The Curse Of The 'Little Bastard': Fact, Fiction, Or Horrible Coincidence

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Is the hype behind James Dean’s seemingly cursed Porsche 550 Spyder real or is it all just made up based on odd circumstances? You decide.


Nearly everyone is familiar with the name James Dean. This charismatic actor captured the eye of the world with his on screen performances and intrigued the car community with his love of fast cars. Unfortunately, one of Dean’s most memorable moments came in the form of tragedy on September 30th, 1955 when his Porsche slammed into another car going 85-mph. As tragic as it is, if that were the end of the story, it could be chalked up to just a very bad accident that prematurely took the life of a beloved young actor. However, there is more to the story of Dean’s Little Bastard.

Wrapping up the movie ‘Giants,” Dean purchased the car on September 21,1955 in anticipation for his return to SCCA motorsports. The plan was to drive the car to Salinas, California for the car’s introductory race. This was done with the purpose of getting used to the way the car handled and to break-in the engine but obviously things did not go as planned. After the accident, the car was declared a total loss and made its way to a salvage yard where another Southern California racer, William Eschrich, purchased the entire car for parts. The engine was put into a Lotus IX and some suspension parts were sold to Troy Lee McHenry for use in his Porsche race car. Both men crashed in the very same race and almost 11 months after Dean’s death, the Little Bastard had claimed another life. Troy Lee McHenry’s Porsche hit the only tree on the racetrack in the very first lap of the 1956 Pomona sports-car races.

The remaining parts of the car, which was basically four wheels, a mangled body, and a twisted frame were sold to George Barris who sold two tires from the car and loaned the body to the Los Angeles chapter of the National Safety Council as a traveling display. The tires that Barris sold reportedly blew at the same time causing yet another accident and the body fell from its display on multiple occasions. One time injuring a bystander and the other killing George Barkus, a truck driver hired to transport the car to a road-safety expo. While in storage, the car caught on fire for an unknown reason and in 1960, while being transported from Miami to Los Angeles the car mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again. In fact, there is only one part still remaining that is confirmed to be from Dean’s car, a transaxle that was found in a wooden crate in rural Massachusetts.

Is this story proof of a cursed car or is it simply all a series of horrible coincidences? The world may never know for sure, so you will just have to make up your own mind. What do you believe?

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