55 Year Barn Finds! A Pair Of Franklins

Barn Find is a rather loose, interpretable term these days, and it has really taken on a generic meaning. But that’s OK, we all know what it directionally means. And here’s a pair of real barn finds, rarities to boot, and languishing for 55 years. One of these Franklins is titled as a 1931 model and the other is unknown but believed to be a ’28, so let’s investigate. This duo is located in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and is available, here on eBay for a starting bid of $3,999.

Franklin, today, seems like an obscure brand owing mostly to its short-lived tenure. Production commenced in 1902 and was done by 1934, primarily, as a result of the lingering effects of the great depression. Domiciled in Syracuse, New York, Franklin offered a surprisingly robust lineup of roadsters, sedans, and tourers and was most noted for their air-cooled engine design. Unfortunately, Franklin’s manufacturing cost was out of line yielding low profitability per unit sold. And poor dealership location selection just added to Franklin’s woes. Over Franklin’s 33 years of production, it is estimated that there were about 150,000 cars produced. You can read more on the Franklin Club website.

First up, is the titled 1931 four-door sedan. The body is claimed to have nice sheet metal, “not all rusted apart“, and it is suggested that it would make “a great rat-rod…” The listing isn’t exactly decipherable, so it’s hard to glean exactly what’s here with both of these cars and the seller suggests, “I no no more then you do from pictures, acrually you probley no way more then me…” The most obvious issue from this image is the collapsing running board which may or may not be indicative of more significant integrity issues. Clearly, the interior is pretty dilapidated and has probably contributed to the construction of a hotel-sized rodent resident and will require a complete makeover after thorough fumigation.

The seller claims that the drive-train and engine are intact, but obviously, it’s a non-runner and the car was last state inspected in 1957. Some sleuthing around suggests that the engine is a 100 HP, 274 CI, in-line, six-cylinder, overhead-valve unit.

Franklin number two is an untitled two-door that appears to be a sedan and not a coupe – the seller adds that he believes it may be a 1928 model and it appears to be a model 12-B but that’s not known for sure. It is less complete than the four-door sedan by virtue of its missing body components. It is noticeably different than the sedan as it is equipped with wooden vs. wire wheels – a change from ’28 to ’31, or just a model difference? This two-door example may be missing its engine, the listing is not clear and it looks as if its head gasket is lying on the destroyed fabric roof of the four-door car.

Continuing the trend, the interior is in about as poor a condition as that of the four-door. There is detritus everywhere and it is questionable as to whether there is a floor in place. A valid question would be whether you can make one good Franklin from these two, but without certainty of model designations and specifications, that would be a tough call to make at this point.

This pair is about as “barn findy” as one will encounter and it’s probably going to take an individual with significant Franklin knowledge, and passion, to ascertain what’s here and what the prognosis for new life will be. Hopefully, that will happen, fallen-flag marques, from so long ago, are always an interesting archeological dig as they divulge considerable knowledge around early domestic automobile thinking, design, and construction. Are there any Franklin aficionados out there?

Fast Finds


  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    A young person cleaning out an estate for sure. At least they are trying. Nice write up Jim with what you had to work with. Not sure what nbsp stands for? Sellers handle rings a bell though. Hope they can be saved.

    Like 1
  2. Bob

    “ &nbsp” is a character in the web browser programming language Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). It stands for “Non-Breaking SPace” and tells the browser to insert a space between two words but do not start a new line between the words. Somehow used incorrectly by this seller. TMI? 🤔

    Like 3
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      LOL Bob! Thanks, I did a search and came up with your answer. I did not see the connection to the car. Take care, Mike.

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Mike, hey, Gregg gave me the “411” on your situation, I hope you are doing okay, I’ll drop you a line “off the record”. Looking at a ’65 Willys CJ5 today that looks very promising. later, pal

        Like 2
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Thanks a ton Howard! Best of luck on the CJ!

  3. scott m

    I do like some rat rods, but leave these original!!

    Like 8
  4. Qld to win the Shield Final

    I doubt the head gasket is from this pair. Looks too modern.

    Like 2
    • Pete Phillips

      Correct about the head gasket. Franklins have individual head gaskets for each cylinder, not one-piece gaskets like the one sitting on the roof of the car.

      Like 3
  5. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Everytime I see a Franklin I think of the old Judge in Central Valley, California (now Lake City). The Judge drove a Franklin sedan that he kept in pristine condition. He loved to pull into a gas station and tell the attendant to check the radiator. He’d stand back watching as the poor sap looked for a radiator laughing eventually telling him it was a aircooled engine. The judge was a character, that was in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The old judge is gone now and so is his Franklin.
    God bless America

    Like 10
    • chuck

      My Dad worked at a gas station around 1950, and I remember him telling me a similar story of a regular customer who would come in and ask him to check the radiator. Must have been part of the fun of owning one.

      Like 3
      • Pierre

        Here in france, there were many Peugeot 403 in the 50’s and more than one gas station attendant looked, in vain, for the gas flap. It was hidden under the left tail light:)

  6. M Miles

    I had a 1925 Series 11-A sedan. Aluminum skin on wood-framed body, wooden ‘artillery’ wheels, second-growth white ash chassis rails. Bill Harrah had over 100 Franklin’s in his collection.

    Would recommend against mashing these two together – so different in their character.

    For mild hot rodding of either one I’d suggest chopping the top down about 2 inches and channeling it an inch for a very rakish look. It would make the ’31 much like a Cord L29.

    Can’t go wrong with a proper restoration but not enough value to flip for profit. Drive and enjoy a throwback to motoring 90 years ago.

    Like 1
  7. rod glaser

    Looks to me like alot of their namesakes will be spent bring one or both of these back.

    Like 2
  8. Bob McK Member

    There was a guy in Maine that had two Franklin’s in his barn. Both were in pristine condition and driven each summer. I need to go check on them next time I am up there.

    Like 1
  9. Gary Rhodes

    That two door would make a excellent rod. Get a nice chassis, channel it til the rockers cover the frame, stock height tip, wire wheels with tires to go to the top of the wheel well arches, Viper engine with a hood.

  10. scott

    This seller or buyer should contact the Northeast Car Museum in Norwich, NY. They specialize in Franklins and have just about every make and model franklin in existence. If they ever want a place to go with extreme knowledge of these cars, the owner of the museum is it.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.