four cylinder


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The two brothers Tom and William Henderson had started their motorcycle production out of Detroit. The first Hendersons were based on ideas picked up from the early Belgian made FN-4 and the nimble American Pierce. The early Henderson got a much larger displacement of 968 cc than the earlier pioneer four cylinders, and the Hendersons also made their fours very long.

For their 1916 model they had their model shortened by 14 inches. In 1917 they increased the cubic capasity to 1068 cc and made away with the two speed rear wheel and got a more modern three-speed incorporated in the engine casting. This was a design that should stay with all American inline four cylinders to follow.
This modernisation and retooling was probably one of the reasons that the Henderson factory was purchased by the then largest motorcycle producer in the world, The Excelsior factory of Chicago owned by the industrialist Ignatz Schwinn. The Henderson then became the Excelsior Henderson.
In the merger one Henderson brother quit to enter into car production while William stayed on to look after his interests. Apparently the industrialist and sole owner of the Excelsior factory, Schwinn decided on major changes of the X-Henderson as he decided to stiffen up the frame and make the four a sidevalve engine.
To William Henderson this would compromise his plan to make the Henderson a light, snappy motorcycle and he left Excelsior-Henderson to try to make his own version of a fast and sporty motorcycle . He secretly got financial backing to make the Ace.

My own very special Henderson

The 1916 Henderson is  a short wheelbase  light motorcycle. The inline four engine drives  the bike via straight cut gears in an angle drive directly driven from the big flywheel. A little 6 " Eclipse then clutch moves the power to the rear wheel and a two speed rear hub.

laid back riding

The engine is 968cc (58cu. inch) and has  a bore of63,5mm and stroke of 76,2mm. The sound of the engine is "car like" but  more "throaty" much like a little Ferguson tractor.  The bike is pretty fast. During a rally in Denmark I was persuaded by a Danish Motorcycle Cop to test its speed with him on wheel with  his BMW and  Speedpilot.  He clocked the Henderson  at 105 km/hour and was very impressed. He did not want to give me a signed certificate of it though...

Carburation of the four cylinder is through the little 3/4" Schebler connected through a long intake manifold. The mixture duct of the Schebler gets its air from a separate pipe  which is led through the muffler. Thus the intake air is preheated. It is quite easy and often necessary to adjust and tune the carburettor during driving.

On the open roads  it is running "long legged" and free and I have got mileage in the range of 0,35 litre/10 km or   65miles to a US gal.Driving in modern traffic in towns with stops at traffic lights and  such is a nightmare. The two speed rear hub has no "free" or neutral, so holding the bike  means disengagning the clutch  with the pedal or sliding over the clutch hand lever on its ratchet  while trying to maintain balance , hold it  with the rear brake, and balance the engine  with  the twist grips.

The brake is a  factor  which makes this a bike for the wide open spaces....

Starting is also something you only want to do once a trip. The starter crank is best suited for hand use, forward-down. Starting procedure is as follows: Put bike on rear stand, open petrol tap, close the choke handle, turn off the short-circuit switch. Unscrew the primer syringe from tank and squirt half a syringe through the priming valve on the intake manifold Then prime the Schebler, and carefully bring the engine to a compression stroke with the starter crank andadjust the ratchet for the longest possible stroke and give it a firm forward-downward stroke. If you use the hand like I do, mind your thumb for a possible kick back, but as it usually starts quite easily, be ready with same hand to return and park the starting handle and grab the right hand side throttle.

Engine on the bench, it is easy
to se the configuration
The rear wheel is spinning with the engine. Usually there is no problems getting a helping hand to lift and secure the rear stand while holding the bike on the clutch., but if not, this calls for some advanced gymnastics....

Driving this first "short coupled" Henderson is a pleasant experience once you are out in the open. At a rally I noticed that there were  quite a lot of other contestants who apparently  enjoyed driving out from the stops behind me and I was told they loved how this old bike twisted as I took off or accelerated up a hill.

This old motorcycle has a few stories to it and I restored it to win a prize for the first motorcycle restored within the Norwegian Veteran car club and later took my bike and experiences out to found and run the Norwegian Veteran Motorcycle Club, now the largest veteran and vintage vehicle organisation in Norway.

More links
ACE Motorcycle THE IBBENBÜREN RALLY 2005 THE WINDMILL RALLY	2004 Indian Motorcycle
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