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Franklins find a home on Gilmore grounds

New museum opens on Gilmore grounds
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This 1910 Franklin Model D race car remains original
and retains all of the bumps, bruises and scars it
acquired when Los Angeles Franklin dealer Ralph
Hamlin entered the car in the Los Angeles to Phoenix
Desert Race.

Five hundred and fifty miles west of Syracuse, N.Y., where it was built for 32 years, the Franklin automobile is getting a second chance to re-capture the public’s fascination with air-cooled cars.

On May 15, the H. H. Franklin Club, Inc. dedicated a new 7,000-sq.-ft. facility at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Mich. The building is a replica of a circa-1910 Los Angeles dealership once owned by Ralph Hamlin, the former bicycle racer who became Franklin’s West Coast distributor, and the firm’s largest and most successful dealer.

The Franklin collection came about when enthusiast Bob Kern and his wife, Patricia, of Waukesha, Wis., began thinking four years ago about finding a permanent home for their Franklin cars and literature. With the advice of Franklin friends, the idea of a museum began to germinate, and with the encouragement of other collectors and Gilmore Car Museum director Michael Spezia, a plan came together. Ground was broken in May 2009 and 18 months later, the dream materialized.

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In addition to being the impetus for building the Franklin
museum, Bob and Patricia Kern donated several cars,
including this 1930 Franklin sedan.

“We’ve seen a lot of car museums, so we knew what we did not want when we designed this place” said Bob Harrison, who chaired the museum’s building committee. “Franklin’s are unique in a lot of ways and I hope we’ve found a unique way to tell the Franklin story,” he said.

“The goal of this museum is to tell the Franklin story of efficiency, light weight and direct-air-cooling autos,” said Bob Amon, president of the H. H. Franklin Club. “People sometimes think my air-cooled car is strange” he said. “They forget about the 25 million air-cooled VW Beetles.”

Of the 150,000 Franklins built between 1902 and 1934, it’s estimated that about 3,700 have survived. Those survivors in the museum include a 1909 Model D touring car, 1925 Franklin Series 11 Sport Runabout and 1930 Series 147 Pirate Touring, among the approximately 15 cars on display. Perhaps the most impressive Franklins currently exhibited include a 1932 Franklin Supercharged Twelve Series 17 Touring Sedan and the unrestored 1911 Model D factory race car that still carries all of the bumps, bruises and scars it earned when Los Angeles Franklin dealer Ralph Hamlin entered the car in the Los Angeles to Phoenix Desert Race and finished second.

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This 1909 Model D touring car sports the barrel-shaped
hood found on early Franklins.

The Franklin Automobile Collection is part of the H. H. Franklin Club Inc. and located on the Gilmore Car Museum campus in Hickory Corners, Mich. The museum campus opened for its 44th season on May 1 and is open daily through Oct. 31. To learn more, go to or, or call the museum at 269-671-5089.

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A total of 8,595 Franklins were built in 1925, and that
number includes this 199-cid six-cylinder-powered
Speedster with 32 hp.

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The exterior of the Franklin museum replicates a Los
Angeles-area Franklin dealership. The building’s windows
are filled with large vintage images of Franklins.

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