Seeing Stars (& Cars)

Last week I posted one of my star photos that hadn’t been fully processed. Here is a version that my buddy/mentor Chuck did the post processing on. Pretty cool stuff!

Franklin Museum

Honoring a marque that is not too well known today, the Franklin museum it itself rather obscure. Hard to find, and reached by dirt roads, it’s still in the Tucson city limits.

Franklins were built from 1902 through 1934 in Syracuse, New York. Their most interesting feature was that they were all air-cooled. Without radiators, water pumps and water, and built with extensive use of aluminium, the cars were a bit lighter and supposedly handled better than some competitors.

So I decided only to show my favorites… unfortunately, I found too many fascinating!

1932 Model 1600 V12 Sport Phaeton

This fine looking car is actually a “new” car – built in the 1960’s to factory blueprints, it is an exact replica of the 1932 Franklin.

1925 Series 11-A Sport Coupe

This cute little boat-tailed coupe has a rumble seat. (If you’re too young to know about rumble seats, they are a seat that appears under what looks like a trunk lid. Folded up, you have a two door coupe. Open the rumble seat and there’s room for four!)

1931 Model 153 Sport Phaeton

This gorgeous Phaeton was custom built for Stillman F. Kelley II. It was to be used on his wedding trip. The body design was based on a Cadillac he admired.

1926 Series 11-A Sport Touring

This touring car features a second, adjustable windshield. It’s not what I’d call a true “dual cowl” car, for reasons I’ll elaborate on later.

The air-cooled Franklins did not need a large radiator like most cars had… they had small round grilles to let air into the engine compartment. But people wanted big radiators, like that meant big power and prestige. Franklin begrudgingly created big fake radiators to be fashionable, but sometimes kept the little round intake, as in this example.

1929 Model 135 Convertible Coupe

A “Gentleman’s Sport Coupe,” this car has a rumble seat and the requisite door on the side for your golf clubs.

This old gas pump dispensed “Ethyl.” Anyone remember Ethyl? Cheap gas was “regular,” Ethyl was the premium stuff.

1934 Model 173 V12 Club Brougham

Pretty jaunty with its raked back radiator and two toned brown paint, this car also had a V12 engine. The 12 cylinders were not only for more power, they helped make engines run smoother. This car’s radiator was 4 inches taller than any competitor in the day.

1930 Model 147 Pirate Phaeton

The “Pirate” was conceived to further Franklin’s reputation as an innovation leader. As a convertible, it had a second windshield with adjustable side windows for the huge rear compartment, and doors that pretty much hid the running boards. It had “Andre Hydro-Telecontrol” hydraulic shock absorbers, which could be adjusted from the dashboard. Pretty racy for the time!

1932 Model 163 Deluxe Pursuit

This beauty is what I’d call a proper Dual Cowl Phaeton. Not only does it have a second windshield, but all the pretty cowling around it. To enter the rear compartment, you first lift up the second windshield and the cowling that is hinged at the front, and then open the door. Once seated you pull the whole cowling assembly down over your legs and you are all tucked in! Somewhat like getting in a roller coaster today. I’m not sure where the Pursuit name originated.

1931 Model 153 Deluxe Town Car

This elegant chauffeur driven car began its life as a 1929 model, then as a 1930, then finally a 1931, with the factory issuing new serial numbers each time. It is believed to be founder H. H. Franklin’s personal Town Car.

The air-cooled engines were a big deal before antifreeze was invented. Those who needed an all weather car could depend on the Franklin.

1931 Packard 833

A couple beautiful Packards made it into the museum. This car sports “Pilot-Ray” headlights, which turned with the steering wheels. The radiator shell, headlights and taillights of this model were upgraded to the 1932 style at the dealer to help it sell in the depression era.

1933 Model 183 Olympic Convertible Coupe

The Olympic was sort of an economy version of the Franklin. This full convertible, with a rumble seat, was priced about $1,000 less than the Franklin, but it was “not quite a real Franklin.”

1934 Model 194 Club Sedan

This was actually a left-over 1931 car, made over into the 1934 style. Note the beautiful built-in trunk, with a folding rack for additional luggage.

1942 Model 12AC-806 Aircraft Engine

Franklin barely survived the depression, and basically went bankrupt in 1934. It was bought out by a group of former employees, and later changed its name to Air-cooled Motors. They made aircraft engines for many types of planes and helicopters. In 1947 Tucker Car Corporation bought the company to manufacture air-cooled engines for the innovative Tucker Torpedo. Tucker cancelled all the company’s aircraft contracts with the government, so it could focus on his cars. At the time, Aircooled Motors held 65% of the U.S. aviation engine contracts! When Tucker failed, the aircraft engine company almost failed too. It was eventually bought by the government of Poland, and they still make aircraft engines today.

1927 Model 11B Sedan

This car is said to be the last Franklin that H. H. Franklin rode in, just a few weeks before his death. I like the Desert Bag over the radiator. I even remember seeing those occasionally as a kid… Long before air-conditioning, you’d fill this canvas bag with water, and it would slowly seep through the canvas. The wind going by (at HIGH speed!) would evaporate the water from the canvas and chill the water inside. I guess they worked pretty well, if they cooled the water even when resting up against a hot radiator!

1905 Model A Runabout with Rear-Entry Tonneau

Here’s a two seater, with a removable “tonneau” that could be attached on the rear. The tonneau had two seats in the corners, so you could face forward or towards each other. It was entered with a little door in the back, and when the door was closed you could fold down a little jump seat so three could sit facing forward.

1908 Model J 1.5 Ton Capacity Stake-Bed Truck

This was what an early pickup truck looked like! A rather open cab! They were only made for two years.

This has nothing to do with Franklin, but is interesting!

1918 Model 9B Touring

The sign says this was purchased new by a lady, who only used it to take her father on rides until his death in 1935.

This is an early Franklin engine. You can see the small round air intake, and how it is ducted up over the engine. This shows you how little of the “Fake Radiators” was really used.

1925 Model 10C Sedan

This car was restored and donated by Frank Gardner, who remembered being present when his mother bought the car new at a dealership in Boston. [My first car was a VW bug, which I had fixed up, painted, and pinstriped. I had my initials painted on the door, just like this Franklin!]

1924 Packard Model 143 7-Passenger Touring

This Packard was purchased new in Tucson, as a wedding gift for Isabella Greenway. She was Arizona’s first congresswoman, and founder of the Arizona Inn.

A little info about early driving…

Mount Lemmon

We had a tour of Mount Lemmon and its observatories. It’s a little over an hour’s drive out of Tucson, but it is about 9,152 feet elevation (approximately) and a whole different world! They repeatedly advised us to dress warmly. We dressed in several layers, and were planning on getting our big winter coats out of the basement where they are stored when not needed. Almost near the top of Mount Lemmon, we stopped for our picnic dinner, and realized we’d forgotten to get our big coats!! Ouch! We didn’t have time to return home, and if we missed this tour time it would be months before we could get another. Cherryl’s been wanting a new winter coat anyway, so we drove down to a sporting goods store, found a beautiful coat, and I had a light down coat that I wore over my sweater and wore a windbreaker over all that! We also had long underwear, hats, gloves and scarves. And we still got cold at night!

We met the tour leaders at the base of a little ski slope. There they put the 20 or so of us in two vans, and drove us to the top where the observatories are.

There are several telescopes here, operated by groups and universities.

We were shown the Schullman telescope first. They aimed the 32 inch scope to the moon, and we could see fascinating detail. During the day! It was fun to see the whole dome rotate as the telescope aimed itself at whatever target the computer told it.

Next he said we were going to go outside and stare at the sun! We were given special glasses we could safely sun-gaze with. These are iPhone pix taken of the sun through those glasses.

After playing with those for a few minutes, we were shown a real sun telescope. Filters protect your eyes from frying, and you can really look directly at the sun! We could see solar prominences – very cool! (or really hot!)

iPhones are not really meant to shoot through telescopes, but we had to keep trying! Here’s a couple solar shots.

Cherryl in pretty new coat!

They served a nice little sack dinner, and plenty of hot drinks. (It was already COLD!) We then walked to a good viewpoint for the sunset. He told us about the “Green Flash.” One guy in the group mumbled “It doesn’t really exist!” Sailors talk about a green flash, occasionally seen just as the sun dips below the horizon. It is so hard to see that many folks believe it is mythical. But he explained how it works, and armed with binoculars, we could see it. He told us NOT to look at the sun with the binoculars until he told us too. Then as the sun just dropped below the horizon, we saw it! A green flash, literally just a fraction of a second, just over the edge of the sun. So Cool! (no way to take a picture of that… amazing enough to see it!)

Then it was back in the dome to look through the 32 inch scope. First up was the moon again, now far more interesting. The picture on the left is through the 32 inch, the one on the right is through the “spotting scope.”

Next was a series of star shots, and they would ask for volunteers to tell the computer where to aim. Of course I had to do that, so I was one of many who got to push the buttons to make the huge dome rotate and the telescope aim towards a new target. What fun!

It was fiercely cold, but so awesome you had to stay involved. (There was a “Warm Room” you could go into if you were dying, but then you’d miss something!)

Here are our guides. Great guys, we had lots of fun and learned a lot!

So I’ve saved the best for last… here is an iPhone picture taken through the 32 inch scope of the Orion Nebula. Awesome!

One comment

  1. […] One beautiful exception was accepting an invitation from our good friends Chuck and Christina to go for a ride in the mountains. They drove us up to the top of Mt Lemmon. We have all been there before, having driven up in late afternoon and spending time in the observatories. But we all felt like we’d never noticed how nice the views were on the trip up. Maybe we were too focused on getting to the awesome observatory complex. (You can read about our stargazing trip here.) […]

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