G Henderson started the Ace Motorcycle Company in 1919, a few short
months before he was to make available to the public the first Ace
Motorcycle, in 1920. A few years prior, he had designed and
manufactured the Henderson four cylinder motorcycle, under the
ownership and employment of then Excelsior Motorcycle Company, hence
the Excelsior Henderson. Dissatisfied with Excelsior's business
philosophy, he got together with Max Sladkin, a wealthy financier, and
plans were underway to design and manufacture a new four cylinder
motorcycle, starting with a clean slate. The result was to be the Ace
Motorcycle, which do not share common parts with Mr Henderson's
previous four cylinder machine.
In the three years that follow, small improvements were
incorporated into the motorcycle. These improvements do very little
to alter the overall profile of motorcycle. Some of these improvements
or changes were performance-based, and yet others were economy-based.
Regardless, these running changes were incorporated as parts were used
up at the factory floor. Therefore, it was sometimes difficult to
pinpoint the exact model year.
Tragically, William G Henderson was killed while test riding one of the
new Aces, in late 1922. At that time, the Ace Motorcycle Company was
about to launch the new Sporting Solo model, featuring several
performance refinements which were supposedly ahead of its time. His
passing was a slow turning point to the ultimate demise of the company.
The company was sold in 1925 and its real property, assets, and design rights were divided up.
Efforts to continue manufacturing the Ace Motorcycle fell into the
hands of later owners, until it was finally sold to the Indian
Motorcycle Company in 1929. Since then, the Four was modified and
updated by Indian until 1941, when the last Indian Four rolled off the
assembly line in Springfield, MA.
The Ace Four, given the
opportunity to thrive, and if Mr. Henderson was not lost in the
automobile accident, could have been widely available today.
Unfortunately, the few that survived reside in private collections and in museums, as static displays. One can only
imagine what it would be like, if a pack of American Ace Four cylinder motorcycles
are out on the open roads today, joining in the camaraderie of V-Twins,
riding into the wind. To most of us, it remains only an
imagination, perhaps until now.
This website is dedicated to the revival of the Ace Four, the original American Superbike.