Welcome to the club: For this young air-cooled Franklin owner, the cars are just the beginning
Matt Goist’s ’22 Franklin Series 10-A is his vehicle of choice for promoting the marque, and the hobby, he loves
You could churn out a story a week about a young person drawn, for whatever varied and sometimes inexplicable reasons, to old cars and never run out of compelling subject matter. If that’s enough to render this a tired trope, it’s also heartening: Interest in vintage vehicles must not be waning after all!
Matthew Goist’s story is in some ways different — more multidimensional, perhaps — because it isn’t just about the cars. In addition to owning a range of classics, the 24-year-old restorer is playing an active role in steering his beloved H. H. Franklin Club. And he’s doing his part to foster an appreciation for old cars among budding enthusiasts even younger than he.
“My personal opinion is that none of this is going anywhere,” Goist says of the classic car world in general. “I think the people complaining about the lack of young people into classic cars are looking in the wrong places.”
They could, say, start by looking in a rented garage near Scranton, Pennsylvania. From this base of operations, the McPherson College graduate offers “mostly mechanical restorations” under the Goist Vintage Motorworks LLC banner. Additionally, he curates and manages an impressive private collection nearby.
When I drop in to visit, a Volkswagen Beetle and a Dodge van — two client cars — are surrounded by his ’70 MG MGB GT (up on jack stands and awaiting clutch repairs), a recently acquired ’62 Buick LeSabre two-door hardtop and a ’41 DeSoto Custom Sedan. Tucked in a corner is a ’31 Franklin Transcontinent 151 project, upright and dignified even in primer, and, at the center of it all, the car you see here: a 1922 Franklin Series 10-A 5-passenger touring.
Goist, a northeastern Ohio native, didn’t grow up in an old-car-owning family. While in high school, though, he crossed paths with “a local guy that worked for a classic car dealership near me. When I was 15, I started working for them, doing detailing and mechanical work. That was my first professional experience in the car world, and it’s when I realized that it’s what I wanted to do for a living.”
That, in turn, led him to McPherson College’s noted restoration program. But before he went off to Kansas for school, while volunteering at a local concours d’elegance, he struck up a conversation with a few guys displaying a Franklin. One thing led to another, and he was granted a scholarship to attend the Franklin club’s annual tour, dubbed the Franklin Trek, free of charge—part of the organization’s efforts to attract new, young members.
“That was my initial exposure to Franklins, and I fell in love with the club. The cars, I learned later on, are amazing machines,” he says, but it was the people that drew him in—and made him want to get involved. Seven years and seven Treks later, “I’m on the club’s board of directors. I have been facilitating the scholarship program for four years now. I have two Franklins and the first, the ’31, came to me through a club member. The second (the ’22) I found just being involved with the club. It’s just such a tight-knit group. … The members, I now consider them family. (The Trek) doesn’t feel like a car tour — it feels like a big family reunion.”
Founded by industrialist Herbert H. Franklin in Syracuse, New York, in 1902, the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Co. is best known for cars powered by air-cooled engines. “Up until 1925-ish, they had the same engineer, John Wilkinson,” Goist says. Beyond the engines, “He did a lot of things that were really unconventional at the time,” including employing full elliptical suspension springs.
“But a lot of the unconventionalness of the air-cooled cars disappeared in 1925. There was pushback from dealers to create a more standard-looking automobile. Wilkinson left in 1925, saying he didn’t want to design a car for aesthetics rather than functionality.” The last Franklins were produced in 1934.
Goist’s 10-A is from the Wilkinson era, with intriguing engineering, advanced lightweight materials throughout and form-follows-function styling. Open the hood (it tilts forward), and you’ll first spot a large, bulbous baffle. Air flows from the grille, into this baffle and down through finned assemblies surrounding each cylinder. Under the baffle hide valve cages; remove their covers, and you’ll find thick felt pads that must be oiled every 200-300 miles of driving. This is the top-end oiling system, supplying lubrication to the rocker arms; a separate oil-distribution system keeps the bottom end of the engine humming along.
It’s recognizable, but somehow also totally exotic and foreign. “A lot of people who see it for the first time compare it to an aircraft engine,” Goist says. When running, it idles quietly; underway, the engine has a unique sound—clattery, but not unpleasantly so, and mechanical.
“I think the only people who don’t enjoy prewar cars like this are the ones that haven’t had much exposure to them yet. It’s a completely different driving experience. If you’re only doing 35 mph, you see more, you smell more, you experience more on the drive.”
A car like Goist’s ’22, in serviceable, complete condition, can be had for $12,000 or less. That’s more affordable than a solid Ford Model A — and a fraction of what that other air-cooled classic, the Porsche 911, will run you. “It discredits that assumption that young people can’t afford classic cars,” he says. “And that holds true with all the cars I own.”
Like those other cars, Goist’s ’22 Franklin is imperfect, something of a perpetual work in progress. He saves the mirror-finished paint and gleaming brightwork for the showpieces owned by his clients. Look at this car closely, and you’ll notice patches where aluminum body panels shine from beneath chipped blue paint. The mock convertible top it currently wears doesn’t actually fold down.
“I’m in the process of hunting down some more parts for it. I eventually want to get an authentic top” — the original was lost when the car was converted, for a time, to a hay-hauling farm truck — “and do some reupholstery. But honestly, my main prerogative with this car is to just drive it.”
Certainly, he has the skills needed to bring the car to concours condition. “There’s not a whole lot that I wouldn’t do on my own, aside from some nickel-plating,” Goist says. And maybe that treatment is in store for the ’31 tucked away in the corner. “But I don’t ever plan to restore this car. It’s kind of perfect the way it is.”
That means carefree drives around town and, of course, the annual Trek. But it’s also Goist’s vehicle of choice — literally and figuratively — for promoting the marque, the club and the hobby he loves.
“Whenever I have my Franklin at an event, I have people get in the car; children of any age honk the horn, play with the steering wheel. … You see a kid’s face light up when they get inside of a classic car. That might be all it takes for someone to have an interest in this that doesn’t stop.”
Goist would know. “My first real exposure to a classic car was when I was 14, and a guy had his ’32 Ford out at a local football game. He was watching the entrance gate. I never made it past that gate because I spent the whole night talking to the guy about his Ford. And he was the person that I made the connection with at the dealership.
“I’m not saying it’s fate (or)that I wouldn’t have ended up doing what I do, but I can trace my involvement with the classic car world back to someone being willing to talk to me about their car.”