America's longest-lived and most successful air-cooled automobile, the Franklin was the work of engineer John Wilkinson, whose innovative design, produced in prototype form for the New York Automobile Company, was taken up by Syracuse-based die-casting manufacturer Herbert H Franklin. Franklin's company sold its first car - a runabout - in June 1902 and a dozen more before the year's end. In an age when the customary power unit for such a vehicle was a water-cooled single, Wilkinson's 1.7-litre, air-cooled 'four' was highly unusual. The Franklin's other advanced features included overhead valves (inlets mechanically operated from 1905), throttle speed control, float-type carburettor, two-speed planetary transmission and full-elliptic springing. The engine was mounted transversely in the wooden chassis at first, before moving to the conventional up-front position in 1905, fan cooling being introduced at the same time on most models. Truly innovative, Franklin was among the first to adopt six-cylinder engines (1905), automatic ignition advance (1907), sedan coachwork (1913), aluminium pistons (1915) and electric carburettor priming (1921). At a time when liquid cooling systems were often unreliable, the Franklin's ability to operate in extremely hot or cold weather conferred a distinct advantage, while the lack of a water pump, radiator and their attendant hoses greatly reduced maintenance costs.
Powered by a 3.9-litre, seven-bearing 'six', the Airman limousine offered here dates from 1928 and has the front wheel brakes introduced that year and the dummy radiator grille first adopted in 1925 in response to pressure from the dealer network, which demanded a more conventional-looking product. The Airman series was named after pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh, a Franklin devotee. The car was imported from the USA by the vendor in March 2006 and restored by him over the next two years (photographs on file). Described as in generally good condition, this rare Vintage-era American car is offered with current road fund licence, recently expired MoT (May 2012) and Swansea V5C document. A Carter carburettor is the only notified deviation from factory specification.