Memories of cars

Think back – can you remember the first car your family owned or the first one you had a chance to ride in?

It is interesting to reflect back and try to remember those cars.

My father enjoyed cars. He also had a fairly large family, with five of us to take whenever we went someplace. So he usually had four-door cars that were fairly large.

Dad didn’t have enough money to buy new cars, so they were usually several years old when he bought one. He also seemed to have a tendency to buy unusual cars that he could buy at a low price.

My memory, going back quite a few years, says the first car we had was a Franklin. Many people never heard of Franklin cars. Actually, it was quite a nice car and innovative for its time.

I vaguely recall it had an air-cooled engine and was a four-door. History says the Franklin Motor Company was in Syracuse, N.Y., and was a pioneer in making air-cooled engines. It was the only large production automobile company that built air-cooled engines.

Franklins were lightweight and efficient. They were built from aluminum and wood. Many of them had 12-volt electrical systems. In 1915, they had a top speed of 65 miles an hour and would get 32 miles per gallon of gas. We have some problems reaching that today.

I don’t remember if ours had a four- or six-cylinder engine which ran fairly well.

Unfortunately, the Franklin Motor Company couldn’t survive the Great Depression and went out of business in the early 1930s, according to historical accounts.

The next car I remember was another odd one. Dad seemed to find them. It was called the Davis. Again, it was several years old when he bought it but in good shape.

Davis cars were built from 1908 to 1929 in California. They were six-cylinder cars built from components. No parts were made in their factory. They were bought from other manufacturers and assembled in their plant.

My memory doesn’t tell me what color ours was. History says Davis was known for two-tone paint and fancy trim. It seems to me ours was a fairly heavy car and nice to ride in.

It was probably a challenge to my folks to keep us four boys, who were fairly close in age, from bickering or arguing in the back seat. We all wanted window seats. Keeping peace in the back seat among the four of us was probably not easy.

Another strange car we had, that I vaguely remember, was an old Chrysler Airflow. It was really a great car but years ahead of its time. It had lots of room for our family and had plenty of power. We apparently didn’t care that it was a strangely styled car that was really quite efficient.

We never had a new car until Dad bought, sometime in the late ’30s, one of the low-priced Ford models. We were thrilled to have that new car. Perhaps that is why, over the years, that I have always enjoyed the times when I could afford a new one.

It would be interesting if, today, we had that old Franklin or Davis car. It would be an attraction. Old cars interest me and some years back, I thought about buying and restoring an old Ford Model T. Since I didn’t find the money or the time, I didn’t do it. Probably a good thing because I didn’t really have the “know-how” to restore one.

When I can, going to an old car show is fun and something I enjoy.

Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle.