From Chris Matthews of The History Channel’s American Restoration.
In 1911, brothers William and Tom Henderson founded the Henderson Motorcycle Co. in Detroit, Michigan. A year later, they unveiled the 1912 Henderson Four, featuring a 57 cubic inch (934cc) four-cylinder engine that made 7 hp and had a price tag of $325. The long wheelbase and big inline four-cylinder engine would become hallmarks of the brand, and Henderson would soon become known for producing some of the largest and fastest motorcycles of the era.
Improvements were made each year, with the Model B, C, D, E, and F appearing in successive years, gaining girder forks, a two-speed gearbox, lighter pistons, adjustable seat springs, shorter wheelbases, mechanical oilers, and more. By the introduction of the Model G, the Henderson was truly leading the two-wheeled pack:
“The 1917 Model G was as modern a motorcycle as you’d find that year, with a 3-speed gearbox, kickstarter, clutch, a rear drum brake, with an excellent leading-link fork and a very strong “short” chassis, as opposed to the extra-long Hendersons built from 1912-16.” —Mecum
What’s more, the Model G offered wet sump lubrication instead of the old splash lubrication. Sales were strong, more dealerships were established, and Henderson machines were constantly setting new speed and distance records:
“Henderson motorcycles were in the press constantly after the round-the-world exploit of Carl Stearns Clancy in 1912-13. In 1916, Roy Artley rode a Henderson with a sidecar 706 miles in 24 hours for a new world record, adding 122 miles to the old record, and on the other end of the performance scale, E.L. Hals of Modesto managed 104.2 miles on a gallon of gas with his 1916 Henderson. Meanwhile, Alan Bedell used a 1917 Henderson to lop four days off “Cannonball” Baker’s fastest cross-country ride.” —Mecum
What’s more, police departments favored the Henderson fours for traffic patrol, as these were some of the fastest, most powerful machines on the road.
Behind the scenes, however, the company was struggling financially. Inflation, labor costs, and material shortages became problems during the World War I period. In 1917, the Henderson brothers sold the company to Ignaz Schwinn, owner of Schwinn bicycles and Excelsior motorbikes, and production moved to Excelsior’s facilities in Chicago, Illinois.
This 1917 Henderson board track racer was restored by expert antique motorcycle restorer Chris Matthews, known for his work on The History Channel’s American Restoration. the bike has an original frame, forks, and engine, which has been completely rebuilt along with the four-cylinder magneto.
“The hand-rubbed paint job is spectacular and features gorgeous pinstriping, and the brightwork is triple-plated nickel, with nickel-plated spokes. Its nuts and bolts are period correct, and it presents in running condition. This is an exciting machine from the Golden Age of board track racing with a superlative restoration.” –Mecum
The bike will be hitting the auction block at Mecum’s Monterey 2021 event, estimated to sell for $85,000 – $100,000. If you need this Sons of Speed ready, you can learn more and sign up to bid at Mecum.com.
- Factory frame, forks and engine
- Rebuilt engine
- Rebuilt magneto
- Fresh hand-rubbed paint
- Triple-plated nickel plating
- Nickle-plated steel spokes
- Period correct nut and bolts
- Old world pinstriping
- Current video of seller riding
- Ready for the ‘Sons of Speed’ event
Here’s a video of the bike running — listen to that engine!