Motorcycle Art: Art Deco Henderson KJ Streamline Model

Built in 1935, this one-of-a-kind bike began life as a 1930 Henderson KJ Streamline model before being turned into an Art Deco masterpiece.

  • Art Deco Henderson KJ Streamliner
    Photo by Kel Edge

Art Deco was an innovative and distinctive style of design that spanned the boom times of the Roaring Twenties and the bust of the Depression-ridden 1930s. It was the style of the flapper girl and the office typist, of the factory worker and daredevil car driver.

Art Deco was avant-garde. It celebrated the newly mechanized modern world, yet embraced everthing from everyday manufactured products to exclusive works of art. It was everywhere, from cinemas to skyscrapers, from luxury ocean liners to exotic automobiles — and, yes, to some motorcycles, too.

What is arguably the most resolutely Art Deco motorcycle ever built emerged in the United States in 1935 as the one-off creation of a Michigan-based metalsmith employed at the Oldsmobile car factory. The bike was based on his 1,300cc 4-cylinder 1930 Henderson KJ Streamline model. His name was O. Ray Courtney (the O was for Orley, which he preferred to ignore), and though little is known of him, he built a handful of completely innovative custom motorcycles during his life, their style evoking the idyllic sense of optimism prevalent in the early 1950s, of a nation basking in the contentment of the postwar era.

Ray Courtney

Ray Courtney rode his first motorcycle in 1908 at the age of 13, and acquired his first proper bike — a 1916 3-speed Excelsior V-twin — before joining the Army Air Corps to fight in the First World War. On his return home as a young man, he found work at Central Manufacturing in Connersville, Indiana, making body panels and fenders for luxury cars such as Duesenbergs. Later he moved to Lansing, Michigan, where he worked for the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. He spent his life shaping metal for the prototypes coming out of these firms’ design departments, in the process acquiring a feel for the forms and styling that he’d try to adapt to two wheels. While working with metal was his forte, he also worked the drawing board pencil, making a significant contribution to the body design of the 1933 Oldsmobile F-33, today a highly collectible automobile.

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter