Franklin Vintage
Franklin Vintage
An elegant photo book with text by Sinclair Powell. Purchase the book.

Franklin Details


1928 12B was the last Franklin to have a wood chassis frame.

Downdraft and Sidedraft Systems

The mid 20's saw the introduction of the pressure cooling, also known as the 'downdraft' system by which the fan, now moved to the front of the engine, forced air via ductwork over the TOP of the cylinders and downwards over vertical cooling fins cast into the sides of the cylinders. The cylinders were one-piece iron with non-detachable heads. The Ser. 10 had steel fins cast into the cylinders. The Ser. 11 - 13 had phosphor bronze fins. All had a pulse oil system which sent oil under full pressure to each main bearing and connecting rod in pulses. If a bearing was lost, pressure was maintained in the rest of the system, a dubious benefit since running very far with one bad rod could result in crankshaft damage or crankcase damage if the rod let go.

All engines of this type were of 3 1/4" bore until the 135 engine which was increased to 3 1/5 x 4 3/4" stroke. The first series 10's were somewhat less than 30 horsepower, the final 135 engine was 65. All engines had overhead valves. The Series 13's were the first to use an AC fuel pump in place of the Stewart Warner vacuum tanks used from 1916 to 1928.

The great advantage of the downdraft system was the increased volume of air moved by the fan which was now pushing cooler, denser air instead of expanded, hot air which was pulled by the earlier flywheel/fan.

The disadvantage was the one-piece cylinder construction. It was very hard to cool the heads much and space for larger valves was limited. The result was occasional cracks in the cylinder heads and walls. In late '29, the factory cast a few iron cooling fins into the top of the cylinders. I have found that, oddly enough, these tend to crack more frequently than the earlier design.

The side-draft engines of 1930 - 1934 were certainly a great leap forward in performance and technology. One can always look to new technology and pass judgment on the old stuff as inferior in comparison. For its time, however, the downdraft engines were superb powerplants. They have a smoothness and quietness not found in the later side-draft design. The quality of construction was probably better than Franklin ever produced prior to, or after. The downdraft cars were and are capable of running full throttle all day long without detriment. The side-drafts, while beautifully engineered and certainly well built, produce so much more power that running full throttle all day long is not such a good idea as oil temps and piston speeds get out of hand.

Franklin Part Names

Transverse engine - Cross-engine
Round hood - Barrel-hood
Cooling air flows down the cylinders - Down-draft
Hood style - Renault hood, Slop or soft-nose - Horse-collar
Name of body stylist – DeCausse
All Franklins from 1928 12A - Airman (except Olympic)
Air flows across the cylinders - Side-draft
Twelve cylinder - V12

Early Air Cooled News issues

Issue #1 - 200 copies
Issue #2 - 220 copies
Issue #3 - 400 copies

Franklin Firsts

  • Franklin was the first 4 cylinder production car made in America.
  • The first Franklin sold was to S. G. Averell on June 23, 1902.
  • The 1902 Franklin sold for $1,200.
  • Franklin's engine in 1902 had the first valves-in-head, air cooled mounted up front with a hood.
  • 1902 first 4 cylinder engine
  • 1902 first float feed carburetor
  • 1905 first 6 cylinder engine
  • 1906 first Hotchkiss drive
  • 1906 first transmission service brake
  • 1907 first automatic spark advance
  • 1912 first pressure recirculating oiling system
  • 1913 first pioneered closed bodies for production sedan
  • 1913 first exhaust jacket for heating intake gases
  • 1916 first "V" windshield for stock cars
  • 1916 first 2 door sedan body
  • 1925 first to employ narrow steel front pillar construction
  • Plus the first to use aluminum pistons, duralumin connecting rods, and case hardened crank shaft.

The H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company

The H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company (not the car company) had its inception July 4, 1893 when Herbert H. Franklin began the manufacture of castings in a small room in Syracuse, N.Y. The process used, which Mr. Franklin termed "Die-Casting", for the first time ever an irregularly shaped part which required no machining before assembling, and which could be turned out both accurately an in volume.


Franklin bodies were all aluminum until 1929 in addition to other parts like crankcase, transmission, rear end housings, pistons, rods, and many other parts were also aluminum. It is not surprising that at one time Franklin Automobile Company was the largest user of aluminum the world.

Carl Doman

Mr. Carl T. Doman's father Albert E. Doman, at the age of 15, in 1885 built an D. C. generator and furnished the electricity for their father's home. This home, in fact, was the first to be electrically illuminated in central New York.

Franklin Army Trucks

Franklin built Army trucks in 1929, 1931 and 1933 they were 1 1/2 ton armored command car, infantry cargo truck, 1 1/4 ton truck, plus ordnance trucks. We don't think any remain today.

Ford Air Cooled Cars

In 1904 Ford built an air cooled engine and placed it in a model B, but then replace the air cooled engine with a water cooled one and sold the model B in 1905 as a standard production Ford. If you want to know more about the Air Cooled Ford, you read about it in Air Cooled News issue number 19, pages 20 and 21.

Why did the Franklin Company fail?

Mr. H. H. Franklin wrote October, 1952, "As to why the Franklin Co. failed, I expect different people would give different answers. The company was entirely solvent when bankruptcy proceedings were instituted. The Company did have a large indebtedness. The size of the indebtedness apparently frightened one particular credit manager of a Chicago bank. In any event he got other banks to join him and the company was thrown into bankruptcy, with the result, as is apt to be the case under forced liquidation, the company was wiped out."