Classic Cars on Display at the Franklin Trek No new Franklin autos have been made for more than 70 years. But driving around Cazenovia, N.Y., this week might have given a different impression. Franklin owners gather there each summer for a sort-of family reunion.
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Classic Cars on Display at the Franklin Trek

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Classic Cars on Display at the Franklin Trek

Classic Cars on Display at the Franklin Trek

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This week, the roads around the village of Cazenovia, New York have been full of vintage automobiles. They're Franklins, luxury cars, built in nearby Syracuse until the company went bankrupt in 1934. It's called the Franklin Trek.

David Chanatry drove his 1995 Buick to town to file our report.

DAVID CHANATRY reporting:

The 53rd Annual Franklin Trek got started the way they all do, with the trekkers sitting under a large beech tree at Cazenovia College and catching up with old friends.

(Soundbite of gathering)

CHANATRY: They come from all over the country to spend a week sleeping in the college dorms, eating in the cafeteria and talking about the one thing they all have in common. The objects of their collective affection are the 80 or so Franklins parked on the quad. Most are beautifully restored, brought back to life by owners like Emmett Hood(ph).

(Soundbite of car engine)

CHANATRY: He rescued his Franklin in 1965 from a farmer in Idaho who used it as a chicken coop.

Mr. EMMETT HOOD (Franklin Owner): The front seats were - didn't exist. The top was all rotted out, the wood. Sixty percent of the wood in this car has been replaced. But the chickens did nothing to the car mechanically.

CHANATRY: Franklins were known as well-made cars for the well off. In 1932, a Franklin sedan cost about $3,000, as much as a small house. They were air cooled and had wooden frames and some other distinctive engineering features that appealed to Bovard Hostica(ph), the owner of a 1910 two-seater.

Mr. BOVARD HOSTICA (Franklin Owner): I like the weird.

CHANATRY: He's a nuclear scientist from the University of Virginia who brought his 21-year-old daughter Trillium(ph) to the track.

Mr. HOSTICA: It has the most bizarre engine you can imagine. The exhaust valve is actually physically located within the intake valve.

CHANATRY: But while there's plenty of talk about pistons and gaskets, everyone says it's not the cars that draw them here. Robert Webb(ph) and his parents made the journey from Bakersfield, California.

Mr. ROBERT WEBB (Franklin Trekker): You don't come all the way across country for the car; you come all the way across country to see all the people who like the cars.

CHANATRY: Their common interest serves to break down barriers between people who otherwise might not mix. There are well-to-do businessmen here, at least one prison guard, and a gay couple. The same people keep coming back for 20, 30, even 40 years. Lloyd Davis of Rutland, Vermont appears to have the unofficial record.

Mr. LLOYD DAVIS (Franklin Trekker): Well, I've been at more or less 50 treks and maybe 51. I'm not sure.

CHANATRY: This kind of devotion, some might say compulsion, gives the week the feel of a quirky family reunion, and for some it is. Susan and David Roberts are one of the six married couples who met at a trek. Their cupid: a Franklin.

Ms. SUSAN ROBERTS (Franklin Trekker): The first time I saw him, I didn't think much of him. But the second time I saw him, I thought he was a pretty cool dude.

CHANATRY: Now the Roberts are among the many families bringing their kids, making this their family vacation.

Unidentified Man #1: A 1934 sedan...

CHANATRY: As the Franklins parade down Main Street, it's apparent they fit this old resort town of restored homes and antique shops. That's part of the appeal too. The people here seem to look forward to the Trek almost as much at the trekkers. Their welcoming attitude is reciprocated with rides around town just for the asking, and sometimes even a little more.

Unidentified Man #2: Do you want to drive it?

CHANATRY: The answer, of course, is yes.

For NPR News, David Chanatry, behind the wheel of a Franklin 1928 Victoria Brome(ph) on the roads north of Cazenovia, New York.

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