Make: Levis
Model: 600
Engine: 592 cc (82 x 112 mm bore and stroke) overhead-valva single
Tyres: 3.00 x 21 in front 4.00 x 19 in rear
Frame: Brazed-lug tubular cradle. no rear springing
Front forks: Webb girders
Brakes: Drums, 7 in diameter front, 8 in diameter rear
Weight: 375 lb
Wheelbase: 55 in
Manufacturer: Butterfields Ltd., Old Station Road, Stechford, Birmingham

The last Levis motorcycles were built in 1939, production ceasing on the outbreak of war. However, the company is still in existence at the familiar old address at' Stechford, Birmingham Today they add an extra 's' to the name, and are known as Leviss Ltd to avoid confusion with the clothing manufacturer and to emphasise to their Middle Eastern customers that they have no Israeli connection. (In fact, the Levis name comes from the Latin, the company's motto being Levis et Celer, 'Light and Swift.)

To vintage enthusiasts, the Levis name is inevitably associated with a series of very sturdy and very efficient two-strokes (they won the 1922 Lightweight TT with one) but from the later 'twenties onward the makers the Butterfield brothers moved more and more into the field of four-strokes, starting with a 350 cc, the 'A Special'. Gradually the range was enlarged to embrace the 'B Special' 250, and 'D Special' 500 but, oddly enough, the 592 cc-model introduced for the 1937 season never had any particular catalogue designation and was always just the '600'.

The first Levis four-strokes used a traditional diamond-type frame with the engine crankcase forming the lower section, but with the new '600' there came the first Levis Cradle frame, with a tapering-tube front down member extended to meet twin lower cradle stays passing under the engine to a large lug beneath the gearbox.

Engine design was also improved over earlier overhead-valve Levis models, with a cleaned-up crankcase assembly in which internal strengthening ribs were substituted for the early-pattern external ribs. Tappets were dispensed with, and instead the lower ends of the pushrods bore directly on the cam followers. The pushrods were encased in a chromium-plated tube which gave the engine something of the appearance of an overhead-camshaft design. For the first time in Levis history, the valves and rocker gear were enclosed, and were lubricated from the externally-mounted Pilgrim pump

The Burman four-speed gearbox was of fered with a choice of high or low ratios. There was the option of either Druid or Webb front forks as preferred. Electrics were supplied by a Miller Dynomag, arid the headlamp was an impressive 8 in diameter. An upswept exhaust pipe was standard—and the works catalogue code for the model was 'Cool'!

At a dry weight of 375 lb, the '600' was quite heavy by the standards of the time, a problem not helped by the use of a molybdenum-alloy cast-iron barrel and head but that didn't deter Bob Foster. Best known as a road-racer, of course, Bob was in fact an all-rounder, and he used a specially-prepared '600' with great gusto in both scrambles and hill-climbs—and those who can recall seeing him in action on the big Levis will testify that Bob's nickname of 'Fearless Foster' was well-merited!

Almost equally intrepid was well-known trials rider Henry Laird who, as Midland Editor of Motor Cycling, road-tested a Levis 600 in June, 1938. 'The most outstanding qualities of this large single-cylinder,' he wrote, 'were the beefy power and the delightfully smooth way in which it was delivered. In addition, the economical running was more in keeping with a three-fifty instead of a machine of nearly twice that capacity'. In fact, 90 mph and 80 mpg; pretty good, wouldn't you agreed?

Out of: 'Classic British Motorcycles Of Over 500cc' by Bob Currie 


© by manuk lee  since 4/16/96