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Franklin 11-B Sedan

Before World War Two, the American-built Franklin was the most successful air-cooled car.

The cooling system of this 1927 11-B model works as follows: a bladed fan in the ‘radiator’ forces the air up into a large tube situated above the cylinders. The air is then blown back down through small tubes fitted around each cylinder.

Aeroplane engines also used this technique, which is why the Franklin cars were so popular with aviation pioneers such as Orville Wright, Amelia Earhart and Colonel Charles Lindbergh, the latter owning no fewer than four models.

In 1902 Herbert H. Franklin, together with engineer John Wilkinson, was one of the first to put a car with an air-cooled engine into serial production. Franklin was convinced that air-cooling was more reliable than water-cooling. He compensated for the rather underpowered engine by using lighter materials like wood and aluminium. In the early years the Franklins looked somewhat unorthodox but in 1925 the manufacturer, under pressure from the dealers, switched to a more conventional design by J Frank DeCausse, which included a fake radiator acting as an air intake. The car on display here is an example of this type.

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