• 1903 was the first year Franklin reached full-scale production.
  • This car features a lightweight wooden body and air-cooled engine.
  • The engine is installed across the frame, from side to side.
  • All Franklins were air-cooled and they were the most successful air-cooled cars until the VW.



H.H. Franklin began vehicle production in Syracuse, New York.  Early advertising extolled the advantages of the wooden frame and the fact that these light cars were not only fast, but economical.  Franklin’s advertisement for the air-cooled 1903 Light Roadster proclaimed, “The Franklin doesn’t puff and snort.  It’s like the hum of an electric motor, steady and strong, and the motor is in front—the only sensible place—no lying on your back to look at it.”

Thirteen Franklins had been built for the 1901-1902 season, but 1903 is generally considered to be the first year Franklin reached full-scale production, turning out 219 cars. 1903 was also the first year that Franklins were assigned serial numbers. The model displayed here is powered by an engine installed across in the chassis frame (from side to side), referred to as “cross-engine mounting.”

Until the Volkswagen was introduced, Franklin was the most successful air-cooled automobile in history.  The air-cooled engines operated at a more efficient temperature, 350° F., while the water from liquid-cooled engine boiled at a much lower temperature.  Franklin air-cooled engines also weighed less than liquid-cooled engines.  Franklin continued to produce air-cooled automobiles until 1934 when the company closed during the Depression.



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