Of course, with the CB 750 OHC machines, Honda set the global standard for four-cylinder motorcycles. But that Honda was a pioneer in the field of four-cylinder? No, because one of the first Superbikes, and a very early four-cylinder, that was not a Japanese, but an American motorcycle: De Henderson.
A very strong boy
That powerhouse was a creation of William "Bill" Henderson. And the machine was born in Detroit, in 1912. The air-cooled head / side valve had a displacement of 1.068 cc and the engine block was mounted lengthwise in the chassis of the crankshaft. And as early as 1912, the secondary transmission was realized with a chain instead of such a stretching and slipping belt. Later versions got a three-speed gearbox and became more compact thanks to the double tubular frames. And front suspension these Hendersons already had. Over the years, the displacement grew to an impressive 1.298 cc.
The case was sold
Henderson sold his creation and ideas in 1917 to Chicago-based Excelsior by Ignaz Schwinn and subsequently joined that company as a constructor. Being a gifted technician does not mean that such a person is also a born entrepreneur. Ignaz Schwinn was a German immigrant and after a successful start in the bicycle industry he entered the motorcycle business. That is why Schwinn had built a huge complex for the construction of motorcycles in 1917. The motorcycles could be run on from the roof. De Henderson continued his life as 'Henderson X'.
Not born to be staff
But apparently Henderson was not in the cradle to spend his paid employment. He left in Excelsior in 1919 and came up with a new four-cylinder in line. That became the Ace. After Henderson was deadly in 1922 during a test drive, that brand changed to Indian-Ace.
The Henderson construction remained in the program until 1931 at Excelsior. By that time, making motorcycles was no longer profitable enough for Schwinn, so he quit.
The Henderson developed by Arthur Lemon was given the type name 'K' and was offered for the first time in 1920. The Henderson had since evolved into an ideal sidecar tractor. At an additional cost, there was even a reverse gear on board. The latest version of the Henderson, the KJ, was again a head / side valve and delivered thanks to the mounted Schebler downflow carburetor 40 pk.
These engines are now museum pieces and serious investments
You will regularly come across them at hits and auctions, but these top pieces of the old days don't really drive anymore. And that is actually a shame. But yes: how rich and enthusiastic do you have to be to have a nice run around on a motorcycle that is ticked off at an auction close to half a million dollars. And: can a motorcycle be so much fun that you pay such an amount? Or is that amount only a matter for cold-blooded investors and speculators who think that their purchase will yield a ton more in a year?
The Henderson X