It’s the early eighties; new wave, pop, heavy metal, and dance are ruling the radio waves, and an up-and-comer from Minneapolis who goes by the name ‘Prince’ is at the top of the charts. Hits like ‘1999’ and ‘Little Red Corvette’ prove themselves to open the doors he needed opened to get his career off and running.
Small in stature but big in talent and personality, Prince paves the way to superstardom with the unique music he gives to an adoring public.
Fast forward: It is now the spring of 2016, and Prince has left this Earthly realm and gone on to his great reward, but not before leaving his fans with some very intense, much-loved music, and he left his business associates with much respect.
It seemed the man could do it all, from music to film, which was proven by the hit release ‘Purple Rain’, which came out in 1984. It melted the hearts of teen queens and made young men dream of being as cool as Prince.
The semi-autobiographical film starred Prince as a young man with a heap of personal problems and a dream…to make music. Even when his family was on the outs, Prince’s character, ‘The Kid’ maintained his cool, both with the music and the ladies.
And one of the things that helped him come off as so suave and debonaire, for lack of a better word, was the motorcycle he rode in the film. What a cool bike! Hell, it was even purple like the man himself…like royalty.
But most of us never gave that bike a second thought back in the day; we were too busy lusting after the man, or being jealous over the fact that we weren’t him, whichever shoe fits.
Regardless, that bike existed, and as people have aged along with the movie, many found themselves wondering about that bike that they hadn’t given a passing thought to before. What kind was it? Was it customized just for the movie? Did Prince own it himself?
Well, we’ve come to save the day by answering some of the questions about that motorcycle that people have asked. So, sit back, relax, and let your memory slide back to a time when hair gel was essential, and Prince was alive and well: 1984 and ‘Purple Rain’.
We think you enjoy picking up some information about a much loved movie and the bike that was something of an inanimate centerpiece and the perpetuator of Prince’s ‘cool’.
What Kind of Motorcycle Did Prince Ride In ‘Purple Rain’?
We may as well start with the basics, the introductions, so to speak, and then we can dig a little deeper into superfluous bike factoids. Perhaps we’ll get a clearer idea as to if this bike was special to the ‘Purple One’ himself, or maybe it was just another prop. Either way, let’s get to it, shall we?
What Was It?
The motorcycle that comes so famously to our minds was a 1981 Honda CM400A Hondamatic. The fact of the matter is, three bikes were actually customized for the movie ‘role’ it had. Two of the three were stunt bikes that were not ‘automatics’; one was used for Prince’s riding scenes and photo ops they did to promote the movie and album. Of the two stunt bikes only one was actually used.
Here is a bit of cool trivia regarding the bike: Big-Wig executives wanted the star to ride a large, Harley-Davidson-type ‘hog’. But as we mentioned earlier, Prince was not a man who was large…he stood only 5’2”, to be exact.
Putting him on a Harley would have not only felt awkward for the singer (whose feet would have probably not touched the ground), but it would have looked awkward for the audience. It definitely would have subtracted from the level of cool the movie makers were trying to convey.
Prince recognized this and opted for the Honda. Of course, the smaller bike was altered to give it a larger, more ‘hog-like’ appearance; needless to say, it worked.
What Made It Go?
Do you want to hear another fine point? No one really knows if they chose an automatic bike on a whim, or because Prince had little experience riding a motorcycle.
Regardless of the reasons, they got the smaller Japanese bike. It had a 395cc parallel twin engine bike that was air-cooled, and of course, it had a two-speed automatic transmission (hence the name ‘Hondamatic’. While the bike looked above and beyond cool and ‘special’, the fact is it was just another smaller Honda with a wicked-cool paint job.
A Bit More About the Body
Not only was the bike a smaller model to accommodate the singer, but other adjustments also had to be made to fit Prince Rodgers Nelson as well. For instance, the seat had to be lowered so his feet would touch the ground; it simply won’t due to try and ride a bike when your feet aren’t able to get ground.
Now, the color purple, which is the color paint job the bike got, is fairly self-explanatory…after all, Prince was the ‘Purple One’, right? But even more than that, the bike featured a very early rendition of the ‘Love Symbol’ in a few spots. For those who don’t know, the ‘Love Symbol’ was also the symbol Prince called himself for a number of years.
Unpronounceable, the symbol was only a ‘spelling’, so to speak. During this time he would not answer to ‘Prince’, but instead went by ‘the Artist Formerly Known As Prince’. Why? A battle over ownership rights to his name with his record company at the time.
Anyway, the purple, ‘love symbol’ emblazoned motorcycle also had something of a ‘chopper’ styling, with a large windshield, and a king-and-queen seat in black and purple harlequin-like diamond shapes. To put it simply, the bike was perfect for Prince. In memories, it is pretty much synonymous in the eyes of the mind.
Replicas, Auctions, and Memories
Prince, and the bike, are all in our memories now. The bike (and the riding jacket Prince wore) sold at auction a few years back, so any hopes of personally owning it are out of the question, at least for the time being.
A tribute bike was built to honor the movie model, with the replica created out of a 1979 Honda of the same model. It’s a cool enough motorcycle, but it just isn’t the same, if you know what I mean.
Prince was one of a kind, and while we’re sure there are impersonators in Vegas putting on a show with his name on it, he can’t be replaced.
Motorcycles may be another story entirely, but the fact is there is only one bike Prince rode in ‘Purple Rain’, and therefore, it can’t be replaced either. Check out the movie if you’ve never seen it; you will likely find you feel the exact same way.
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Written by Benjamin Smith
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