Patina: 1930 Henderson KJ Streamline

Original and unrestored, this police-spec Henderson KJ wears its bruises with pride.

| March/April 2018

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    Paul Woelbing's 1930 Henderson KJ.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
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    Paul Woelbing's 1930 Henderson KJ.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • patina
    Paul Woelbing's 1930 Henderson KJ.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • patina
    Paul Woelbing's 1930 Henderson KJ.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • patina
    Paul Woelbing's 1930 Henderson KJ.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
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    The 3-speed transmission is controlled with a hand shifter on the left side of the fuel tank. The paint is original.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • patina
    Paul Woelbing's 1930 Henderson KJ.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
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    The 79.4-cubic-inch engine makes 40 horsepower.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
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    The carburetor has four choke settings marked on its side.
    Photo by Jeff Barger

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1930 Henderson KJ
Engine: 79.4ci (1,301cc) air-cooled IOE F-head inline four, 2-11/16in x 3-1/2in bore and stroke, 4.4:1 compression ratio, 40hp at 4,000rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 100mph (claimed)
Carburetion: Single Schebler
Transmission: 3-speed handshift, chain final drive
Electrics: 6v, magneto ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube cradle frame/58in (1,473mm)
Suspension: Trailing link double leg springer forks front, rigid rear
Brakes: Drum front, contracting band rear
Tires: 4 x 19in front and rear
Weight (dry): 440lb (200kg)
Fuel capacity: 4gal (15ltr)
Price then/now: $435/$20,000-$60,000

"Motorcycle racing in this country, according to a well-known sports writer, is kept alive and supported principally by the county speed cops. When the A.M.A or some other organization sponsors a motorcycle race, a trick riding contest or a hill climb, the experienced officer-riders are on the spot." — The Blue Book of Sports, 1931

At that time, a high percentage of those motorcycle officers would have been riding Hendersons. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Henderson, a sturdy, quiet and fast machine (by the standards of the day) was a top choice of police departments all over the U.S., and there weren't many cars on the road that could outrun one. In recent years, Hendersons have shone on the Cannonball coast to-coast rally for vintage motorcycles, frequently winning and placing high in the points rankings, underscoring the fact that a Henderson is one of the most user-friendly and reliable bikes of its era.

This original 1930 Henderson KJ — unrestored, running, and in amazingly good shape for an 87-year-old machine — probably started out as a police bike. The decals are consistent with motorcycles manufactured for traffic cops, and among its accessories is a "hand control" speedometer, with two hands, one of them red. Lacking radar, the motor cop would match speed with the boat-tailed Auburn or Duesenberg that was burning up the road, hit the button, and the red hand on the bike's speedometer would set at the maximum speed. The cop would then pull the offender over and write down the indicated speed on the ticket.



The KJ Streamline

William Henderson designed the inline four motorcycle bearing his name, running the Henderson Motorcycle Company with his brother Tom from its beginning in 1912 until 1917, when the company was purchased by Ignaz Schwinn — the same Schwinn that built the bicycle you had when you were 10 years old. Schwinn reworked the original Henderson design to make it more attractive to police departments, a major source of revenue for motorcycle factories at the time. The redesign, with a sidevalve top end instead of the original inlet-over-exhaust design, was more reliable, but much heavier. Disappointed with Schwinn's development of the Henderson, William left to start another motorcycle company, Ace, but the new Henderson was embraced by motor police and the company prospered through the 1920s.

Henderson, like many other American motorcycle factories, also had a big export business. Large-displacement motorcycles were mostly an American product, and enthusiasts in Europe, South Africa, Canada and Australia looking for bigger machines imported them from the United States. In 1928, Schwinn hired Arthur Constantine as new chief engineer. Constantine, who had previously worked for Harley-Davidson, began working on a new version of the Henderson, which was then getting a little long in the tooth. In an interview with Ted Hodgdon, the author of Motorcycling's Golden Age of the Fours, Constantine explained that he wanted a lower and more central riding position, more horsepower and smoother running, as well as greater reliability. The result was the KJ "Streamline" model. Produced from 1929 until 1931, the KJ sold for $435 (about $6,000 in 2017 dollars) and was claimed to be capable of reaching 100mph.

chrlsful
2/15/2018 11:50:40 AM

Fantastic. Thanks for the pic/write up. Wish they designed bikes like this & the Indian 4 2day. - -Chad Amherst, MA USA


chrlsful
2/15/2018 11:49:07 AM

Fantastic. Thanks for the pic/write up. Wish they designed bikes like this & the Indian 4 2day. - -Chad Amherst, MA USA


Todd
2/15/2018 10:17:08 AM

I've been lusting over the vintage inline fours for many years. I like the Hendersons very much, but if I had to choose between a Henderson, Ace, Cleveland or Indian Four, my first choice would be the ACE. I don't believe I will ever be able to afford any of them as the prices have gone through the roof, but it's nice to dream.




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