Gypsy Knuck

Article By: Mitch “Magoo” Bodine

Photos By: Dan Vendetto

Originally Published In The February 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Jerry is part of my local NJ cool bike posse. I did a story on his “Green Machine” Shovelhead back in August of 2014.That bike has gone thru some small changes over the years but it is still in Jerry’s stable of motorcycles. The Shovel gets ridden regularly, no trailer queens here! Jerry always knew he wanted a Knucklehead and he knew exactly the way he wanted the end product to look. I have to say, Jerry has a very good eye for motorcycle style. Of course, it was the same situation with his Shovelhead build. Jerry doesn’t have the tools or know how to do it on his own so he called in some friends. I’m going to let Jerry tell you the build story in his own words so you can feel his passion. The first time I saw this bike was at Dusty’s J Cheap Thrills show in Asbury Park. Jerry has put a lot of miles on it since then making little tweaks and changes on the way to making it a reliable good riding bike. I know the early plans were to use a very cool looking dual Linkert set up, but with the stock motor it just wasn’t a practical option.

Jerry’s newest project is a Panhead long bike that he got in a trade deal for a very cool FL Shovel he had. You can follow that build on Jerry’s Instagram at hd69shovelhead. So, in Jerry’s own words the build story for Gypsy Knuck is… “It all started September 12, 2014, a Friday night, I was at the Gypsy Run 8 and my phone rang. It was a friend of mine Steve McBath, he had just gotten word of a knuckle motor that was for sale from a mutual friend of ours. It was disassembled but it was all there; 42 heads, cylinders and jugs with 47 cases, flywheel and oil pump. Steve’s my go to guy for motor work so I trusted his judgement and we made an offer. My offer was accepted and I was stoked. Because I was at the Gypsy Run and wasn’t going home till Sunday evening all I could think about was this motor and the possibility of someone else offering more money and it would be gone before I got home Sunday night so on Saturday I packed my tent and sleeping bag up and headed back home to get this Knuckle motor.

Steve and I made a list of everything he would need to get this motor running. I decided to save the 61 inch jugs and pick up a set of 74 inch jugs to keep the motor 74 inches for that little extra power. As much as I do like original bikes l have a passion for choppers so that’s how this one was going to get built. I knew exactly what I wanted this bike to look like when it would be complete, so I started collecting all the parts I needed. I always liked what the Japanese builders are doing in Japan and I follow a lot of their blogs so a lot of my inspiration on this build came from that. Steve had the motor complete by mid-January. I wanted to be involved as much as I could with this build but I don’t know how to weld and I don’t have a lathe. So, I gave a really good friend of mine Tommy Bright Jr. a call. Besides being such a great guy, Tommy’s extremely talented and knows a lot about motorcycles. Tommy has a nice shop called Darkside Chops and Rods. I asked Tommy if he would help me build this bike. I told him that I wanted to be involved as much as possible. He agreed and he said he would not work on it unless I was there with him. We agreed that I would come down one day every weekend and we would work on the bike together. Tommy did all the welding and most of the fabrication on the bike.

I sent the seat pan to Haifley Brothers to upholster and make the Pea pad. I picked up a set of 3 1/2 gallon split tanks that I sent over to Jason Sheets of Sheets Metal Fabrication. Jason narrowed them and welded the rivets. He did a killer job. The paint was done by the one and only Deny Babin out in California and he nailed it just the way I wanted it. If you’re looking for that old patina Barn find look, he is the man. I spray bombed the frame, the front end and some miscellaneous parts a semi- gloss black. It’s took about 20 visits to Tommy’s shop and a few nights in my own garage to complete the build. There’s nothing like that feeling when it all comes together. When you kick it for the first time and hear that motor run. I have an M 74B Linkert carburetor on it now. But the goal is to run a two M51 Linkert’s with one of Imperial House’s dual manifold. It was a great experience for me to be involved and see how much work and time goes into a build like this. I’d like to thank Tommy at Darkside Chops and Rods for being a good friend and giving me the opportunity to work on the bike with him and putting up with my shit every week. My thanks go Steve McBath for building a rock-solid motor, Jason Sheets for narrowing and making the tanks fit my frame and motor like a glove, Deny Babin for killing the paint work and especially my wife for putting up with it all!”

The Gypsy Knuck Tech Sheet

Owner: Jerry Merola

City: Howell, NJ

Fabrication By: Darkside Chops & Rods

Year: 1947

Model: FL

Value: Too Much $$

Time: 6 Months


Year: 1947

Model: Knucklehead

Builder: Steve McBath

Ignition: Points Condenser Coil

Displacement: 74ci

Pistons: 3-7/16 bore8.5:1

Heads: 1942 Knuck 74” Heads

Cam(s): Andrews S Grind

Carb: Linkert M74B

Air Cleaner: Bird Deflector

Exhaust: MCM Manufacturing Megaphones

Primary: BDL



Make: 4 Speed Ratchet Top

Shifting: Jockey Shift



Make: V-Twin

Model: Replica Knucklehead

Rake: 29 °

Stretch: Stock

Front end

Type: Inline Springer

Builder: V-Twin

Extension: Stock


Front Wheel: 5 Star Hub 40 Spoke

Size: 19”

Front Tire: Firestone ANS Military

Front brake: Drum

Rear Wheel: 5 Star Hub 40 Spoke

Size: 16”

Rear Tire: Firestone Dirt Track

Rear Brake: Drum


Painter: Denny Babbin

Color: Old

Type: Distressed



Bars: Drag With Internal Throttle

Risers: Stellings & Hellings

Fuel tank: 3.5 Gl Split Tanks-Jason Sheets

Front fender: None

Rear fender: Wassell Ribbed

Seat: Haifley Brothers

Foot Controls: Darkside Chops & Rods

Sissbar: Darkside Chops & Rods

Headlight: Tractor Accessory Light

Taillight: Prism Weld On Ripple

Speedo: None

Photographer: Dan Vedetto

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