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1932-1934 Franklin V-12

The Legacy of the Franklin V-12

The V-12 arrived in Franklin showrooms in late April 1932, priced at $3885 to $4185. Sales took off with a painful thud. The reason wasn't just the Depression. For those prices or less, a buyer could browse among a number of V-12s, including Cadillac, Auburn, and Pierce-Arrow. Lincoln's new "small" V-12, the KA, added another lower-cost rival for 1933.

The last Franklin V-12 was built in the winter of but wasn't sold until late spring and even then at $1000 less than the 1932 price. Today only 18 Twelves survive, according to the H. H. Franklin Club.

Around Thanksgiving of 1933, Edwin McEwen wasn't feeling well and checked into a Syracuse hospital. He returned home a few days later, contracted pneumonia, and died in January 1934.

McEwen's two years at Franklin were probably as awful and frustrating for him as for everyone else, and in the end he'd done nothing useful to help the company survive. The H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company went into bankruptcy on April 3, 1934.

Herbert Franklin was 67 when the company shut down, and despite its failure, he managed to live comfortably in Syracuse and never had to work again. He petitioned the bankruptcy court to pay him $45,272 in back wages, eventually settling for about 10 cents on the dollar, the same as most other claimants.

H. H. had always been outside the automotive mainstream, but he admired Henry Ford, so when he could no longer requisition cars from the Franklin motor pool, he bought himself a new Ford. In April 1956, after suffering a series of strokes, H. H. passed away at home. He died in relative obscurity a few months short of his 90th birthday.

Assets of the company were ultimately bought by Ward Canaday, the Toledo entrepreneur who soon also bought the assets of the bankrupt Willys-Overland Company.

Canaday sold off Franklin's real estate and plant machinery, and put the money into Willys-Overland. A few years later, he guided that struggling automaker into the profitable manufacture of wartime and postwar Jeeps.

The Franklin name was acquired by Air Cooled Motors Corporation, a company founded by former Franklin engineers Ed Marks and Carl Doman. Air Cooled Motors made aircraft and helicopter engines during the war, and the 1948 Tucker Torpedo used a Doman-Marks flat six converted to water cooling.

The Carrier Company then bought the Franklin plant for back taxes and manufactured air conditioners there for many years.

Today, the H. H. Franklin Foundation, endowed by restorer Tom Hubbard, operates a museum and library in Tucson, Arizona. The H. H. Franklin Club Incorporated sponsors an annual Franklin Trek, and its 850 members keep the flame burning that H. H. and John Wilkinson lit just over a century ago.

Go on to the next page to learn about John Willys and the 1932-1934 Franklin V-12.

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