“LITTLE BASTARD” | THE SILVER SPYDER PORSCHE/DEAN MYSTERY REVISITED

james dean competition motors porsche spyder 1955

James Dean on the lot of Competition Motors with his infamous silver Porsche 550 Spyder not long before is tragic death on Sept. 30, 1955 – Image courtesy mptvimages.com. Jimmy had finished shooting George Stevens’ epic “Giant” (notice his hairline was shaved by the studio to play the older, receeding Jett Rink). With the film in the bag, he was now free to race.

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james dean rolf wuetherich last photo porsche

The day of James Dean’s tragic death behind the wheel of his Porsche Spyder is well documented, as professional photographer Sanford Roth was accompanying Dean for an article on the actor’s passion for racing in Collier’s Magazine. This image shot by Roth in Hollywood on the morning of the accident, shows Dean and Rolf Wütherich preparing for a weekend of racing and camaraderie. That this would be Dean’s final hours, or that Wüetherich was about to experience a life-shattering event, was clearly the furthest thing from either one’s mind. Julien’s Auctions sold an 11×14-inch print of this shot, taken from Roth’s original contact sheet and mounted on foam core, for  $1,500. It is confirmed to be among the last “official” images taken of the actor before his fatal crash. via

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Lee Raskin is widely considered an expert in regard early Porsche auto history, and in particular– James Dean’s brief but spectacular Porsche racing career. Lee has consulted with authors and video producers regarding James Dean’s motorsports activities and the mysterious disappearance of his “Little Bastard” 550 Spyder following Dean’s death in 1955. In fact, his book James Dean: At Speed is considered the final authority on the subject, and a must-read for any James Dean fan.

Recently, Lee himself contacted TSY– wanting to set the record straight on a few myths that have long haunted James Dean and his “Little Bastard”. I also feel it’s well deserved to pay tribute to Lee Raskin for all the personal sacrifice, energy and resources he’s put into preserving the history of Porsche and James Dean.

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James Dean going over the Porsche Spyder at Competition Motors on Vine Street in Hollywood.

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“I would like to correct some facts: James Dean had entered the Salinas Airport Races for the Oct. 1st weekend of 1955. Dean was a provisionary racer with the Calif Sports Car Club and Sports Car Club of America. He did not have a permanent race number. He selected 130 which was available. He did not go to George Barris for any painting or striping. Dean Jeffries, who had a paint shop next to Barris did the work which consisted of: painting ‘130′ in black non-permanent paint on the front hood, doors and rear deck lid. He also painted “Little Bastard” in script across the rear cowling. The red leather bucket seats and red tail stripes were original. The tail stripes were painted by the Stuttgart factory, which was customary on the Spyders for racing ID.”

–Lee Raskin, Porsche historian, and author of James Dean At Speed.

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James Dean 1955 Silver Porsche 550 Spyder Little Bastard

James Dean (with friend / mechanic Rolf) and his 1955 Silver Porsche 550 Spyder– “Little Bastard”

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James Dean with his “Little Bastard– great view of the tail stripes and Dean Jeffries’ handiwork.

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George Barris WAS NOT a good friend of James Dean. He barely knew him from the ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ movie. Barris has embellished the entire story for over 55 years. He is a fraud who has capitalized on buying the carcass of the wrecked Spyder after it was sold by the insurance company to two fellow racers, Dr. Wm. Echrich and Dr. Troy McHenry. See James Dean: At Speed which gives a clear epilogue as to the events that took place with the ownership and demise of the Spyder.

–Lee Raskin, Porsche historian, and author of James Dean At Speed.

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James Dean’s fatal accident wreckage was used for PSA’s warning drivers about the dangers and consequences of careless driving.  As shocking and insensitive as it is to see, I’m sure it made a lasting impression.

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(George) Barris was not accurate nor was he truthful with respect to how he came about owning the Spyder’s remains, the events that caused ‘mysterious’ injuries and deaths…and what actually happened to the Spyder’s disappearance. George Barris has used James Dean and his death to capitalize for his own self gratification and financial gain. He will not challege me. I also stand corrected on statements made 18 yrs. ago through continued reseach and writings. I believe the Spyder’s remains (the body shell) were disposed of by George Barris, personally…as the car was not stolen or lost in 1961.

–Lee Raskin, Porsche historian and author of James Dean At Speed.

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James Dean and his infamous “Little Bastard” Porsche Spyder.

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“LITTLE BASTARD” | THE SILVER SPYDER THAT DROVE JAMES DEAN TO HIS GRAVE

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A JAMES DEAN TRUE LIFE LESSON | DON’T ACT IT, OR SHOW IT– JUST DO IT

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10 thoughts on ““LITTLE BASTARD” | THE SILVER SPYDER PORSCHE/DEAN MYSTERY REVISITED

  1. Pingback: “LITTLE BASTARD” | THE SILVER SPYDER THAT DROVE JAMES DEAN TO HIS GRAVE « The Selvedge Yard

  2. Nice to see Mr. Raskin comment on this subject.
    The only thing I’d like to add is that Barris did not dispose of
    the remains of the car. The people that know the car’s history
    after 1961 (yes, it does have a history past that date) are
    understandably silent…something George was never capable of
    being on any subject.

  3. Wow. I don’t think he likes Barris too much does he? How could you really after knowing about that? Thanks.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Triumph 750. My reference to the whereabouts of the Spyder..are directed specifically toward the ‘carcass’ of the ex-James Dean’s 550 Spyder, VIN 550-0055. The engine, tranny, suspension, and mechanical instruments have all been accounted for over the years in my various writtings and TV documentaries…with respect to Messrs. Jim Barrington, Jack Styles, and Tyler Eschrich. Yes they do have a history of sorts…but not an active one…even after 55 years!

    Lee Raskin, JD
    Author, James Dean At Speed
    http://www.leeraskin.com
    lee@leeraskin.com

  5. I’ve heard rumors that Winton Dean (Jimmy’s dad) was living in Florida when the car was on display there and that he had a hand in it not being loaded on the transport. Barris was trying to cash in on morbid curiosity and I wouldn’t want my son’s death car on display either. By the way Mr. Raskin I loved your book and I love the Selvedge Yard.

    • Yes, Winton Dean, James Dean’s father did live in FL, but not until the 1980s-’90s. Winton did not know George Barris and would not have gotten involved with in trying to counter the showing the wrecked carcass at car shows. Incidentally, Barris cannot substantiate that the wrecked Spyder was ever on display outside of California. But he maintains it disappeared after being shown in Miami, FL. Keep in mind by 1960’s…no one really cared about the “Speed Kills” mentality. Drag racing…Muscle cars…the Beach Boys…Jan and Dean took over the teen and automobile culture. And, no one really cared much about James Dean or his wrecked Porsche until the ’80s when he and Porsches were cool again! Lee Raskin Author James Dean At Speed.

  6. Pingback: A JAMES DEAN TRUE LIFE LESSON | DON’T ACT IT, OR SHOW IT– JUST DO IT « The Selvedge Yard

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