Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Gem In The Desert

Sometimes you find great places by mistake.  It happens to me a lot, since I either get lost or go to the wrong place, which I THINK is what happened here.  As a result, I found a gem in the desert you really must visit.

It's not exactly easy to find, although the address IS correct.  The problem is as soon as people come to the dirt road, they turn back.  Keep going until you see a large mailbox with the name FRANKLIN on the side.  It looks like you are going to someone's house, not a museum, and you would be right.
This is the small building on the left as you enter, with an even smaller home on the right.  Turn left between the two buildings to find a three-car parking area.  This building was the mechanics shop where Franklin Automobiles were restored and now houses part of the museum.  
There's not a lot of information out there on it's owner, Thomas H. Hubbard and I did not take notes. Let's see what I can remember.  As a mining engineer, Thomas loved old Franklin cars which were built between 1902 and 1934 in Syracuse New York.  He loved them so much that when the mine closed down, he moved to Tucson, bought a large section of land for pittance and began his new life.
This beauty is a 1905 Model A Runabout.   I can just imagine toodeling down the road in this magnificent car.  Check out the picnic basket on the side, with a rear wicker umbrella holder.
Every single Franklin car made came with a clock as standard equipment.  They also came with a luggage package, usually including two hat boxes, one for the man and one for the woman.
With it's four cylinder engine and two speed transmission, it could go a whopping 30 mph.  

This rear tonneau which seated two passengers through a rear entry door which you can see in the middle, was removable so your mother-in-law couldn't ride with you.  What an amazing machine.  Thomas lovingly restored each of these to their original state.  Although you can't touch, you can ask the volunteers to open anything for closer viewing.
Here's a 1918 Model 98 Touring car purchased by Miss Hazel Clemence from Massachusetts to take her father on rides until his death in 1935.  Yes, they know the history of every car here, and it's SO interesting.  
It was rather unusual for a woman to be driving in those days.  There are lots of buttons to push and levers to pull.  Here again is the standard clock and the odometer.  There is even a TRIP gauge.  Who knew they had THESE back in the old days?
This is a 1927 l1B sedan, the last vehicle H. H. Franklin himself rode in before his death.   While  I was there, a gentleman came in and joined the group.  Seems he was a kid from the neighborhood when Thomas was here.  What a great gentleman to talk to.  Thomas would pick him up in his car and take him to the shop, where he would be put to work cleaning car parts.  He has recently lost his drivers license, and so spends lots of time here at the museum.    He has worked on almost every car here.
All of the earlier cars have wooden wheels.  Can you imagine trying to change a flat tire on this baby?  If you own a Franklin today and your wooden wheel breaks, you can actually have another one made for a measly $300.  
Here's another beauty for you ... a 1933 Olympic Convertible Coupe ... a "gentlemen's" full convertible with rumble seat.  Can't you just see yourself driving this down the dirt road?  It came complete with four huge pieces of luggage kept in the trunk ... which is still there ... the luggage that is!  
Thomas Hubbard had a mechanics shop, an upholstery shop with tile flooring (above image) and a paint shop just for restoring his Franklins.  Some were donated to him, but most he purchased from the New York area.  

This particular vehicle is a 1931 Sport Phaeton with a custom body built for Stiffman Kelley II of Lexington MA.  He was rather partial to the Cadillac design, but wanted a Franklin for his wedding trip.  He took a Hersheys chocolate bar to the paint shop and told them to make it "this" color.    This is what happens when you have too much money!!
Franklin originally built aircraft engines, one of which is on display also.
This 1931 Deluxe Town Car began it's life as a 1929 model, then a 1930 and finally a 1931, each time being issued a new serial number.  It was H. H. Franklin's business car in New York City.  Thomas Hubbard got a kick out of dressing up as a driver and picking up Mr. Harrah's (of Harrah's Automobile Collection in Nevada) and taking him on a city tour before they landed at the ranch, comparing notes on cars.  Thomas even restored several of the cars in the Harrah Collection.
This is the hood ornament for the Town Car.  Don't ask me what it is, you'll have to check with the volunteers when you get there.  It kind of looks like a bird, or a plane ... no, it's not Superman.
If you wish, you can also tour the house Thomas Hubbard lived in with his parents.  It's a small adobe, beautifully built, with the original furniture still in tact.  When Thomas died, he set up a Foundation to keep the museum going.  The volunteers aren't exactly great housekeepers ... you know how it is ladies, they are all men.
There's a tiny kitchen with a "pretend sink".  Washing of dishes must be done in the bathroom sink.  Why don't you think the MEN would fix it?  
Thomas Hubbard never married, spending all his life with his automobiles.  His office library is stuffed with every book imaginable about the Franklin cars he loved, along with all of the repair manuals.  There are also many Engineering books from his early days.
If you happen to be in the area, please check it out.  $10 donation ($8 for seniors).   If you LIVE in the area, here's a really great tip.  If you volunteer at the museum when it's open from October through Memorial Day, you will probably get to DRIVE  one or two or maybe even three!!  If I find a place here, I'm signing up.  Every Thursday night they CRUISE THE DRAG for a couple of hours in one of the cars.  If they need parts, you can drive to the store and pick them up.  How fun would THAT be???

Ladies, don't think you will be bored.  The cars were made for women as well as men, with lots of mirrors and secret compartments.  There's even a Golf Door built in to allow easy access to your golf clubs.  


  1. What a fascinating place! I'm not a car nut but I would have enjoyed a visit here.

    1. Linda, I'm more interested in the history than I am the actual cars, but I spent four hours there!! A great place to visit.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. I love all the pictures and the details you included.

    1. You're so welcome! It was a fascinating place to see.