Copyright WWW.DBBP.COM | updated 29-December-2003

Alan Sputhe about John Harman

Hi Alan,

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that you knew John Harman, small world I guess. As a 17 year old kid I dreamed of someday building a Harman, and when I discovered recently that there is almost nothing about this man on the Internet, I decided it would be a shame if the legend was forgotten, he deserves better. I would love to add your story about John to my Harman page, and anything else you might remember. What happened to him, did he have an accident or get sick or something?

I have an old Harman catalog here and I have images of the swingarm frames and the engines, but havn't seen the 4-carb head setup you mention, or is this a setup with Harman heads and split manifolds or something?


Hi Mark

John had invited me to fly to Palmdale with him for the last race of 1986 season. The day before we were supposed to go he called me and said that he was having dizzyness and a serious vision problem. His doctor grounded him pending test results. When I got back the next week he told me that the doctors discovered that he had bone cancer. Bone cancer is incurable and very painful. The doctors said that he might live 2 years but he didn't have much quality time left. I spent the next 6 weeks with him helping him get his him business affairs in order and cataloging and valuing all of his assets so that his wife wouldn't be taken advantage of when he was gone. Within a short time he was on morphine. It was very sad to watch. He had always worked out and been in great shape. After he got sick he just sort of withered away. In six months he was gone.

His wife sold the house and shop and moved back to the city. Kenny Boyce ended up with the frame business and the Harman engine. Kenny wasn't working for John at the time of his illness but had been his one and only employee for a number of years. Seeing the two togather always reminded me of Dr. Frankinstein and Egor. Kenny never did anything with the Harman engine himself. The frame business evolved into Kenny Boyce Pro-Street. Kenny just recently sold the business and is now retired from the motorcycle industry.

The 4 carb heads were Johns greatest creation. He stopped making them after he came out with the Harman engine. He would start with stock Shovelhead head castings (that's all there was in those days,) The last and best version used two rear head castings. with the one on the front cylinder rotated 180deg. so that the exhaust port faced foreward and to the left and the intake port faced the right rear. He would weld two spigets about 6 inches long to the mouth of each intake port.

The porting was very sophisticated and the flow was incredible for a shovelhead. He did this for two reasions.
(1) There were no large carburators on the market in those days (except the S&S L which was a piece of crap) So he used two Dellorto carbs (one pumper and one non-pumper) per head.
(2) These were combined with a progressive linkage so that at low RPM one carb was feeding each head through one small port. Velocity was very high and throttle response was nice and crisp.