Rare automobiles congregate at Surfside residence
SURFSIDE - Franklin automobiles were always rare from the time they were introduced in 1902 until the last one rolled off the assembly line in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1934.
Finding five of them over 70 years later in the driveway of Cliff Stranburg's vacation home in Surfside last weekend was that much more of a rare occurrence.
Stranburg, who hails from Beaverton, owns two Franklins, and his wife Julie received a convertible from him as a gift. The Stranburgs drove their Victoria Brougham and Pirate model Franklins to their beach home, and Cliff has put 26,000 miles on the Brougham.
"All of my Franklins are 1930s," he explained. "That way the parts are interchangeable." Stranburg said he could have collected Buicks or Cadillacs from that era, but he liked the idea of the rarity of the Franklins.
Fellow-collector, Gary Geddes of Lake Oswego, drove his Franklin Pursuit to the beach. The truly unique thing about the Pursuit is that it is the only one known to exist. His is a 1931, which he was teased about as the other four cars on hand were all of 1930 vintage.
Geddes' one-of-a-kind vehicle has a dual cowl, meaning there is a second windshield for the back seat that can be folded down. His vehicle also features a liquor cabinet for the back seat, however, "the original glasses have long since gone by the wayside," he laments. Geddes found the unique car at an auction by complete surprise, but of course could not pass it up.
Derek Haberman from Yorba Linda, Calif., drove his 1930 sedan 1,500 miles to Surfside for the reunion of Franklins. He pulled a 1952 Viking travel trailer the entire trip and stayed quite comfortably in it along the way. Haberman's Franklin sports wooden spokes for the wheels, a feature that was available on most of the models.
"I have to sand and varnish them from time to time, otherwise they work just fine," he said. He installed a 1940 swamp cooler as an air-conditioner in the back seat of his Franklin that still has the original upholstery. "I averaged 9 miles per gallon and traveled just over 50 miles per hour on the trip up here," he claimed. "The spokes are made from second growth ash."
A feature of every Franklin is that the engines are air cooled.
"It took me 25 years, but I figured out that by balancing the fan with the crank shaft I can go faster, and the car has less vibration," Stranburg explained. "These cars have hydraulic brakes, quite an invention for their time, and they have 250 cubic [inch] engines that produce 100 horses of power. And of course you never have to worry about anti-freeze since they are air cooled."
He said the 19-inch tires can be purchased in Australia and the springs are like that of a baby carriage, making for a very smooth ride.
"The engine and many of the parts are aluminum so the car is very light weight. In the early 1900s they held the New York to Los Angeles speed record." Since there were no airplanes at the time, the land record was the only record of transcontinental crossing.
Geddes' had thickly-padded light covers made as replacing a broken head lamp costs over $200. Haberman said insurance was only about $400 per year and was underwritten as an antique through a company specializing in that type of coverage. Placing a monetary value on the Franklins was difficult, but Stranburg said a copy of the Victoria Brougham with no original parts recently sold for $150,000.
Geddes, Stranburg, and Haberman are all members of the Franklin Car Club and receive a newsletter. The trio and family and friends left for a car show in Silverdale on Sunday. Stranburg said his other vehicle is a Toyota, but that he sometimes drives his Franklin to work.
"The Pirate has the lines of a ship and has a hidden step much like ships have," Stranburg said. A Jolly Roger flag would not have been out of place waving above the sleek black body of the car.
"There are only five Victoria Broughams known to exist, and the hood ornament is an airplane because the car is powered by an airplane engine. Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh did the advertisements for the automobile," he explained. He then jokingly told his wife, "I want to take the convertible back."
"No way," she quickly answered. The convertible is yet to be fully restored, but much improvement has already been made from the way the Stranburgs found the vehicle. There are seven other Pirates and nine other convertible coupes known to exist.
Stranburg said he collected Franklins because they are arguably the finest automobile mechanically of that era.
"They are different, they were rare when they were first made, and not everyone has one, you know."
Unless of course you came to visit him and his wife last weekend, then you were just part of the crowd of satisfied Franklin owners.