Rare 1912 Henderson Four

Frank Westfall’s 1912 Henderson Four is believed to be one of six still in existence today.

| January/February 2014

  • Side view of a rare 1912 Henderson Four
    1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Sidevalve of the 1912 Henderson
    The sidevalve inline four feeds 7 horsepower through a single-speed transmission, combined with a small clutch.
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Seat and handlebars of 1912 Henderson
    1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Close up of the 1912 Henderson Four engine
    Left view of the engine in a 1912 Henderson Four.
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Right side of the 1912 Henderson Four
    1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Left side of the 1912 Henderson Four
    1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Left side view of the 1912 Henderson's vintage body
    1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Close up view of the rear seat on the Henderson Four
    The rear seat on a 1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Close up view of the dual brake pedals on the Henderson.
    Dual brake pedals are both connected to the rear brake.
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Close up on the engine of the 1912 Henderson Four
    1912 Henderson Four
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Footpegs for passengers
    Passenger footpegs on the front fender.
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell
  • Frank Westfall on his Henderson Four
    Owner Frank Westfall rides all of his motorcycles, and says his Four runs along nicely at about 40mph.
    Photo By Sedrick Mitchell

  • Side view of a rare 1912 Henderson Four
  • Sidevalve of the 1912 Henderson
  • Seat and handlebars of 1912 Henderson
  • Close up of the 1912 Henderson Four engine
  • Right side of the 1912 Henderson Four
  • Left side of the 1912 Henderson Four
  • Left side view of the 1912 Henderson's vintage body
  • Close up view of the rear seat on the Henderson Four
  • Close up view of the dual brake pedals on the Henderson.
  • Close up on the engine of the 1912 Henderson Four
  • Footpegs for passengers
  • Frank Westfall on his Henderson Four

1912 Henderson Four
Claimed power: 7hp (claimed)
Touring speed: 40mph
Engine: 58.9ci (965cc) air-cooled sidevalve inline four, 2.5in x 3in bore and stroke
Weight (dry/est.): 300lb (136kg)
Fuel capacity: 2gal (7.6ltr) 

One hundred and two years ago, Carl Stearns Clancy and Walter Storey left Philadelphia by ship, bound for Ireland where they would embark upon a ride around the world on two brand-new, 1912 Henderson Fours. Once in Ireland, Storey crashed his bike on the first day, then suffered through rotten weather before deciding to call it quits in Paris.

Clancy soldiered on, sending telegrams marking his progress to his sponsors, Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review. Eventually he reached Japan, then shipped out for San Francisco. Braving the almost nonexistent roads across the U.S., he reached New York on Aug. 27, 1913. The 18,000-mile trip had taken 10 months.

The coming of Henderson

By 1912, motorcycles had been manufactured commercially for 18 years. Most were powered by a version of the French De Dion-Bouton single-cylinder engine, one of the first commercially viable motorcycle engines. The De Dion had total-loss lubrication, a vacuum operated intake valve (opening from the suction of the piston on its downward stroke) and an exhaust valve that ran off a cam geared to the crankshaft. To start one of these early bikes, you put the bike on the centerstand and start pedaling. Once the bike’s running, you push it forward and away you go. If you want to stop, you have to kill the engine — early bikes have no clutch — and then pedal the bike to restart.



The Henderson that took Clancy around the world was different. Compared to the De Dion-based single-cylinder machines, and even the V-twins (still based on the De Dion single) that were then becoming popular, it was easy to start, quiet, smooth, powerful and reliable. The Henderson was the world’s first real long-distance touring bike: the Gold Wing of 1912.

Prior to the Henderson 4-cylinder, two other fours were available in the U.S. The FN, designed and built in Belgium by Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre, was introduced at the 1905 Paris Cycle Show. It displaced 362cc, had then state of the art magneto ignition, and was lubricated by splash. The intake valves were vacuum operated, and it was the first commercial motorcycle with shaft drive. The first FN Fours had no gears or clutch, but a 2-speed transmission was available on an aftermarket basis in about 1908.



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