American Fours: 1910 Pierce Four and 1914 Henderson Four

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Photo by Kyoichi Nakamura
Writer Alan Cathcart aboard the 1910 Pierce Four.

1914 Henderson Four Model C
Engine: 65ci (1,064cc) air-cooled inlet-over-exhaust inline four, 5:1 compression ratio, 9hp @ 3,200rpm
Top speed: 60mph
Weight (dry): 300lb (136kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2gal(7.6ltr)
1910 Pierce Four
Engine: 40ci (652cc) air-cooled sidevalve T-head inline four, 4:1 compression ratio, 7hp at 3,000rpm
Top speed: 60mph
Weight(dry): 275lb/125kg
Fuel capacity/MPG: 1.75gal (6.6ltr)

A century ago in the fledgling days of the motorcycle industry, American-made motorcycles led the world in sophistication of design, with several companies producing 4-cylinder models. Two manufacturers stood out among the array of Early Americans, Pierce and Henderson.

Pierce was the first to put a 4-cylinder model into production, in 1909, but lack of in-house design expertise as well as a high price brought about the company’s demise in 1914. William and Thomas Henderson brought their 4-cylinder Model B to the marketplace in 1912, a design that proved to be better thought-out than its Pierce rival, as well as better executed and at a lower price. Unfortunately, a shortage of materials and components in the run-up to World War I hurt their ability to meet orders, and the Henderson brothers sold the company to Excelsior in 1917.

The chance to compare and contrast these two Early Americans by riding examples of each was an opportunity brought about by an American expat who has lived in Britain for almost 50 years. He owns both of these historical machines, and for personal reasons he decided to consign them for sale at the Oct. 15, 2017, Bonhams Autumn Stafford Sale in the U.K. — before which he invited me to ride these two early fours, built when the U.S. led the world in motorcycle design.

Order the November/December 2017 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1910 Pierce and 1914 Henderson Fours. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email

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