James Dean’s cursed Porsch

With this week being the 61st anniversary of James Dean’s death. I found it pretty interesting researching the curse of his ‘Little Bastard’ Porsch 550 Spyder. Anything Old Hollywood interests me. Expecially learning new things. Love it!

While filming Rebel Without a Cause James Dean was driving his Porsch 550 Spyder. And was killed on September 30, 1955. 

George Barris customized the Porsch for James Dean. Tartan seats, two red stripes over the rear wheels and the number ‘130’ on the front and sides. The name ‘Little Bastard’ was given by his language coach and painted on the back. George Barris later on designed the bat mobile.

September 23, 1955 after getting the car, James Dean met actor Alec Guinness at a resurant to show off his new Spyder. Guinness said the car had a ‘sinister’ appearance. And told him, “If you get in that car, you will be found in it by this time next week”. Seven days later, James Dean was killed in his ‘Little Bastard’. 

The Porsch was supposed to be trailered that day September 30,1955. To Salinas CA to the Weekend Sports Car Races. But at the last minute James Dean decided to drive. He didn’t think the car had enough’ break-in’ miles for the race. So he decided, with encouragement from friends following him there, to drive to get more seat time behind the wheel. Leaving at 1:15. Stopping to get gas in Sherman Oaks at 2:pm. Friends, Rolf Wuthweich- Porsch factory trained machanic, Bill Hickman- Movie Stunt Man, and Sanford H. Roth- Photographer all following James Dean heading North. At 3:30pm James Den was pulled over going 65 in a 45mph zone. At 5:59pm Donald Turnupspeed (yes his real last name) was in a 1950 Ford Custom Tudor Coupe driving the opposite direction of James Dean in his Porsch Spyder. The two collided. James Dean was pinned in his car with a broken neck and many other injuries. He died being transported to the hospital which was 28miles from the crash site. And prounced dead at arrival. Turnupspeed suffered only minor injuries. Bruises on the face and a bloody nose. He refused medical attention. After being questioned by California highway patrol, he was not sited for the accident. He hitch-hiked in the dark home and never talked about the wreck!

George Barris who customized the Porsch for James Dean bought the wrecked remains of the car after the accident for $2500. 

After the accident the car was towed to a garage to be repaired. The engine slipped and shattered both legs of the mechanic working on the car. 

October 21, 1956 Barris sold the engine to Dr. Troy McHenry. He put it in his racing car. He died shortly after that while in a race he lost control and hit a tree. And sold the Drivetrain,Drive Shaft, to another racer William Eschrid. In the same race Troy McHenry lost his life, William Eschrid’s car suddenly locked up and rolled while making a turn. 

Barris still had two tires and sold them. Not long after both blew out simultaneously. Causing the car the tires were on the run off the road ending up ina ditch.

Barris had kept the car in his possession, other than the sold parts. Two theives tried stealing parts from the car. And that didn’t work out as they had planned. One thiefs arm was torn open on jagged metal trying to steal the steering wheel. The other was injured trying to streak the tartan seat. Ehich was still bloodstained from James Dean. 

Because of all the incidents, the California Highway Patrol, National Safty Council, convinced Barris to have the car be a part of highway safty exhibits. Was promoted as: James Deans Last Sports Car. The first exhibit was unsuccessful because the garage the car was temporarily being stored in Fresno CA March 11 1959 was burned to the ground. Mysteriously the car looked untouched by the fire. Virtually no damage other than the tires. There were no injures and the cause of the fire was unknown. The car was then sent to Sacramento for the next exhibit.on the anniversary of James Deans death. At a high school. Where the car fell off it’s display mount and broke a teenagers hip. 

Next while being transported, the truck carrying the car lost control. The driver of the truck was flown from the truck and somehow got crushed by the Porsch after it fell off the back of the truck. Another time being transported it slipped from its tow bar and smashed into a store front. There were no injuries. It also fell off two other times while being transported on the freeway. 

At an exhibit in 1959 the car broke into 11 piece mysteriously while sitting  on steal supports. 

1960 Between Barris and CHP deciding that it’s had enough, while being transporting back to Barris the car vanished and has not been seen since! According to Barris it was returning from a traffic safety exhibit in Florida in a sealed truck. When the trailer arrived back to LA the trailer was unlocked and the car had completely disappeared into thin air!

Although the car had disappeared, Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe, IL. Claimed to have an original piece of the car. A piece that was claimed to be pried off and stolen from an area near the windscreen. A square inch size of aluminum. 

In 2005 the 50th Anniversary of James Deans death, Chicago Volo Auto Museum made a public offer to buy the car for $1million from whomever can prove they own the remains of the car. With all the tips and leads thru the years there still is no car! No one has come to claim the $$. 


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