James Dean’s love for speed, racing and “living on the edge” are all well documented in many books, documentaries and bios– so I won’t belabor the point here. Check out the video after the jump for a “James Dean legend” primer. What is fascinating is the tremendous staying power, cult status and curse stories that surround not just James Dean, but also the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder that he tragically lost his life in. The Porsche 550 Spyder is now forever linked with James Dean– it’s nearly impossible to recount one icon without the other.
James Dean (with friend / mechanic Rolf) and his 1955 Silver Porsche 550 Spyder– “Little Bastard”
James Dean’s success in Hollywood afforded him the luxury of indulging in a love of race cars– Porsches to be specific. His first Porsche was a Speedster convertible, but when the opportunity arose to upgrade to the new performance-driven 550 Spyder– it was a no-brainer. Dean set out right away on putting his unique mark on the racer and called on George Barris, known as King of the Kustomizers (Barris later built the original Batmobile & Munster Koach), to get to work on the Spyder. Legend has it that under Jimmy’s guidance, Barris added custom tartan covered seats to the new Spyder. The large “130” racing number on the doors, hood and engine cover, and the now infamous “Little Bastard” badge, were applied by another auto legend– master pinstriper and customizer Dean Jeffries who had a shop next to George Barris. True to the legendary curse, the possessed Porsche did not fail to live up to it’s name.
Check out the definitive read– Lee Raskin’s James Dean: At Speed
Lee Raskin sets the record straight on George Barris HERE
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How is it possible that he was only 24? It gets me every time.
I know. Hard to believe. I didn’t have much to show for my first 24 years.
I also don’t have much to show and i’m much older…he lived his life to the fullest and his estate is still making millions.
Even his car is now worth $1 million if it’s ever found.
How about the CRAZY shit that surrounds the car? All the deaths after? The fact that it disappeared off a train in the 60s and hasn’t been seen since? Man, cursed for sure. Dean ate at the Farmer’s Market over on Fairfax the morning of his last trip. I think about that EVERY TIME I go eat there.
It’s pretty crazy alright, and has taken on epic proportions. They talk about the subsequent deaths and injuries blamed on the cursed Spyder in the video as well. Seems like not just the car was cursed, there’s also been plenty written about “Rebel without a cause” being cursed too because of the untimely and/or unnatural deaths of many of the stars– Dean, Wood, Mineo, Adams… it’s fodder for many a documentary or weekday blog post.
Have a great 4th, Nick–
Dad’s got a great article cut from a paper from the 1970’s that gets very investigative of “the curse.” I’ll dig it up next time I’m in the country and scan if for you boys.
Actually “atimetoget”, he ate at The Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine, which is now an El Pollo Loco. He had donuts and coffee with his dad and uncle while he waited for some last minute fixes to his Spyder at Competition Motors on Vine near sunset.
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How the hell did I miss that video the first time I looked at this post? Who’s the asshole? I’m the asshole. Be good buddy. And have a good one today.
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As a Post Script (PS) to the above: I am the ‘Lee Raskin, Porsche Historian’ who is featured in this YouTube ‘Curse Of The James Dean Car Video, which aired on ABC’s America’s Best Kept Secrets, 1991. Since that broadcast and over the 18 years since, I have clearly disagreed with what George Barris had to say in that interview. 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, James Dean At Speed.
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His Birthday today…
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