Is this Franklin the world’s oldest drag racer?
Drag Week is a grueling test of the limits of street-legal race cars. There is plenty of vintage iron on the participant list, but only one entrant that is a century old. James Eby and his 1919 Franklin Series 9B Touring aren’t the traditional Drag Week entrants—how fast of a pass can this centenarian run? Thanks to a video from YouTube user zlumlord chronicling day two of Drag Week, we have the answer.
This Franklin is no stranger to road trips, though the racing part is new. Eby drove a circle of the U.S. in 2018 with the Franklin, attending Concours d’Lemons events from coast to coast. It seems Eby hunted for still more interesting challenges for the air-cooled phaeton, however, so he entered in Drag Week.
Combining a road trip and five days of racing, Drag Week has a penchant for breaking even the best prepared cars. Most of those cars have significantly less road experience than Eby and his Franklin, but they certainly boast more time on the race track.
According to Matt Goist, a Franklin owner familiar with the one in question, Eby’s car is stock with the exception of a few temperature sensors for monitoring the health of the 200-cubic-inch six-cylinder. That engine has no pressure oiling for the valvetrain (though it’s pressurized for the rotating assembly), which means Eby has to stop every 100 miles or so to hand-oil the top end of the engine.
How does 100-year-old tech perform on a well-prepped quarter-mile strip? With Eby rowing the three-speed manual in the hunt for the 45 mph top speed, the Franklin breaks the beams at a nudge over 28 seconds.
It is entered in the street race small-block naturally aspirated class, a competitive set that requires low to mid-9 second passes to be in the lead.
So he won’t be winning, but we imagine Eby is probably having just as much fun as anyone. Let this madman in his Franklin serve as a reminder that cars are meant to be driven and aren’t nearly as delicate as some enthusiasts think. Go out and have fun with your car, whatever that means—and if you are going to try and best Eby’s time in your own Franklin, be sure to let us know.