The Franklin Engine Company was an American manufacturer of aircraft engines. Their designs were used primarily in the civilian market, both in fixed wing and helicopter designs. They were briefly directly towards automobile engines as part of the Tucker Car Corporation, returning to aviation when that company failed. The company was later purchased by the Government of Poland.
The firm began as the H. H. Franklin Co. in 1902 in Syracuse, New York, USA, to produce Franklin air-cooled automobiles. Barely surviving bankruptcy in 1933, the company was purchased by a group of ex-employees and renamed Aircooled Motors in 1937. While the company kept the name of “Aircooled Motors,” their engines continued to be marketed under the Franklin name. Engineers Carl Doman and Ed Marks kept the company alive through the depression by manufacturing air-cooled truck and industrial engines.
During World War II Aircooled Motors was very successful producing helicopter and airplane engines. Several aircraft carried their engines, including the Aero-Flight Streak, Bartlett Zephyr, Bell 47, Bellanca Cruisair, Brantly B-1, Goodyear Duck, H-23 Raven, Hiller 360, Piper J-3F Cub, Seibel S-4, Sikorsky S-52, Stinson Voyager, Taylorcraft 15, Temco TE-1B, and the YT-35 Buckaroo.
Aircooled Motors was purchased by Republic Aviation Company in 1945 to produce engines for its Republic Seabee light amphibious aircraft. After the war demand for the engines dropped dramatically and Republic was unsure of the company’s future.
In 1947 Aircooled Motors was purchased for the price of $1.8 million by the Tucker Car Corporation to produce an engine for the 1948 Tucker Sedan. After purchasing Aircooled Motors, Tucker cancelled all of the company’s aircraft contracts so that its resources could be focused on making automotive engines for the Tucker Corporation. This was a significant event, since at the time of Tucker’s purchase Aircooled Motors held over 65% of postwar U.S. aviation engine production contracts. For this reason, when the Tucker Car Corporation failed amidst allegations of stock fraud, Aircooled nearly failed with it.
Tucker and the Tucker family continued to own the firm until 1961, when the family sold it to the Aero Industries, which restored the name of the Franklin Engine Company.
In 1975 the government of Poland bought the company and moved it to Rzeszów, first under the name PZL-Franklin and later simply PZL-F.