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Nice Wheels: 1930 Franklin 147 Speedster

Franklin automobiles were high end, expensive cars mostly remembered today for their air-cooled engines. Like many other companies, Franklin did not survive the depression. The name was purchased by former employees of Franklin who produced Franklin engines into the 1950s. Matt Williams spotted this Franklin Speedster that was left in a garage full of junk. It is not likely what you imagine when you think of a speedster, but this was a sporty look for the times. This Speedster is listed on eBay in Livonia, New York. Bidding is approaching $15,000 with reserve not being met. It was stored in this Georgia garage for many years and it’s beginning to show.

It appears some restoration has been started though. It’s said to even run and can be driven, but is not quite roadworthy. It’s great to see it out of the garage though, so you can actually see what’s going on with it.

That looks like a radiator shell, but it’s what Franklin called a “hood front” There’s no need for a radiator, of course, but Franklin’s believed they would sell a lot more cars when it looked like it had a radiator.

The interior is going to need complete restoration, but many of the basic pieces are there.

Here’s the air-cooled, OHV 6 cylinder engine. Being an air cooled engine, it looks really different. The cylinders were individually cast and finned, like a motorcycle engine. Where you would expect to see a rocker cover on an OHV engine is a duct for air cooling.

One always has to wonder what it was that overwhelmed a restorer and made them give up. With cars from this era, I first suspect it’s the work needed on the wooden body frame. In any case, restoring this Franklin looks like a pretty daunting task and costs will quickly exceed its value. For example, there is a 1925 sedan f0r sale at Northwest Classic Auto Mall for $18,000. It was restored about 15 years ago. That Franklin is very different than this one, but it gives you an idea. I hope this Speedster is saved and restored one day. It is a very unique and rare car. Thanks again for the tip, Matt!


  1. Avatar photo Peter S.R. Member

    FYI… Porsche traveled to the US to study Franklin’s air cooling engineering/technology.
    Tucker’s engine was based on a Franklin design (used in aircraft) to which he ultimately added water jackets…

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    • Avatar photo David

      Tucker purchased Franklin Engines (became aero engines)and then Tucker cancelled all their contracts so production capacity could support Tucker. At the time Franklin was a major supplier of light fixed wing and helicopter engines. End Tucker, end of Franklin

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      • Avatar photo Sink-A-Trailer

        Before it disappeared, didn’t it become Air Cooled Motors when it was supplying engines to Tucker?

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      • Avatar photo A.J.

        If my recollections are correct, Franklin Motor Cars ceased to exist and went in to receivership. However, the lead engineers formed the aircooled engine company.

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  2. Avatar photo Peter S.R. Member

    BTW… more like a close-coupled sedan…

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  3. Avatar photo A.J.

    What you need to understand about this particular car is that it has a catalog custom Dietrich body on it. In prewar terms that is a special car, not some run of the mill production body, but a coachbuilt one made in series by Murray/Dietrich.

    You cannot compare it to the 18k one in any way which is a lesser chassis production bodied car.

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  4. Avatar photo Bob

    I had a Franklin 165 hp engine in my Stinson airplane, and it was a wonderfully smooth, reliable engine.
    Back in 1960, my buddy had a 32 Chev coupe with a lot of wood The problem with attempting to restore the wood, wasn’t that it was so difficult to fabricate the pieces, it was the fact that the original wood was gone, and we had nothing left to copy. He abandoned the project because of this problem.
    I would love the car, but the idea of restoring the wood is intimidating. I’ll stick to steel cars.
    It is still a great prospect for a restoration. I actually saw a Franklin sedan that was still being used as a daily driver in the mid 60s.

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    • Avatar photo David

      Somewhere online, according to folks at the museum, are patterns for the wood of many cars, especially GM.

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      • Avatar photo Bob

        At the time, we had no idea that any resources existed for restoring the wood, which is really unfortunate because the body was otherwise in beautiful condition.

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  5. Avatar photo John D

    My Great Grandfather was killed when his Franklin had a flat tire on a long curve. He was hit by a bus when he got out to fix it. He owned the bus company. That is my only Franklin story.

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  6. Avatar photo Dave Mc

    Wiki has a long article about Franklin.
    Many firsts in auto history. Interesting read.

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