Levis Motorcycles comes back to life with the V6 Café Racer
The last time Levis introduced a new motorcycle was in 1938, three years before it would shut down. Eighty years later, the Levis logo is resurfacing on the V6 Café Racer, a brand new motorcycle built around a modular racing car motor, a host of bespoke parts and a price tag for the very few.
Levis Motorcycles stands among the pioneers of the British motorcycle industry, and was active from 1911 until 1941. The Birmingham, UK, company built its name on a series of small-capacity two-strokes that would bring several victories at the Isle of Man Lightweight TT in the early 1920s. In 1928 Levis developed its first four-stroke, successfully venturing in off-road racing, until World War II put a premature end to its story.
The Levis brand remained dormant until 2014, when its rights were acquired by David Redshaw, who dreamt of reviving it. In 2017 he met with Phil Bevan, a businessman who had recently bought Connaught Competition Engines, a UK company that made a compact two-liter V10 motor for GT Racing cars.
This engine was built on a modular design that allowed for easy production of V8, V6, V4 and even V2 variants, and Bevan had already been looking for a suitable motorcycle to host it. He promptly bought the brand's rights from Redshaw and together they set up the Levis Motorcycle Company in July 2017, with new headquarters in Swaffham and a clear plan in their minds.
For the Café Racer they developed a 1,200-cc V6 version of Connaught's liquid-cooled engine, mounted longitudinally on the frame, producing some 120 hp (89.5 kW) and plenty of torque – Levis calculates something around 120 Nm (88.5 lb-ft). A supercharged version of the V6 is also in Levis' plans.
Power is transmitted via a six-speed gearbox with an overdrive sixth, developed by Levis to accommodate several future models.
The fact is that this powerplant is still in development, so some of its elements are not even defined yet; the final drive system, for instance, still lingers between shaft and chain. With most of its components in final testing and ready to be manufactured, it shouldn't be long before a working prototype will be put on a dyno. After all, Levis has a September deadline to meet, as per its announcement.
The frame is built in-house from steel tubes, featuring a Hossack-type front suspension system and a single shock at the rear. Both shock absorbers are bespoke adjustable units, fabricated especially for Levis' motorcycle by an unnamed English specialist.
Levis also fabricates in-house most parts of the Café Racer, including the fork legs, clamps, headlight assembly, steering, hand controls, brake discs, gearbox casings and wheels – all machined from solid blocks of aluminum. This opens a wide window which Levis intends to take full advantage of, offering customizing options down to the bare essentials, such as the finish of the frame and bodywork panels.
The wheels themselves, presumably tubeless, are based on an uncommon two-piece design, with two halves bound together with hidden bolts and sealed tight with a sealant agent. The semi-solid design was reportedly selected as the best combination of strength and low weight.
Levis will unveil two variants on the same motorcycle base, the Café Racer and the Ultra Roadster, at the Goodwood Revival event in West Sussex, UK, on September 7-9.
We should note that the motorcycle pictured in this article is just a mock-up, intended to fine-tune the motorcycle's styling and serve its publicity purpose for the July 18 online unveiling. Levis suggests that the Café Racer will look much better in its final form, down to the tiniest detail.
As for the Goodwood event, Levis clearly states that it will introduce pre-production models, so they'll be two fully-functioning prototypes, but not ready to be sold to customers yet. Actual delivery dates have not been communicated.
Following that, the next target is to build a Flat Tracker and two sport models, bringing the tally up to five V6 motorcycles. Then there's a V10 in the pipeline as well. After the six-cylinders are all done and marketed, the original 2,000-cc V10 motor is set to power a Cruiser.
Levis wants to have achieved all this by 2020, when the Cruiser should be unveiled right on the 100-year anniversary of Levis' first Isle of Man victory in 1920. Does all this sound all too optimistic? Well, given the amount of work that has been done in just one year, perhaps we should put a little faith in the Levis crew. After all, they are not designing an engine out of thin air, but rather adapting an existing one to a new purpose.
In any case, when the V6 Café Racer will become a reality, it will cost no less than ￡102,000, or approximately US$133,000. If this kind of money poses no obstacle to your wish to own one, Levis Motorcycle Company already accepts inquiries for the Café Racer and the TT Anniversary model.