The Henderson Deluxe Endurance Run

The story of Frank Westfall, who rode his 1924 Henderson Deluxe cross-country as part of the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball.

| May/June 2013

1924 Henderson Deluxe
Claimed power:
 28hp @ 3,400rpm (factory)
Top speed: 80mph (stock, guaranteed by the factory)
Engine: 79.4ci (1,302cc) air-cooled sidevalve inline four, 2-1/16in x 3-1/2in bore and stroke
Weight: 400lb (wet, per owner)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 6gal (22.7ltr)/20-30mpg

Last September, Frank Westfall completed his fourth cross-country trip on a Henderson Four, a motorcycle most people wouldn’t consider taking for a weekend ride, let alone a multi-thousand mile trek. Accepting the prize for finishing first in his class in the 2012 Cannonball, Frank announced, “I will do it again — any time, any place.”  

Frank’s got some history in this kind of riding. His first long distance Henderson adventure was the 1996 Great Race, from Tacoma, Wash., to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. That event, which was mostly for antique cars, saw Frank riding one of the few motorcycles, a 1928 Henderson. “I finished, back of the pack,” he remembers.

The Great Race was a challenge and a learning experience. “We were competing on both distance and time, with undisclosed checkpoints. I realized that I was losing time on gas stops and I needed a bigger gas tank,” Frank says. And it didn’t help that the weather didn’t cooperate. “When we left Coeur d’Alene [Idaho], it was 39 degrees and raining. It turned to wet, heavy snow before we reached Lookout Pass. I was doing 70mph and was talking to everyone I knew who was dead, ‘Get me through this day! I promise to be a good boy.’ The sun came out, and shortly afterwards I sheered the splines on my clutch plate. We drove to St. Louis to fix my clutch; I had it back together before midnight and I rejoined the race the next day. With the pressure off — there was no way I could win after the breakdown — I actually ran better scores.”

In 1998, Frank was back for the second Great Race, this time starting in Seattle and ending in Boston. He built a Henderson special for this event, shoehorning a 1928 engine in a 1924 “long tank” frame. The long tank frame enabled him to install a 6-gallon gas tank, and he also installed a disc brake for added stopping power, something of a necessity since he was doing this run with Peg Barber on the back as navigator.

“During the 1998 run, I did an overnight motor job in my hotel in Steamboat Springs, Colo.,” Frank remembers. “The next morning, there was snow up to my shoulders alongside the road — it was June. There was hail the size of golf balls, wind and snow. The wind pushed the bike sideways on the ice coming down the eastern side of the pass. I made it to Denver, then Kansas. It was 33 degrees, pouring rain turning to snow. Two hundred miles at 50mph for four hours on I-70. The bike was sometimes running on three or even two cylinders. I wanted to quit that day. Howard Sharp, driving a 1911 open touring car, came up to me. ‘Remember Tony Curtis and the boys in The Great Race?’ I snapped to attention.”

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