Though 100 years ago dozens of motorcycle brands in America, England, Japan and Europe made machines that served as simple and economical transportation, some makers focused on luxury or performance. Four cylinder engines offered smooth power and in the early years could be built up to about 1000cc’s. Smoothness, horsepower and torque resulted, along with a certain amount of prestige. With their four cylinder Henderson motorcycle launched in 1912, and with their ACE some years later, the Henderson brothers wanted to make the best and the fastest machines.
Deliveries of the Henderson Four began in January 1912 as the third four cylinder motorcycle to come to market in the USA. The Henderson Motorcycle Company of Detroit, Michigan had only been formed earlier in 1911 and this was the company’s first design. William G. “Bill” Henderson formed a partnership with his brother Tom to build motorcycles: William brought creative genius, Tom financial skills. The first prototype Four had a belt drive, but the production bike featured a chain; chain drive and long wheelbase were both Henderson trademarks.
In 1913 the Model B was launched with a better brake, lower seat and a girder fork. 1913 also saw the return of Carl Stearns Clancy of New York having taken about a year to ride around the world on a Henderson. The publicity was enormous. For 1914 the Model C, which incorporated a two-speed hub, was produced. In 1917 the new Model G was ridden from Los Angeles to New York in 7 days, 16 hours and 15 minutes by Alan Bedell, beating “Cannonball” Baker’s 1915 record time aboard an Indian twin.
After about eight years making very fine four cylinder motorcycles, in 1917 the Henderson brothers sold the company and Henderson brand name to bicycle/motorcycle manufacturer Ignaz Schwinn. Schwinn subsequently built Hendersons at his Excelsior Motor Company in Chicago, Illinois. But the Henderson brand motorcycle finished production in 1931 when Ignaz Schwinn simply announced, “Gentlemen, today we stop.” The Henderson brothers waited out their two year non-compete clause with Schwinn, then in 1920 released the fabulous ACE.
- Engine: Four Cylinder, F Head
- Bore & Stroke: 2.50″ x 3.00″
- Displacement: 58.9 Cubic Inches, 965 cc’s
- Starting: Kick Start Lever
- Frame: Tubular Steel, Lugged
- Fork: Leading Link
- Primary: Bevel Gear Drive
- Transmission: Single Speed
- Brake: Rear, Internal
- Final Drive: Chain
- Wheelbase: 65 Inches