Prince's Bike Controversy

Prince’s Awesome Custom Motorcycle
A Controversy and a Detective Story About Prince’s Bike

Prince, who once changed his name to a symbol and was referred to in print as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” didn’t shy away from controversy. Even the motorcycle he rode in 'Purple Rain' has its share of debate.

First off, what kind of bike did he ride?

Actually, there were three of them, one main one and two stunt bikes. The main one was an automatic, the stunt bikes weren’t. They were all customized 1981 Honda CM400’s. And that’s the first controversy, because some say it was a 1981 Honda CB400. Andrew Norton’s article on Bold Ride about the thirtieth anniversary of the film’s release talks about a CB400, as does Dan Carney on Maxim Rides and several other websites. But USA Today and the Internet Movie Cares Database website agree with many others that it’s a CM400.

Take a look at photos, and let us know what you think on the Eagle Leather Facebook page.

The Purple Rain bike was only thirty inches high at the seat, so Prince, at five-foot-two, could plant his feet and not risk the bike falling over. It had a 395 cc air-cooled motor with a two-speed semi-automatic transmission. That much stayed the same. The bike got spokes in its wheels, custom seats with pink velour inserts, a rear seat sissy bar, custom handles bars, and a custom fairing.

That large fairing is the subject of our detective story. It’s called a Vetter fairing in most articles, but we found “the horse’s mouth.” In a comment on an article about the bike on the Feel Numb website a guy named Craig Johnson writes that when he was twelve or thirteen, his step-father owned the Kutter Motorcycle Accessories Company based in Waterloo, Iowa. The company made fairings among other accessories, and took custom orders. Craig helped his stepfather fill an order for two purple fairings that were going to a movie set in Minnesota. Later he helped make a third one after one of the bikes was crashed. In a further comment, he explains the differences between Kutter and Vetter fairings: early Vetters had external turn lights and the bottom of the windshield has “more of a W pattern.”

Well, it should take more than a comment, which just might be a fake, to go up against the prevailing opinion. First we checked on the Kutter Motorcycle Accessories Company. It’s mentioned in 1984 'American Motorcyclist' and it was in Cedar Falls. So far, so good.

But here’s the clincher: According to his website, Don Summers, owner of Lowriders by Summers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, did the bikes for 'Purple Rain'. And he says he ordered the fairings from a company called Kutter, in Iowa.

If you want to check out the fairing, and the bike itself, you’ll have to visit Paisley Park, Prince’s studio/home in Chanhassan, Minnesota. The bike was repainted for the film 'Graffiti Bridge' and now is on display there.

Note: This may tempt you to seek out photos of Prince on the bike. Notice the bling on his gear and check out his boots and Apollonia’s gear here, and then come in to Eagle Leather to update your own motorcycling wardrobe.

EDITS on 12-2-20:

  1. Carl was a friend not the step-son. 
  2. Scott Jacobson was the step-son.
  3. Scott Jacobson assisted in the cycle fairing. 
  4. Price wrecked a bike and needed a new one that was completed in one weekend.
  5. The bike was ordered without paint on and the trim off.
  6. Kutter Motorcycle Accessories was later changed to Howe Engineered Sales.
  7. The business started in Cedar Falls and was moved to a larger building in Waterloo.
  8. Most companies didn't have a mounting bracket that was a good fit for a 400.  Howe had a really good mounting system that fit almost every bike except one.

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