Aircooled Baby For Sale Again: 1928 Franklin Airman

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Thanks to reader Craig B. for telling us about this rare and beautiful 1928 Franklin for sale here on eBay. With three days left in the auction as of this writing, the bidding is only at $6,400. This same car was featured on Barn Finds last year when it was for sale on craigslist. The seller was asking $8,000 for it then, and the Craigslist ad had more information about the car and its back story than this new eBay listing shows.

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While this car has not been run in six years, according to the minimalist ad copy, the engine is said to spin freely and was rebuilt by a previous owner about a decade ago.

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As you can see from these pictures, the body appears to be very solid, and at least according to the seller, the all important wood frame is in excellent condition.

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Franklins were really special cars, well engineered and very advanced for their time. These were luxury cars, well appointed and designed, with engines that were mostly aluminum, with the distinction of being air cooled.

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The first Franklins were built in 1903, designed by John Wilkinson and financed by H.H. Franklin. Based in Syracuse, New York, Franklin grew to become a well respected manufacturer in that city. Unfortunately, as with so many smaller luxury car makers, Franklin could not weather the Great Depression and closed up shop in 1934.


With the serial number plate shown, I was able to determine that the car for sale here is a Model 12A known as the “Airman.” It’s a seven passenger sedan of which some 5715 examples were built in 1928. It looks alot like this one that is now in the UK. In the former story we did about this car, we called it a 12B model, but with the serial number shown in the eBay listing, we were able to determine that it’s a 12A, though it may take someone more knowledgeable about Franklins to be certain of the exact model shown in this ad. Franklin made a somewhat dizzying array of models for such a small company. One other interesting note drawn from the number plate – supposedly the number should start with either an L for Left Hand Drive or an R for Right Hand Drive, so this number starting with X may mean something is special about this car. I plan to write to the Franklin owner’s club to find out more about this.

Photo courtesy of Classic-Auctions
Photo courtesy of Classic-Auctions

While Franklins are really high quality cars, have a dedicated following and an absolutely wonderful owners’ club, prices of these cars are not all that high. However restoration is expensive, so whomever buys this car will probably be a dedicated Franklin collector who will bring it back to its former glory at considerable cost. This car does look like a great car to start from, it appears complete, with both body and mechanicals in very decent condition.

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Great looking wheels, and that tire looks like it could even be from 1928! It really should be replaced if you are going to actually drive it at all.

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Airman is a great name for a car. I wish I had the money, time and space to buy this one. I’d love to take one of these out for a drive in Syracuse, New York, my wife’s home town.


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  1. David Frank David Member

    Perhaps this speedster could be a parts car?

    • Thad

      Where is that Speedster? And, is it for sale?

  2. Gordon Howard

    The X means that it is a 119″ wheelbase car, the ending 11 means 5 passenger sedan and the serial # is clearly a 12B number. A Y prefix means a 128″ wb.

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