The distributer in my 1987 Saab 900 Turbo recently broke. Even though it is a Bosch distributer, it is no longer manufactured and parts are not available. This distributer was only used on model years 1986 and 1987. I was able to find a used one; however, several people suggested I upgrade the engine to the later fuel in-jection and ignition system.
The fuel injection and engine management electronics on this car were state of the art, in 1987. Engine management technology improved significantly since.
Saab continued to use this same basic engine right up to the end, and the engine was updated to coil on plug ignition and an improved fuel injection/engine manage-ment system. By upgrading the engine, the engine performance was significantly improved, as was engine efficiency. I have been told to expect an extra 6 miles to the gallon, and an extra 40 horse power with the change to the later components. Another benefit is OBD 2 engine management. Diagnosis and repair of problems is easily handled with a universal OBD 2 code scanner, no more dependence on a Saab Tech II code scanner.
To make the change, I can either take the components off a newer Saab, or buy a conversion kit. The process involves removing the distributer, coil, electronic control module, and the various electrical components and installing the newer components with some extra sensors. Many cars from the 1960’s through the early 1990’s have engines that continued in production through the evolution of modern engine management. Upgrading these engines to modern engine management could be a fun project, with great rewards.
On my way home from a friend’s house last night, in the dark, I happened upon a car that was stuck on a hill with a person behind the steering wheel and one person behind the car pushing it. There wasn’t much I could do, so I continued on my way. This got me thinking about past situations that involved having trouble getting home on bad roads in winter. All before cell phones! I think our town does a good job maintaining our roads in winter and in mud season and in recent years we have had fairly good snow tires, but there have been times in the past when our cars haven’t been the greatest and our tires just OK. This is just the way it was back then.
Our road has a nice hill just after a sharp curve and it is tricky on occasions not being able to get enough momentum to get up the hill. Fortunately, a neighbor built a house about half way up the hill with a driveway that has come in handy on more than one occasion. When, after trying to get up the hill two or three times and finally knowing you aren’t going to make it, you can either pull into the driveway and use their phone or leave your car there and walk home (2 miles). The other option was to drive around to the other end of the road which is closer to our house, go as far as you can, leave your car there and walk home which includes a stretch of road that isn’t plowed in winter. There were times when our son would have to stand on the rear bumper of the car for weight to get the car up the hill. This usually worked. We often drove Volkswagens that did amazingly well under bad conditions. I remember making it up the hill, only to find out that the road was so drifted I couldn’t tell where it was. I would be pushing snow with the front bumper so visibility was 0, having to roll down the driver’s window, look out the side and figure out where the road was by the trees alongside the road. One time Gael couldn’t make it home, and the next morning we walked down the road only to find the car completely covered by a snow drift. There was a time when we drove a VW pickup truck and in the middle of a bad storm, Gael drove over to a neighbor’s house with a long driveway that was unplowed. The neighbor was so impressed with the truck, he went out and bought one himself. There was one VW that we drove briefly (a Joe Kaelin car) that was so rusty we often had more snow in the car than was on the road. When the school bus started coming up our road, the road conditions got a little better, although we lived about a mile from the bus stop.
By the time our kids were old enough to drive, they had seen almost every kind of road and winter car problem and, surprisingly, managed quite well under bad conditions. They couldn’t call home quickly, no cell phone or AAA back then. Now, as adults, they can handle most situations very well, although they all have their phones and AAA now. Hopefully, they have passed some of their experiences along to their kids.
“Yes, you don’t need it, but do you want to buy it?”
That is how the ‘partnership’ started for the owners of this 1921 Franklin Runabout. Lloyd Davis and Carl Thompson first met while working at the Quebec Cigar Company in Rutland in 1973, and have been friends since.
Carl tells Wheel Tracks this little story from 1975……… I had to shop for a new “used” car and Lloyd helped me find a 1973 Plymouth 4-door sedan, with air condition-ing. Lloyd pointed out AC was not necessary, and a waste of money, in Vermont. That summer, working in the old brick building with one small window, and 104 degrees inside the warehouse, it got hot. At the end of the day Lloyd asked if I could give him a ride to Rupert, Vt. He said he had forgotten to leave the order slip on a delivery that had been made earlier in the day. He commanded that the AC be turned on!
I told him the AC was not needed and was a wasteful expense, we could just as well put the windows down. He looked at me with a stern face and said “put the air condition on NOW!”
The conversation quoted on this issue’s front page happened in 2014 and Kate West sold the new partnership, the 1921 Franklin, soon after. Kate and Adrian West lived in Morrisville, Vermont and after Adrian passed, she had the job of finding new homes for most of the collection, that included the Runabout.
Another VAE member remembers a story about the Franklin from the mid 1950s when VAEer Rod Rice owned the car. Rod had owned it from the mid 1940s and as his family was getting larger he had decided to look for a larger car. He must have liked air-cool Franklins because he had his eye on a 5-passenger Franklin that the Fuller family owned in St. Albans Bay. Another piece of 1950s information is that Gael Boardman of St. Albans at the time, had eyes for the Franklin Runabout. So, a deal was struck where ,if, Gael could buy the Fuller car then he and Rod would make a trade and everyone would be happy. The deal never happened but the story places the Runabout in Rod Rices possession at that time and stored in a garage in Starksboro.
The next turn for the Runabout was when Rod Rice needed work done on his Bentley and Adrian West happened to own a body shop in Morrisville. The Franklin ownership then changed to Adrian in exchange for the Bentley work. This date is fuzzy, possibly in the 1960’s. The Franklin then began a complete restoration in Adrian West’s shop and is basically what you see today. Adrian died in January 2008.
If you check the VAE Roster, you will find that Lloyd Davis has owned another Franklin for many years. Along with being a charter member of the VAE, Lloyd has also been an important member of the Franklin Car Club where he was the long-time club librarian until just a few years ago. Lloyd is an authority on Franklin history, and the many mechanical nuances of these wonderful air-cooled cars, that were manufactured in Syracuse, New York. New Franklin owners over the years, throughout the country, have been able to more fully enjoy these cars with Lloyd’s detailed guidance and good humor.
You might notice a slight difference with two photos on this page. It took Lloyd a while, but using his many Franklin connections, he was able to find and have restored the wire wheels you see. Lets hope we will see this “Lloyd/Carl partnership” Franklin at a show this coming summer.
Editor’s notes…. A total of 8961 Franklins were built in 1921 and 214 were Runabouts. 300 Roadsters were also built. Other models such as Coupes, Demi-coupes, Victoria coupes, Touring limousines, Touring car, Sedans, Broughams, Cabriolets and Town cars were also part of the line-up. There were even 99 chassis built….
Franklin make the 9B series from 1916 through 1922, of which this Runabout is one…a 9B. It has a 6 cylinder engine that produces 25 HP and gets about 20 MPG. It has a 3-speed transmission and full-elliptical leaf spring suspension.
Franklins were known as great desert cars because they could handle the high temps without overheating the engine.