1984 marked the year of “The Kid”, a young boy who took us on a memorable journey through the struggles of family, the music and his life surrounding the unfortunate events that lead him to that final song before he was to ride off into the night on his purple motorcycle. “Purple Rain” was singer Prince’s film debut with director Albert Magnoli helming the rock musical, drama epic. It was released in July 27th, 1984, to little enthusiasm but turned into a box office smash, making over $84 million and becoming a cult classic. It’s referred by many to be the fuel for the 80’s vibe that we all know and love.
32 years later today, we mourn the sad loss of an idol that defined a generation. But what happened to that majestic purple Honda that Prince rode on throughout the flick? What was it?
Speculation for years was a heavily modified Honda Silverwing, but as the DVD age proved it was different as many started to notice the clarity of the pipes and frame layout. It was discovered that the bike is a customized 1981 Honda Hawk CB400A Hondamatic and three bikes were used throughout the movie. Two stunt bikes (manual trans) and one hero bike (auto trans).
All three bikes remained stock with cosmetic add-ons to give Prince the look he needed. The most noticeable change was the large aftermarket fairings used around the front and side frames. The alloy Comstar rims were swapped to spokes, a custom sissy bar on the rear seat with spikes and front handlebars were added. The Honda received the famous shade of Purple that would make a Phil Collins concert weep for Prince. This all worked out to make the title character stand out as a total 80’s badass while riding the CB. Plus it wouldn’t be complete without Prince’s personal touch of his “Love Symbol” on each side of the front fairing. With all those danger action sequences on the road, you’ve gotta rep, right?
The bike was later revamped for Prince’s sequel to PR, titled “Graffiti Bridge” in 1990 where the Honda was repainted black and gold and slightly modified again but with few differences. The hero bike and one stunt bike is on display at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
So what was the Honda CB400T? Known as the Hawk in the US or the Dream in the UK, it was Honda’s successor the to aging CB360 and launched in 1977. Mounted with a 395cc air-cooled, four stroke, parallel twin engine, it was able achieve 43hp @ 9,300rpm and 3,4 kgf-m @ 8,000rpm in power. The engine featured an overhead camshaft with three valves per cylinder and had a very unique 360° crank, similar to traditional British engineering parallel twins. Fuel was provided by twin, 32 mm Keihin carburetors. The bikes top speed varied with markets, 108mph (Dream) and 110mph (Hawk) due to emission setups.
For the US markets, Honda released four variants of the CB400T over the 5 years it was released. Only one year and version was released for the UK market before being superseded by the CB400N.