1925 Franklin Model 10-C Five Passenger Touring
The Model 10 was built between 1922 and 1925 and this car, selling for $1,950, used a 32 hp overhead valve engine, upgraded from the previous year's 25 hp version, and retained Franklin's traditional ash frame.  It was the last year that the "horse collar" hood was used and the year that marked the departure of Franklin's Chief Engineer, John Wilkinson, who had been with the company since its beginning. Franklin, under dealer pressure, requested new body designs from Murphy in Pasadena and J. Frank de Causse, a French designer who had worded for Locomobile.  Wilkinson objected to plans to make Franklins more conventional by changing the hood to include a fake radiator shell, feeling that the simple one-piece hood was more functional.  In March 1925 the Series II cars would be introduced with such an arrangement, designed by de Causse, who would continue to work for Franklin for the next year until his early death due to throat cancer in 1928..

1926 Franklin Model 11-A Five Passenger Touring Car
Priced at $2,635, this 32 hp touring car--one of eight factory body styles offered--was built on a 119" wheelbase.  Touring cars, with their folding tops and detachable side curtains, were losing favour by this time against the more comfortable sedans.  Franklin had begun to offer closed cars, particularly limousines, early on, with sedans making up an important percentage of sales by 1914.

1926 Franklin Model 11-A Victoria Coupe
Most manufacturers offered a so-called "Business Coupe" version of their cars, which were no-frills vehicles aimed at travelling salesmen and other using cars for work, generally having only two seats.  This car, priced at $2,700, was a "Doctor's Coupe," which had a rear bench seat and normal driver's seat, but the front passenger seat could be folded down.  This allowed doctors to transport patients to medical facilities in the days before ambulances were commonly available.  Behind the driver's seat was a platform for carrying the doctor's bag.

1926 Franklin Model 11-A Two Passenger Sport Runabout
J. Frank de Causse's arrival at Franklin resulted in efforts by the company to become a style leader and nowhere is this more apparent in his introduction of the sporty "boat tail" style, which had only been seen on European high-end coachbuilt cars to that point.  It is ironic that Franklin, noted for its conservative clientele and sedate sedans, would be the first to introduce the boat tail, which would become famous later at Auburn, into its catalogue.

1928 Franklin Model 12-A Airman Seven Passenger Sedan
Although retaining many of the design features of de Causse, noted designer Raymond Dietrich suggested several exterior styling changes that were incorporated into the Airman line by Franklin. The cars still used the Franklin ash frame but now included four wheel hydraulic brakes and improvements to the 46 hp six cylinder engine, which gave the car a 60 mph top speed. Charles Lindbergh's own 1928 Airman Sport Sedan was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in 1940.

1929 Franklin Model 130 Convertible Coupe
This car, priced at $2,160, was built on a 120" wheelbase.  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 now offered, plus a larger air-cooled, overhead valve six that displaced 274 cubic-inches and delivered 60 horsepower, while this example retained the 55 hp engine.

1930 Franklin Model 145 Convertible Coupe
1930 saw the introduction of a new side-draft aircooled engine, pushing horsepower up to 95 and making the car capable of speeds reaching 80 mph, far in excess of what could be done on most roads of the day.  This car, priced at $2,610, was one of 5,744 Franklins produced in the model year, a major drop from 1929 production.  Franklin was a luxury brand, with cars priced similarly to Packards, and felt the impact of the Great Depression rapidly.

1929 Franklin Model 130 Convertible Coupe
This convertible, built on the shorter 120" wheelbase offered in 1929, featured a rumble seat, giving the car passenger capacity for five.  It was priced at $2,160 and also has a compartment behind the passenger door for storing golf bags or other items.
1930 Franklin Model 147 Suburban
This Franklin Model 147 was built on a 132" wheelbase and was bodied by J.T. Cantrell & Company of Huntington, New York.  Cantrell offered three different styles of station wagon bodies, with this being the "curtain" version, with only the windshield being fixed glass.  It is believed that only two Franklin woodies were ever produced.

1932 Franklin Model 17-A Club Brougham
Franklin, long wedded to six cylinder engines, made a desperate attempt to compete with the extravagant multi-cylinder cars launched during the Great Depression by its competitors at Cadillac. Lincoln and Packard.  The result was the ill-fated Franklin V12, powered by a 150 hp, and introduced in April 1932, with prices ranging from $3,885 (the case for this car) to $4,185 for a limousine, the cars were essentially handbuilt.  Perhaps 200 were constructed between 1932 and 1934 and the H.H. Franklin Club estimates 18 exist today.  The V12 was in many ways counter to Franklin's long-held philosophy, with some versions weighing 6,000 lbs, but the cars are considered to handle better and offer a more comfortable ride than its competitors.

1932 Franklin Model 17-A Five Passenger Sedan
Remarkably the Northeast Classic Car Museum boasts two of the rare Franklin V12s, with this car, priced at the same $3,885 as the red Club Brougham.  It was claimed that the V12s, with their LeBaron-styled bodies, were capable of 100 mph.

1940 White-Horse 2 Tonner Delivery Van
The White Motor Company, an early manufacturer of steam cars that went on to concentrate on commercial vehicles with a focus on heavy trucks, also produced the White-Horse delivery van from 1939 to 1942.  Similar to the stand-and-drive Divco, which produced similar vans until 1986, the White was notable for using a Franklin air-cooled engine.  Two Franklin engineers had bought the remains of the company after bankruptcy in 1934 and continued production of the engines as Aircooled Motors, using the Franklin name as the brand, for trucks and industrial applications through the Great Depression.  The company was bought by Republic Aviation in 1945 and went into producing engines for light aircraft and helicopters before becoming part of the Preston Tucker car project in 1947.

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