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Englewood to Hollywood: mechanic's bike hits the big screen in 'Furiosa'

Levey sold the bike in 2010 expecting to never see it again, then it showed up on the big screen.
Posted at 8:08 PM, May 24, 2024

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. — A custom radial engine motorcycle built by an Englewood mechanic made its big screen debut alongside a star-studded cast in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga on Friday.

John Levey is the CEO of JRL Cycles, building unique custom radial engine motorcycles.

“First we just did it to be different, something different than the regular V twin [engine],” said Levey.

Radial engines are usually found on airplanes, and radial engine motorcycles are extremely rare. Only a handful of radial engine bikes have been made because they are difficult and expensive to build, but Levey’s JRL Cycles has built five of them.

“I really only imagined I would build one of them, but then I thought well I have to build one more to pay for the first one,” said Levey.

Back in 2008 Levey was living near Sturgis, South Dakota, and began building Blackjack, his second radial engine production bike. By 2010 the bike was completed and sold to a buyer in Alaska. Levey thought he’d never see it again.

“I hadn't heard a word about it, I assumed it went to his private collection in Alaska,” said Levey. “I thought, 'well, I’ll check that one off because it's going to be hibernating in Alaska forever.'”

Blackjack Radial Engine Motorcycle
Levey's second radial engine production bike Blackjack.

Then in 2022, Levey got a message from a stranger telling him the bike was in Australia and needed repairs.

“It said this is so and so from a production company in Australia and we have your motorcycle but it was damaged in shipping and we need a new front end,” said Levey.

It turned out that Blackjack was being used in the filming of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. As trailers for the movie got released, Levey spotted the bike he built 14 years earlier, with Chris Hemsworth behind the handlebars.

“It was interesting finally seeing some of the trailers where you could pick out certain parts where you could see it,” Levey told Fox 4.

Levey said he heard Hemsworth took the bike after filming the movie and was happy that it didn’t get destroyed during production.

“It would have been hard sitting in the movie theater and seeing it go off a cliff or something, it would have been a little sad,” said Levey. “But now that I know Chris Hemsworth has the motorcycle and it survived the movie, I’m all about seeing it now.”

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is in theaters now.

Levey teaches aviation mechanics at Charlotte Technical College, and his latest radial engine bike was built alongside some of his students for a capstone project.

Levey revs the engine on 'Raven', the latest radial engine bike he and his students at Charlotte Technical College built.

"They did a heck of a job," Levey told Fox 4.