The first prop Jeff McClure remembers tinkering with was a “Ghostbusters” proton pack, part of the ghost-hunting gear used in the movie to blast ghosts. He said there were some things about it he didn’t like, so he started refurbishing it and changing it to make it better.
Those small changes turned into many more projects. Now, he’s completed one of his biggest projects to date: Prince’s motorcycle from the movie “Purple Rain.”
“It was just something I wanted to do,” said McClure, a local magician in Gainesville. “I don’t ride motorcycles, I’m not a motorcycle guy, but I’m a big Prince fan and it just seemed like it was time to get on with that project.”
Prince, who won eight Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died April 21, 2016. He was most famous for his music, but was also a filmmaker. He received a Golden Globe and an Oscar for the film “Purple Rain,” which McClure said he saw in theaters more times than he can count. The movie turned 34 years old just a week ago.
McClure bought the motorcycle, a 1979 Hondamatic CM400a (Prince’s was a 1981), on Craigslist and immediately started to fix it up. As a magician, he’s purchased many props before, which is where the love of collecting and fixing up different replicas came from in the first place.
“I’m a nerd at heart, I guess,” McClure said.
But he tries to keep the nerd away from his normal life. Walking into his home, he said “you would never be able to tell I’m a fan of anything in particular.” There are just small things sitting around, like a genie bottle from the TV show “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Nothing he has is original, though. He said he doesn’t really want those things because they’re not made to be seen up close. They’re either fragile or beat up from production during the movie or TV show they were in. He likes tinkering with things better, anyway.
Which is why he bought the Hondamatic. As soon as it arrived from a shop in Minneapolis, which coincidentally is where Prince was born and raised, McClure said he started it up in the rain, drove it to his garage and it never ran again, until he replaced the stator, which he compared to the heart in a human.
He had to put a lot of work into the motorcycle — 12 months and more than 200 hours — searching high and low for parts to make it an exact replica. He even called Tommy Summers, who painted the original motorcycle Prince rode, for the paint codes so he’d have the replica just right.
“I’m a child of the 1980s,” McClure said. “I always loved that motorcycle.”
He worked with a local muffler shop to have the mufflers custom-made. The kind on Prince’s aren’t made anymore. McClure found someone in Atlanta who could be meticulous enough to reupholster the seat, placing each stitch exactly where it needed to be.
And McClure was proud of getting the Howe Windkutter fairing, the plastic part added to the front of the motorcycle to increase its efficiency. He said even getting one is like winning the lottery. McClure got two.
“It’s been a labor of love, a passion project to get finished,” McClure said. “And of course, I had to learn to ride a motorcycle again, because I hadn’t ridden one since back in college. It was just for the love of building, more than anything.”
McClure still isn’t a motorcycle guy, so he doesn’t ride it around town. He does take it to different events where Prince fans “love it,” though.
After all the hard work, McClure is selling the motorcycle now. It’s up on Ebay and Craigslist for $15,000. He’s hoping it goes to someone who can appreciate it or to a place like Hard Rock Cafe that could put it on display.
“It was tedious, but this one was something I did for myself,” McClure said. “It was passing the time. It’s fun to get an old bike and sand the rust off and polish it up and make it look nice, then turn it into something cool and iconic and something that people don’t see every day.”