1902 Franklin Model A

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Porsche made air-cooled cars until the mid-90s. It was a trademark of German cars. And no one could say that Porsche engines were poorly cooled or had obvious reliability problems. Air cooling was one of the solutions that made these German cars special.
It will surprise many people, but there was a brand in the United States that produced air-cooled cars back in the very early 20th century. This is the Franklin company. Only enthusiasts have heard of this automobile brand. But they were expensive and high quality cars. The air cooling scheme was chosen instead of liquid cooling, due to simplicity and reliability. Let’s not forget that at that time, aircraft had air cooling, and that in itself speaks volumes.

The 1902 Franklin Model A was the first mass-produced, four-cylinder automobile from the United States. At the time, manufacturers were producing cars with a single, or two – piston engine. This suggests that the Franklin was an expensive car. I want to add that before the Great Depression, the company released a twelve-cylinder model, which confirmed its status as a manufacturer of expensive, powerful and high-quality cars.
But let’s go back to the beginning of the century. 1902th year, but in this car already four-cylinder engine! Thus the motor is established not under seats – in area of a back axis, and under a hood! Of course, it is rear-wheel drive, but the engine is installed not longitudinally, but transversely relative to the body. Honestly, I do not know the exact motives of such a layout, but I guess that it was done for a better blowing of the engine. The engine is an overhead-valve layout and has a number of components made of aluminum. Besides being lighter than steel, aluminum is also better at dissipating heat.
Franklin has produced a technologically advanced and powerful engine. But in addition to the engine, the company itself produced; – carburetors, gearboxes, bodies and axles. As you can see, – it was a very serious manufacturer with great, technological capabilities. But over the course of its existence, the company produced about 150,000 cars. Franklin Model A in 1902 was produced in an edition of 13 cars, but in 1903 it was produced and sold – 184 cars. This was a good indicator for not cheap hand-built car.

Price and sale of 1902 Franklin Model A.

A new Franklin in 1902 cost 1,100 dollars. This was a significant amount of money for which you could buy 2, and possibly 3, cheap cars.

Appearance and photo.

This is a car from the very beginning of the 20th century. I don’t think anyone will be surprised that the wheel rims here are wooden. But remarkably, even the body frame is not made of metal, it’s made of wood! At the back, electric lights are used. The front lights were kerosene. Depending on the equipment, – in the front could be installed two lamps on the edges of the hood, or one lamp in its center. Two additional lamps were installed on the sides of the passenger compartment. Wicker baskets could be installed on the sides of the body to act as trunks.
The 1902 Franklin Model A was available in two-seat versions, the Roadster and Runabout. The soon appeared Model B received a four-seat body.
Curb weight of the Franklin Model A was about 410 kg. A quarter of the weight was on the engine.
By the standards of its time it is a large and luxurious car.

Interior and equipment.

Of course, by the standards of later, even pre-war cars, it is rather difficult to talk about the equipment of the interior of this car. The role of klaxon is performed by a rubber pear. The lever of the manual gearbox is out of the cabin (it was a norm for cars of that time). The aforementioned four-seater Model B was introduced in 1904.

Engine and specifications of the 1902 Franklin Model A.

As we said above, the engine of the 1902 Franklin Model A is mounted at the front – under the hood. Note the shape of the engine cylinders. The cylinders are separate and have many fins for better heat dissipation.

The Franklin machine is equipped with a two-speed, manual transmission. The maximum speed of this machine is 19km per hour.
Both axles have elliptic leaf springs, which of course contributes to high comfort.
Here, as on other cars of the time, there is no driveshaft. Power is transmitted from the engine to the rear axle by means of a metal chain. That was the norm at the time.

I think this is one of the most comfortable cars of its time. It has four cylinders, which was the maximum for its time. Throughout its existence, the company produced exclusively air-cooled engines. In my opinion, that’s unusual for an American car company. But that’s exactly what Franklin cars were, and we’ll pay attention to other Franklin cars later on.

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