Today marks the 60th anniversary of the death of James Dean. On September 30, 1955, notorious bad-boy actor James Dean was speeding in his beloved “Little Bastard” — a silver Porsche 550 Spyder — to a car race in Salinas, California, when another car — a Ford Custom Tudor driven by a 23-year-old college student — accidentally veered into Dean’s lane, and the two crashed head-on. A few hours later, James Dean was pronounced dead.
Though Dean’s Porsche was totaled in the crash, the wreckage was sold to the man who originally customized the car, and it was there that the story of Little Bastard’s curse began.
On this date 60 years ago, 24-year-old actor James Dean was killed in an car crash near Cholame, Calif. pic.twitter.com/F8rBx8dBnp— Charles Apple (@charlesapple) September 30, 2015
The legend of James Dean’s infamous Porsche really begins just a week prior to his death. Dean allegedly met with Alec Guinness — of Obi-Wan Kenobi fame — outside of a restaurant on September 23, 1955, and asked Guinness to take a look at his newly-customized Little Bastard. After taking a short look at the car, Guinness reportedly had some foreboding and prophetic words for Dean about his “sinister” car.
“If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.”
After Dean’s death, his wrecked Porsche was sold to George Barris — the one who did all of the car’s custom work — for $2,500. Not long after the sale, James Dean’s cursed Little Bastard slipped off the trailer on which it was parked and broke a mechanic’s leg. Barris sold parts from Dean’s car to two other auto racers. Troy McHenry bought the engine and William Eschrid purchased the drivetrain. At some point after the purchase, the two competitors were racing against one another — in cars with Little Bastard’s parts — when the curse of James Dean’s Porsche reared its head once again. McHenry lost control of his vehicle, hit a tree, and died instantly, while Eschrid’s car locked up going into a turn, causing him to roll over. He was seriously injured, but he at least made it out alive.
The legend of James Dean’s cursed car continues with two thieves attempting to steal parts from it. According to Jalopnik, one of them had his arm torn open trying to steal the steering wheel, while the other was hurt trying to remove one of the bloodstained seats. Eventually, Barris loaned Dean’s Porsche out to California Highway Patrol to be used as a highway safety exhibit. When the garage that housed Dean’s car burned down and Little Bastard was mysteriously unharmed, the legend of James Dean’s cursed car grew. When the Spyder was later exhibited at a local high school, it fell off its display and broke a student’s hip. Later, during transport, the truck driver carrying the cursed wreck lost control of his truck, was thrown from the vehicle, and was crushed to death when Little Bastard fell off the back and landed on him. When the CHP had finally decided they’d had enough with James Dean’s car, they sent it packing back to Barris, however, it never reached its destination, and somehow went missing along the way, never to be heard from again.
Until now. Maybe.
In 2005, the Volo Auto Museum offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could lead them to the wreckage of James Dean’s Porsche. After a 2014 airing of Brad Meltzer’s Lost History that featured Dean’s evil Spyder, the museum received a tip from someone claiming to know its whereabouts, says Brian Grams, director of the Volo Auto Museum, according to ABC7 Chicago.
“He said he was 6 years old at the time, and was present as his father and some other men put the wreckage behind a false wall in a building in Whatcom County, Washington.”
Grams added that the mystery man also mentioned certain details about Dean’s car, and agreed to take, and passed a polygraph test. The man has refused to reveal the location of James Dean’s Little Bastard until he has a signed deal that he will receive a portion of the reward money. The museum is currently in the process of attempting to claim ownership of Dean’s death car, and Grams said conversations with the unnamed man are ongoing.
“This guy’s story is awesome, and our most believable lead to date. It’s kind of like Al Capone’s vault. If it is in there, it continues the legend of this car’s notorious history.”
Though it’s been 60 years since James Dean’s untimely death, his notoriety, as well as that of his infamous Little Bastard continues to live on. Whether Dean’s car is eventually found, or not, half a century of legends and mysteries surrounding his Porsche will keep his memory, and his infamy, alive.
[Image Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images]