BMW Motorrad Spezial

Henderson art deco custom motorcycle

Art deco motorcycle
Every few months, a bike comes along that completely stops me in my tracks. Like this one: an Art Deco-influenced machine that could have come straight from the pen of Harley Earl. The bike caused a stir last month when it appeared at the Rhinebeck Grand National Meet, a popular motorcycle show held a couple of hours drive north of NYC. Word started to spread. And with the help of a few Bike EXIF readers, we’ve tracked down the details—and got some shots thanks to Grail Mortillaro of the excellent grassroots chopper blog Knucklebuster.

The machine is apparently based on a 1930 Henderson—presumably the 100 mph (160 km/h) Streamline model—and was built in 1936 by a gent called O. Ray Courtney. Today the bike is owned by Frank Westfall of Syracuse, a motorcycle collector and local identity, who was seen happily riding this extraordinary motorcycle around the showgrounds. According Mortillaro, “The craftsmanship is absolutely stunning and it’s surely more of a museum piece than a daily rider. Frank has obviously spent an incredible amount of time meticulously restoring and rebuilding the bike to its current gorgeous state.”

As a marque, Henderson is unfortunately consigned to the annals of history, despite a short-lived attempt to revive the name in the late 90s. But until its demise in 1931, the Excelsior Motor Mfg. & Supply Co.—the owner of the Henderson brand—was one of the ‘Big Three’ American motorcycle manufacturers, along with Harley-Davidson and Indian. There must be more remarkable Henderson customs out there—if you know of any, drop us a line.

[First four images by kind permission of Grail Mortillaro, © Knucklebuster. Final image located by Pete Plassmann.]

Art deco motorcycle
Art deco motorcycle
Art deco motorcycle
Art deco motorcycle

  • I love this bike – in fact words cannot express how cool I think this is. I have for a while been thinking that “streamliner” bikes will be the next big thing with custom builders, after bobbers a few years back, and now cafe racers – so I am going to have a go at a Ness style one next year.

  • Mike J

    Awsome..! I love this streamlined Majestic, Megola, Ner-a-car, Deco style.

  • Geoff

    breath taking in it’s exection,stunning in metal.Bravo

  • Reminiscent of a Salsbury motor scooter. Super cool.

  • _Felix

    It’s let down slightly by that lever with the knob on the end :)

  • Larry Kahn

    Looks like he was ahead of the Honda DN-01 by about 75 years! But much cooler! (btw, Honda dealers figured the “DN-01” ment for “do not order one”)

  • Jay Allen

    I think Ian S. is dead on with his comment. I see today’s baggers as part of this evolution, look at the factory Victory offerings and you can see where we’re headed. I’d like to see H-D follow suit with the revolution motor included

  • Mike Cecchini

    Insane……. love it.

    Art Deco on wheels and personified.

  • That is a beautiful creation.

  • Don

    That is just beautiful. Brought a grin to my face just looking at it.
    Can you imagine riding into a biker rally on THAT sweetheart?

  • Vincent Le Fre

    Lots of positive comments here but I’m going to disagree a little I’m afraid. This is certainly an impressive piece of work and the finish looks incredible. The front end is beautiful and there are some styling touches in there. But for me the bike is to exagerated in its lines. It’s almost like someone came up with a really nice idea and took it too far. The biggest problem for me is the awful seat, the worst thing being the colour and its over-importance in the design of the bike. The bulbous rear end ruins the lines a bit too. I’m a big fan of streamlined, art deco styling and have been toying with ideas in this area for some time now, but I’ll be going with something a bit more subtle. This is certainly an impressive and unique bike but I think it lost its way a little.

  • Love how the handlebars are a part of the gauge cluster and headlamp bit. Really extraordinary. Bikes like these and the Majesty have to find their way back into our modern lives, somehow!

  • Cibi

    What an ugly and stupid looking bike>>>>> Looks like a rat bike……

  • King

    the batman cartoons I grew up on, all the cars were influenced by Harley Earl. (GM futureliner) and this would fit right in. I love this bike.

  • Andy Carter

    Very elegant indeed, a gentleman’s choice.

  • RSVDan

    Can someone help me pick my jaw up off the floor? I am too stunned to move.

  • WRXr

    Just wow. THis bike is so far above the normal customs shown on this blog…even the most excellent ones, that it is difficult to compare it to another machine.

    ME WANT!!!

  • Boondocks_Biker

    Clearly Cibi has no idea what a ratbike is. The complete absence of flat-black paint kinda gives it away that this beautiful specimen is not a ratbike.
    It sorta reminds me of a Vincent Black Prince, but waaay smoother.

    Not sure just how old they are, but if weirdo-cool bikes are your thing, you need to check out these guys: or just hit google for ‘The Man’ Royce Creasey.
    Craig Vetter is also doing some coool streamlined scoot: Vetter Fairing P35.html

  • ryde4ver

    Am I the only one that sees a very strong resemblance to the Victory Vision?
    This bike here is fun just for the history and art deco style. I can’t say the same for a Vision. But maybe in 50-60 years I will like them.

  • Great bike, and great documentation work ! Congrats !

  • wow…


  • WRXr

    Keep coming back to look.

    Surely this is a true contender for the Art Deco/Streamlined Crown. The other contenders:

    Louis Lepoix BMW R12

    BMW R7

    Moto Major

    I’ll also toss in:

    Gnome-Rhone AX2

    And of course, the Indian Chief.

    Let the voting begin!

  • badhairday

    Truly a piece of art (deco). The examples of streamlined motorcycle design WRXr linked to let me think of the enormous potential this kind of vehicle has. Maybe, in a near future, this rolling or even hovering single/double seaters will be a real alternative to at least 1500 kg of steel and plastic we use on four wheels to get a transportation most of the time of 1 person… what a waste of energy. this designs can lead the industry to the missing link between motorcycle and car, in a stylish and environmental friendly way that stands for itself. Thumbs up to designers of that one and good luck to the future ones!

  • I attribute the reluctance of my Air Force pilot dad to letting me ride a motorcycle to his experience riding a Henderson in the 1930s. Nothing like this bulbous beauty of course, but the same fatal flaw: the massive torque reaction from the in-line four-cylinder powerplant.

    Sure it would do a hundred miles an hour. But get even a tiny bit airborne and she would very naturally start to rotate in the opposite direction to rotation of the crank.

    Now you are banking gracefully mid-ait on yhis 600-pound behemoth. Think Sopwith Camel or big Beemer, the effect magnified logarithmically.

    Exciting moments!

    (Still would love to have one sitting in my garage, next to my Duesenberg “J” Murphy boat-tail roadster)


  • Eric

    Is this where Chrysler got the shape for the (1934-37) Airflow ??

  • Pamberjack

    Watch out BMW R7 – somebody’s drinkin’ yr art deco milkshake…

  • Pamberjack

    PS. I wouldn’t mind seeing under the front farings. And no, I’m not trying to be dirty.

  • Scarcat
  • Zoolsterr

    Awesome – pure awesomeness :)

  • Turgut

    WOW! What a wonderful, inspiring machine this is!
    Thanks BIKEEXIF, for bringing up such nice examples from the history of motorcycling.

    It’s always amazing to see the love that designers and producers used to put on cars and motorcycles in the past, unlike our days when passing trends and faint styling is deliberately injected into design, so that you don’t fall in love with your car or motorcycle and buy a new one every three years.

    One thing though: In terms of industrial design, what is called Art-Deco is, as the name of the trend suggests, products and buildings with quite a bit of ornaments and decorations on the surfaces and façades, sometimes with very geometrical shapes.

    To me, this beautiful motorcycle rather fits into what is referred to as the “Streamline” style, a design movement that emerged during the last years of the art-deco times. Streamline style used much less decorative elements and rather focused on the purity and flowing surfaces in form and body shape. It was inspired by the developments in the field of aerodynamic in those days.

    Anyway, many thanks again to those involved in bringing this bike out to daylight. That was a good start to a monday morning.

  • reddy ted

    Absolutely beautiful. Love visiting this website, …the best.

  • Beautiful.
    And it works from every angle, there is no ‘best side.’ Truly a masterpiece of both art and craft.

    So how fast do you have to be going before the wheels retract and what’s the maximum altitude?

  • Connor Milos

    Holy shit, is that a hand shifter?

  • themark

    I hope someone buys the later dream bike he built and restores it too. The guy who owns it now is just trashing it around vintage meets in it’s current sorry state.
    You can see an article about the “Enterprise” here:

  • Larry Goodman

    I rode my factory built, Hand shift, four cylinder Indian and was confirmed that the air cooling was too small for the last cylinder. It blew on 101, about 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. The bike was taken to a motorcycling shop in Santa Barbara, and then stolen from me and I never saw it again.

  • alfredo chies

    ¿Cómo es que todavía no le han hecho un lugarcito en el Louvre, al lado de la Mona Lisa?

  • chaz

    Very Nice! and elogant. I especially like the side shifter.

  • beth

    oh my

  • Stunning …utterly stunning! : )

  • Patrick Fox

    excellent craftsmanship, beautiful in theory, but too long, bulbous and ill-proportioned in execution.

  • marty

    This is like something from Judge Dredd….

  • Mike_E

    I love it, but I wonder if it gets enough airflow to the engine to putter around a show at low speed for very long? My Grandfather owned a 4 cyl. Henderson, which Grandma made him sell before they were married.

  • Eric Reilly

    That surely is a beautiful bike. Definitely a piece of work.

  • Looks like a piece of art, stunning.

  • Scott brough

    If I were Flash Gordon this would be mine. I want a fleet of these things to fight the tyrany of Ming The Merciless. The only thing missing is a long pointed needle sticking out the front. I love this bike and dream about it in my sleep.

  • Evo

    It’s amazing how some “old” things look so futuristic! What a great looking machine.

  • wow keren abis nih motor….

  • jack boring

    this truly a lovely build… though it immediately makes me think of the 50’s bastert motorscooter. ( Seriously, check out the similarities: ).

    wonder if one could then refer to this as a bastardized bastert? ;)

  • Oh! My dream is standing up

  • Peter

    Different and cool. Nice work .Beautiful and impressive, but seems heavy, big and unpractical. The future must be flexible, light and smooth. Not overweight and exaggerated I think.

  • Scott Brough

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again …I dream about this bike whenever I sleep. This is truly something you rarely see the likes of. I only want to fasten a very long needle to the front end so I can impale Ming the Merciless when I save the universe. I want to see more bikes as original as this one.

  • shapewear

    The only thing I don’t like about this bike is the scooter-like look to it. To me, it somehow destroys the look and feel of the bike.

  • TheKHAI

    Kinda reminds me of Solty Rei anime’s bike or one of Yamaha’s prototype. Design that beyond its era

  • Edurt


  • Stevesharman99

    this is the epitomy of deco i just love it

  • Marcc

    just spendid!!! at this time they know how to create some pieces of art!!!