Pick of the Day: 1930 Franklin Olympic has air-cooled engine

Offered for $15,500, this ‘cruise all day long’ vehicle might be a good way to enter the world of pre-war classic cars

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1930 Franklin
1930 Franklin Olympic that can 'cruise all day long' could introduce you to pre-war classics for $15,500

The Pick of the Day might be a good way to stick your toes into the realm of pre-war collector cars. Offered for sale on ClassicCars.com by its private owner in Silver City, New Mexico, is a 1930 Franklin Olympic.

For one thing, Silver City isn’t all that far from Tucson, Arizona, home of the Franklin Auto Museum. (Note: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the museum is closed, with plans to re-open on October 21.)

Or, if you live in the Midwest, there’s also a Franklin museum on the campus of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Basically, the point is that there are Franklin experts to help you explore your new car.

And the car, with its air-cooled aero-style engine, is worthy of exploration. 

“The 1930 Franklin engine produces the greatest power for cylinder capacity of all automotive power plants of its time,” the seller notes, adding that such a car set a cross-country travel record when it needed only 69 hours, 31 minutes to drive from New York to Los Angeles.

“It was a high-end luxury car of its era, holding its own with Packard and Cadillac,” the seller adds. 

“This car is not restored to original showroom condition, but has been rebuilt and renewed, to make it a daily driver … for safe use on today’s highways.”

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The seller adds that the car on offer “has been driven all over the USA, from coast to coast and from the Deep South up into Canada to the Northwest Territory, Arctic Circle and back.

“It will cruise all day long comfortably at 55-60 mph, accelerating up to the 70s when needed.

“It is truly a fine touring car, ready to be driven often.”

The Franklin Olympic is powered by a recently rebuilt high-compression, 87-horsepower, inline 6-cylinder air-cooled engine that the seller says is now rated at 105 horsepower. The engine is connected to a 4-speed transmission, also recently rebuilt.

The car also has rebuilt hydraulic brakes, elliptic springs, powder-coated wire wheels and new tires. It also has a leather interior, “fully insulated, with sound proofing,” as well as new glass and paint. The electrical system has been converted to 12 volts and LED head and tail lamps and turn signals have been installed. 

The seller adds that records have been kept on all work done on the car since 1944.

H.H. Franklin Manufacturing and the subsequent Franklin Automobile Co. date to 1902. In 1901, recent Cornell engineering graduate John Wilkinson produced a pair of air-cooled prototype cars for the New York Automobile Co., which didn’t pay him for his work. 

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However, Wilkinson met Alexander T. Brown, who had invested in several upstate New York companies, and Brown introduced Wilkinson to Herbert H. Franklin, a former newspaper publisher who now was in the business of manufacturing die castings. Franklin liked Wilkinson’s cars, bought the New York Automobile Co., and the Franklin went into production in Syracuse. 

The Standard Catalog of American Cars notes that Franklin was the longest-lived and most-successful air-cooled automobile company that was native of the United States. Cross-country racer Cannonball Baker and pioneering pilot Charles Lindberg both drove Franklins in the 1920s.

The company fell into debt when new investors insisted on changes that made the vehicles heavier and more expensive. Production ended in 1934.

The 1930 Franklin Olympic is being offered for sale for $15,500. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.


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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Seriously.. How can you go wrong on a deal like this? I’d buy this in a heartbeat if I had the appropriate facility to store it and somewhere to drive it.

  2. So many mistakes in this write up! First of all! It’s not a Olympic! A Olympic was a REO bodied car that was built later. Second….This car had just about 100 BHP, when new! It’s a side draft engine.
    Never had 87 BHP! The 1929 predecessor was a downdraft engine and had about half of the HP.
    It’s still a nice car, with many modern upgrades….and at a reasonable price!👍

  3. I agree that the Franklin pictured is not an Olympic, however my own references state that the horsepower in 1930 was 87, eventually rising to 100.😎

  4. Pickiness aside, Mr. E, you have outdone yourself with this one. This is one of the coolest bits of odd American engineering I’ve seen in a long time; I looked at a similar Franklin (tan over brown fenders) in bits and boxes some years back, but didn’t have the guts to take on such a project. Now I kick myself, as this one is modified almost as if the owners read my mind (save the one I saw had no drivetrain, but I had a SOHC Pontiac Sprint 6 and a Muncie 4spd sitting idle. Curses.
    Wonderful car. Mine? Virus be da***d, road trip!

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