1913 Henderson Model B

1913 Henderson Model B

Another of the recent acquisitions at the NZ Classic Motorcycles Collection in Nelson.  From a photographic point of view this is one of my favourites. Again the text is reproduced with the permission of its author, motoring journalist Mike Murphy.


“In 1911, brothers William G. and Thomas W. Henderson established the Henderson Motorcycle Company in Detroit, Michigan, and constructed their first prototype. Production was launched and in January 1912, the 7hp, 934cc (57ci), inlet-over-exhaust, in-line, four-cylinder motorcycle was launched onto the market. Although the prototype utilised belt drive, the production model was chain-driven and featured an Eclipse clutch. It featured a distinctively long 65 inch (1.65m) wheelbase. It was equipped with a folding hand starting crank and was the third four-cylinder motorcycle to be manufactured in the US.


Although it was expensive at US$325, it was considered a very desirable machine. The long wheelbase made it comfortable and stable at speed and it was the largest and fastest motorcycle of its time, making it popular with sport riders and police departments. Its build quality and reliability were underscored by one Carl Stearns Clancy, who rode 18,000 miles around the world on a 1912 model, partly financing his journey by submitting articles and photographs to various motorcycling publications. It is believed that Clancy was the first person to motor around the world. A story of his feat was featured in the October 1913 issue of World Motorcycle Review.


The Model B was launched in 1913 with revised girder forks, a lower seat position, a flat fuel tank in place of the previous cylindrical one and an improved brake. Like the 1912 model, it was single-speed. A two-speed rear hub was introduced in 1914 and an optional shorter frame became available in 1915 to provide a wheelbase of 58 inches (1.47m), which significantly improved its handling. To shorten the frame, the large foot board in front of the engine was removed and replaced with two smaller boards attached to the sides of the frame.




By 1917 the drip and splash lubrication system was superseded by a wet sump system with a mechanical oil pump and a three-speed gearbox was incorporated behind the engine. However, that year the Henderson Motorcycle Company was sold to Ignaz Schwinn, the manufacturer of Schwinn bicycles and Excelsior motorcycles. Schwinn moved Henderson production to the Excelsior plant in Chicago although the manufacture of both motorcycle brands ceased in 1930. William Henderson was killed in 1922 when testing a new motorcycle.”

Mike Murphy 2015

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