Long dormant motorcycle manufacturer Levis motorcycles announced their return to form with a bonkers new V6 engine powered cafe racer.
If the name Levis conjures up images of blue denims in your head instead of motorcycles flying across racetracks leaving trails of blue smoke in their wake and taking riders to podiums, you will be forgiven to do so. For Levis motorcycles (Le-Viss, unlike Lee-Vize of the denim maker) has been inactive for the second half of the twentieth century, and well into the twenty-first.
Levis traces its history right back to 1911 when the company made some of the most radical two-stroke motorcycles, which went on to win the Lightweight 250 class at the 1920 and 1922 TT. The 1930s saw them switching over to four-stroke motorcycles, production of which had to be ceased at the outbreak of World War II. Levis never could get back to making motorcycles after the war, and signed off after their last bike rolled off the production line in 1946.
The firm lay dormant until 2004, when an English engineer named Tim Bishop designed a two-liter 300bhp V10 engine which was ultra-compact. The engine was meant to be placed in the Connaught supercar due to its small size. It was also a modular design, which meant it could be reduced in size, as well as converted to run as a two-stroke, or fueled by diesel. Unfortunately, the project car did not see the light of day, and the engine was shelved again, lying dormant for another decade. Now, two of UK’s foremost vehicle designers and engineers have come together and put the engine on a motorcycle, in the process bringing Levis back to life.
Earlier this year Phil Bevan, an automotive designer, purchased the Levis name along with the rights to the Connaught V10 engine. He roped in Steve Kirk, appointing him as Head of Design. The two of them began brainstorming on how to resurrect the name Levis. “I realised we had a two-litre V10 engine that’s only 13 inches across the cylinder head,” says Bevan. “So I said ‘let’s make a motorbike’.”
The initial plan was to start off with a V10 cruiser, which evolved over time into the final product: a cafe racer powered by the V6 version of the modular engine. The engine’s design allows the configuration to be easily changed to a V-Twin, V4, V6, V8, or V10. An extremely narrow 22-degree V-angle allows single block construction. Plates in the block can be swapped to turn the mill from four-stroke to a wet-sump two-stroke, either petrol or diesel. The pistons and con-rods can also be altered to give different strokes. This enabled the designers to adjust the character of power delivery.
The standard Levis V6 produces 130 hp and an earth-shaking 189 Nm torque. Bevan claims the engine is “lively to say the least”, and the flexibility of the unit means that sky is the limit when it comes to output.
The Levis factory in the North East UK manufactures a stainless-steel frame that holds the bike together. The finished bikes will be assembled on the Isle Of Man. The factory also produces the Hossack-style front end, wheels, gearbox and swingarm out of billet aluminium. Advanced electronics like ECU, ABS, traction control, all are built in-house by Levis themselves. All six header pipes have their own tiny catalytic converter inside, eliminating the need for a collector box. The slim pipes hark back to the 1920s era of Levis when the firm fitted similar looking pipes to their race bikes.
The Cafe Racer will have shaft drive and a single-sided swingarm. An 18-inch billet aluminium wheel with a fat 200-section tyre rounds up the rear end beautifully. Due to its incredibly shallow 22-degree layout, the 1200cc V6 does without counter-balancers. The shape of the bike is also modular, allowing you to specify your own unique body style, of which there are many.
At $70,000 and change, the Levis V6 Cafe Racer is not exactly cheap. however, considering the likes of Lotus C-01 which retail at more than twice the price, the sprightly, elegant motorcycle makes a strong case for itself.
The Cafe Racer is in the advanced prototyping stage, with the V6 undergoing rigorous testing to enable production this year, with full Euro4 homologation. Levis will make an initial batch of six bikes, with fifty-two slated for production the following year. There are even rumours going about that the firm will enter Isle Of Man TT in 2020, celebrating 100 years of their first TT victory, way back in 1920.
Levis is taking orders for the V6 Cafe Racer. Book yours here.