The first time I met Jerry Merola was at the Hang Out Have Fun swap and bike show in Asbury Park, NJ in August, 2015 (this later evolved into the Cheap Thrills show in AP every February). At the time, he had his ‘47 knucklehead, built with the help of Tommy Bright, in the show so I took some photos of the bike and got to talk to him for a bit. You could tell he really cared about every detail on his bike and took pride in his work. I got to know Jerry better at the next couple of TROG’s and other East Coast events and always enjoyed photographing his bike and talking with him. When he started posting photos of the progress on his new build on Instagram, I was excited. When Jerry finally got the panhead together and posted a finished photo, I think the collective internet lost their shit. He called her The Jersey Devil – aptly named after the mythical creature that roams the Pine Barrens in our home state, preying on innocent victims. With candy-apple paint, polished chrome, and a devil’s tail sissy bar, this ‘59 panhead was not only devilish, she was downright seductive. I immediately knew I had to get up close and personal with this bike and get some photos. I reached out to Jerry and he kindly obliged. We decided the best place to shoot would be in the woods – which would bring out The Jersey Devil’s true nature.
When I finally got to see The Jersey Devil in person, I was mesmerized by all the small details that went into making this panhead something truly special. I asked Jerry to tell me where he came up with the idea and about the build itself.
“It all started when I was lucky enough to trade my 1971 cone shovel for a 1959 panhead that was already raked with a long front end. Although the bike really wasn’t my style, it had an original wishbone frame, and an original panhead transmission. I saw what I can do to this thing. But at that point I still wasn’t sure I wanted to invest that kind of money before making sure I was comfortable riding a long bike with a jockey shift and no front brake. I’m used to riding normal wheelbase. Rabbit ears for bars make it harder and a lot of things can go wrong. So I got the bike in July 2016 and by August I had taken a bunch of parts off the bike, including 10 lbs of chrome spikes. I swapped out a bunch of parts, including a different springer. I bought a Wassel ribbed rear fender, a nice coffin tank and an oil bag and sprayed the entire bike black. It finally felt presentable enough to take on the road and I rode it around for the next few months. Within a week of being on it, I was more comfortable on the long bike than on my regular bikes. At that point I decided I was going all in.
I envision all my bikes in my head before they’re built. I’m pretty artistic so I had the design in my head. And I have learned a lot throughout the years. But I know what my limitations are. So I reached out to a few of my talented friends and asked for their help. Buddy Miller did all the welding and all the molding work – he is meticulous like me, which I appreciate. He also made the seat pan, and the controls. I explained to him what I wanted to do with the primary and made the pattern and he drilled the holes. Of course, the bike wouldn’t be what it is without his killer paint job.
All the chrome work was done by SuperChrome in Asbury. I designed the seat and Weston from Counterbalance Cycles upholstered it perfectly. It’s nice when you’re a pain in the ass but your friends appreciate your vision and helps you bring it together. I wanted a Ness Century springer frontend, and ironically ended up with the one Buddy had taken off his bike and sold a few years ago. I built and laced the wheels myself. I modified the pegs by cutting down Anderson pegs. I took apart the transmission, manifold, and carburetor and polished all the parts. Then I put everything back together in my garage. I wired it up just in time for Keystone and The Jersey Devil made her debut.
This bike has so many great details on it like the sissy bar, and the devil’s head shift knob I got from a shop in Japan. I plan on adding a pentagram in between the bars. She was fun to build and is even more fun to ride.” -Jerry
Owner name and location: Jerry Merola - Howell NJ.
ChopCult member: Wolfsden
Engine, year and make, model, modifications:1959 Harley Davidson FL Panhead.
Frame: Harley wishbone panhead frame.
Fork: Ness/Century Wishbone Springer 33 inches from bottom tree to center axle.
Chassis mods: Racked and molded.
Tire/wheel size and style: Rear wheel is an aluminum hi-shoulder Borrani rim made for H-D, 19” 40 spoke laced with polished Buchanan spokes to a star hub, and a Firestone S-3 Military tire. Front wheel is a matching WM1 1.60 x 21” 40 spoke aluminum hi-shoulder rim laced with polished Buchanan spokes to a narrowed Mullins star hub and a Firestone 2.75-21” ribbed tire.
Favorite thing about this bike: Riding it.
Next modification will be: Pentagram symbol in the center of the bars.
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc.: Modified Anderson pegs, cut, modified, and drilled primary cover.King and queen seat done by Weston from Counter Balance Cycles. Paint, molding, forward controls, and some other goodies done by Buddy Miller.
Editor's note: I'd would like to welcome Kamelia to the ChopCult contributing team. Be sure to give her a follow on the Ol' gram! -Lisa