1926 Franklin 11A Sport Runabout Boattail

Wheel Tracks is 70 years old this month!

I promise that this is the last time I’ll toot my family whistle in regards to the beginnings of the VAE. After all, Gary told me, “It’s about the car.” I’ve said in past Wheel Tracks that the Franklin was the car that inspired Anne Gypson to have Ken’s car friends over for his birthday and to form a club.

Oh yeah, the car. Dad spotted the Franklin in farmer Harold Green’s field on the west side of Route 22A in Addison, Vermont. Being a Franklin and a boattail roadster to boot (Franklin’s official model designation is 11A Sport Runabout), he couldn’t not stop! It was being used, of all things, as a chicken coop. (No, not coupe.) Dad had to really twist Harold’s arm and part with $50 so Harold could build another chicken coop.

Gypson's 1926 Franklin 11A Sport Runabout
Ken Sr., Anne and 3-year-old Ken Jr, in the Franklin

Dad was able to drive the car home to Essex Junction. I’m guessing that there are Gypson, Rice, and Galbraith stories long lost on that trip. When he got the Franklin home it just needed tires and a tune up. As I’ve written in the past, Keith Marvin drove it to New York when we moved to the Albany area. The engine was rebuilt by the last living (and legally blind) Franklin mechanic from the Troy Franklin Motor Sales Co., Inc.

Dad drove the car very little and had intentions of restoring it. Midgets and sprint cars got in the way. After dad’s passing I inherited the car. All I’ve done is put new tires on it, had the top and side curtains redone, and installed an electric fuel pump as a backup to the vacuum system. The car is insured, NYS inspected, and driven about 100 miles a year.

Editor’s note…
I hope you can see why we chose May of this year to feature the Franklin; our 70th year as the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts! The ideas, hopes and dreams of that small group in 1953 was the beginning of this world class auto club we have today.

1926 Franklin 11A Sport boattail

More editor notes…

The Franklin auto company was located in Syracuse, NY and built cars from 1902 until 1934. Their total production was reported at 154,022 automobiles. It is also reported that about 3700 Franklins have survived to today.

The year our featured Franklin was built, a total of 7606 automobiles were built. The models included sedans, coupes, limos, cabriolets, and roadsters. A sixth model was a sport runabout, Nancy’ and Ken’s model.

The Franklin was a high-end automobile in its day. In 1926, a Chevy or a Dodge could be purchased for around $800, A Ford model T touring car sold for $290. The least expensive Franklin, according to the Lester-Steele Handbook, was the 5-passenger touring car that sold for $2635. Some say, this is the main reason the company did not surviving the depression.

The Franklin engine was the center of the brand’s importance, you see, they were allows air cooled. The 1903 engine, when the company began, was an air cooled, 4-cylinder, that produced 10 HP. By 1905, they were using 6-cylinder engines that produced 30HP.

From 1930 to 1934 their engines were producing 100HP. Nancy and Ken’s aluminum bodied car, weighs about 2500 pounds and is powered by a 25 HP air cooled engine. Franklin’s “very light” engines were also favorites for airplanes and helicopters and were used extensively during WWll. After the war, Preston Tucker purchased the Franklin engine patent, and added a water jacket for his line of automobiles. The air cooled engine lives on today, in Poland. The Polish government purchased the engine rights in 1975 and the design is used mainly in their helicopters.

Gary Fiske

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