1912 Henderson Four Sells for $490K in Mecum’s Vegas Motorcycle Auction

1912 Henderson Four Mecum's Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction

This first-year, unrestored 1912 Henderson Four sold for $490,000 at the recent Mecum’s Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction. (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions)

An unrestored, first-year Henderson Four with original paint and tires sold for $490,000 at the 26th annual Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction. The motorcycle is “believed to be the only original/unrestored 1912 Henderson known in America.” The Henderson was the highest selling motorcycle at Mecum’s Vegas auction that saw sales total reach $13.7 million. Hendersons claimed the top three spots as a 1913 Henderson Four sold for $150,000 while a 1913 Henderson 4-Cylinder Deluxe auctioned for $127,500.

In all, Mecum was able to sell 868 out of 949 motorcycles it had on the block, a 92% sell-through rate. Mecum’s said sales totals increased 53% compared to last year’s Vegas auction,”setting a new benchmark for achieving the highest sales and the highest sell-through rate in the motorcycle auction’s 26-year history.”

Here’s more information about the top-selling 1912 Henderson Four about Henderson’s history courtesy of Mecum’s auction preview.

The first William Henderson designed four cylinder motorcycle, America’s finest early four cylinder, influential for decades

This is believed to be the only original/unrestored 1912 Henderson known in America

Original paint and tires

59 cubic inch F-Head Four Cylinder engine

Henderson was based in Detroit, formed by brothers William and Tom

The Henderson company was purchased by Ignatz Schwinn in 1918, adding a four cylinder to the Excelsior lineup.

Working for Schwinn for two years, Bill and Tom broke away and started the ACE motorcycle company. The Culmination of Henderson design can be seen in the Indian Four

Formerly from the Doc Cleveland Collection.

William Henderson was an engineering child prodigy, as so many historical figures seem to be. He was born into the motoring industry, as his grandfather, Alexander Winton, had founded one of the earlier auto makers in the USA, and his father was Vice President of Winton Motors. William joined the family firm at 16, but spent his free time sketching out ideas for motorcycles, which he’d pass by his father for technical critique. Eventually, the sketches became blueprints, and his father could only nitpick at the sound design for a 4-cylinder motorcycle his son had penned in 1909. Figuring the effort of actually building a prototype from the sketches might curb his enthusiasm, Tom helped William build a working prototype in 1911; the resulting machine worked so well, young William was able to secure funding to the tune of $175,000 to start manufacture on his own. Working with his brother Thomas as chief operating officer, the Henderson Motorcycle Company produced its first motorcycle from its Detroit factory in January 1912.

The first Hendersons used a 4-cylinder 57 CI (934cc) motor with inlet-over-exhaust design, with a single-speed chain drive and a clutch. It was started via a folding hand crank, just like a Winton car, and the very long chassis was designed for stability and the ability to carry a passenger with ease. The front fork had a short leading-link suspension, and the fuel was carried in a long cylindrical torpedo tank. It was a beautiful and elegant machine, wonderfully constructed, very fast and expensive at $325. It was soon labeled the “Deusenberg of motorcycles” for good reason, with totally smooth running, a charming exhaust note and an air of quality. Carl Stearns Clancy famously chose a Henderson for the first ever round-the-world motorcycle journey, which began in October 1912 and covered 18,000 miles by August 1913. Clancy earned money selling press reports and photographs of his trip, making an incredible publicity coup of Henderson.

This 1912 Henderson is the only original-paint, first-year Henderson known in America. It retains the paint applied by the factory, as well as the tires and everything else. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime motorcycle, in remarkable condition for being 105 years old and would be welcome in any Concours d’Elegance around the world as a solid-gold original. How does one value such a machine? One doesn’t; if you can afford it, do what it takes to secure it as this is as good as it gets.