Body assembly occupied the top floor of Franklin's main plant, and here a group of workmen hand formed the body over ash-wood framing. Each front fender, rather than being stamped whole, was made up of four or five separate small stampings butt-welded together. Door skins similarly consisted of at least two stampings.
According to Franklin restorer Thomas H. Hubbard, "The reveals around the windows and some of the moldings are formed entirely of lead." (Estimates put the amount of lead in each body at 300 pounds.)
In the course of restoring several V-12s, Hubbard found bodies with large sections of the wood framing scorched where the metal had been leaded over. Exterior locks were set into different parts of the doors on different cars, and bodies could be off dimensionally by more than an inch, side to side.
As produced, the Franklin Twelve, dubbed the Series 17 and sometimes referred to as "The Banker's Car" -- McEwen being seen as a bank employee -- weighed almost 6000 pounds in its heaviest models, 1800 pounds more than the Airman-based prototypes.
Burns and Doman had been disappointed because the earlier Airman V-12 prototype had much livelier performance than the one they'd driven across the country.
Still, last-minute fixes turned the V-12 Franklin into quite a decent automobile. Engine tolerances were tightened up to meet the industry norm of 750-1000 miles per quart of oil instead of the previous 50.
Nearly all Twelves came with a Columbia two-speed "Double High" rear axle. The Columbia's top ratio of 3.4:1 boosted fuel economy, helped acceleration, and gave a claimed 100-mph top speed at 3470 rpm.
A number of owner/ restorers, among them D. Cameron Peck, preferred driving their Franklin Twelves to other classics in their collections, saying the Franklin V-12 handled better, had a more comfortable ride, and was simply more fun on the road.
Among its lesser engineering nuances, the car had ball-bearing spring shackles, 15-inch Lockheed hydraulic brakes, thermostatic hood-front louvers, and freewheeling, which purportedly saved fuel and made it possible to shift without the clutch.
The Series 17 came in four body styles: five-passenger sedan, seven-passenger sedan, limousine, and two-door club brougham. The seven-passenger sedan and limousine had jump seats; the limo added a divider window.
Go on to the next page to learn about the legacy of the Franklin V-12.
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