By Harry V Sucher, Tim Pickering, Liam Diamond and Harry Havelin. Published by Panther ISBN: 978 0 9564975 5 0 337 pages hard cover. Available from Renniks, Sydney 02 9695 7055 (approx. $59) or Veloce UK (£42.50 including postage)
Pre-WW1, Charlie Franklin was a leading motorcycle racer and record breaker in his native Ireland and in Britain, but it was after he had moved to USA to join Indian in Springfield as a design engineer that his presence in the motorcycle industry was really felt. As co-author Sucher puts it, “Franklin’s story is even bigger than Indian…his influence was felt industry-wide. Design elements he popularised were adopted by other manufacturers, in particular Harley-Davidson…he developed a ‘look’ and style of American motorcycles that persists to the present day.” Franklin’s crowning glory was designing the Indian Scout and Indian Chief – models that turned around the company’s fortune’s and probably saved it from bankruptcy. This book charts Franklin’s early days working as an electrical engineer in Dublin, his early racing days and subsequent shining career as an international competitor (he finished second in the 1911 Senior TT), and as an Indian dealer in Dublin. Franklin later managed Indian’s wholesale and retail operation in Dublin, but when this was closed in 1916, he accepted an offer to sail to USA to take up a position with the Hendee Manufacturing Company. He planned to stay for only six months, but the move was the beginning of a brilliant second career for the 36-year-old and was soon joined by his wife and daughter. Tragically, he died from cancer in 1932, aged just 52. A meticulously-researched volume, Franklin’s Indians will appeal to not only devotees of the marque, but anyone with an interest in pioneer motorcycling, and has just been republished in a soft cover version.