Pictures of this art-deco, streamlined vehicle not only get a lot of likes on social media, but also a lot of questions. So, let’s start with what is under all of the amazing metal work. It is a 1934 Henderson KJ Streamliner with a lot of modifications including the frame, suspension, forks, and of course, all of the bodywork. Yes, the wheels are smaller than what came on the Henderson at ten inches, but with a four cylinder 1300cc engine, this is no scooter.
The streamlined Henderson was created by Orley Ray Courtney (b. 1895). He had ridden motorcycles in his early teens and owned his first motorcycle, a 1916 Excelsior three-speed, by the time he was 21. Not surprisingly, he was employed as a metal worker for multiple car companies and obviously, he was extremely talented.
The 1930’s was a decade of streamlining and art deco, not just for cars and motorcycles, but for everything, including kitchen appliances. These trends were only one of the inspirations behind this motorcycle with the amazing bodywork created with a power hammer. Courtney also noted that many manufacturers had gone too far in the direction of high performance motorcycles and this was at the expense of what the common road riders wanted.
Although his intention was to provide something geared more towards the “average Joe,” Courtney’s work of art wasn’t something commercially viable. It took over nine months to build, the bodywork was far too complex, and the form was at the sacrifice of function. The price tag for the concept motorcycle was $5,000. This was more than the average house during this era of $3,450 and three times the average annual wage of $1,600.
In 1950, Courtney created a new streamlined motorcycle design with an Indian Scout engine called the Enterprise. The beautiful two-seater Enterprise was designed so the frame could hold multiple types of engines and this was done in hopes that he could offer custom builds. The price tag for one of these builds was $2,500. Being compared to a new Bel-Air, which was under $2,000, it was again something that didn’t work for a common road rider.
Both the Streamliner and Enterprise were sold a few times. One of the owners was the legendary bike builder Ron Finch, but eventually it was sold to collector Frank Westfall. The Henderson Streamliner, disassembled and in boxes, and Courtney’s personal Enterprise were both restored. If you happen upon them at one of the motorcycle shows they are displayed at, these still do not blend into the crowd and are well worth taking some time to look at.