The Franklin Airman and the Franklin Olympic

Something had already been done about the Franklin V-12 just before McEwen arrived. The company pared its offerings to one car line, the Airman. But since the 1932 Airman stood squarely in the medium-price class at $2345-$2445, it didn't sell well. In 1933, 81 percent of all cars sold in America were Fords, Chevrolets, and Plymouths, cars in the $500-$650 range.

Franlin V-12 rear view
Publications International, Ltd.
Development of the Franklin V-12 was headed by two men: Fred Shoemaker and his successor, John Rogers.

So for 1933, Franklin hastily brought out the Olympic, a smaller and less-expensive series than the Airman. To make the Olympic happen quickly, the Syracuse automaker arranged with the Reo Motor Car Company to buy quantities of its Reo Flying Cloud model.

Franklin bought entire cars -- well, not entire. They were Flying Clouds minus engine, hood, and radiator but otherwise complete. Into those Reo Flying Clouds Franklin stuffed Airman engines, added Franklin hoods and grille shells, and offered the cobbled result as the Franklin Olympic.

Franklin sold 1509 Olympics in 18 months even though most people realized in 1933 that they could buy a Reo Flying Cloud for $995 or pay $1385 an Olympic. The biggest difference was the air-cooled engine with 15 more horses. (In a similar transaction, Marmon also bought Reo bodies to make the 1932 Marmon 8-125.)

The individual responsible for the Olympic decision was none other than Herbert H. Franklin himself, the man who'd been running the company since 1902, the year it sold its first car. Franklin, referred to by friends and associates as "H.H.," was generally well-liked.

Born and raised on a farm 57 miles south of Syracuse, his formal education never went beyond high school. "College" consisted of first apprenticing at, then editing, and finally publishing a small-town newspaper. In the process, he became a proficient writer, with a gift for producing polished, persuasive ad copy. He also discovered that he had a flair for business in general.

Go on to the next page to read about the success of the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company.

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