When friends laid eyes on James Dean’s Porsche Spyder, they told him it was trouble. Only one of a mere 90 made in 1955, Dean nicknamed the diminutive Porsche “The Little Bastard”, and it certainly lived up to the derogatory title!
Yes, some say the Little Bastard is a cursed car, not only carrying the Rebel Without a Cause to an early grave on September 30th, 1955, but also continuing to cause havoc long after his death. The stories may have begun much like those of the legendary Elvis, wherein fans refuse to accept that he is gone and create urban myths. One such myth was that Dean survived the crash, but was horribly disfigured and in hiding. It did not take long for one tale to spin off and a legend to take a life of its own, starting with Dean’s Porsche Spyder.
It seems that following the death of James Dean salvaged parts of the cursed Porsche have been linked to other tragedies. Following the tragedy, a master car customizer by the name of George Barris purchased the Little Bastard wreckage for $2,500. Upon arrival at Barris’s garage, the Porsche was accidentally dropped on a leg of one of the mechanics unloading it, breaking the leg (Well, they say that in show biz, ‘Break a Leg’).
The next incident with the famous Porsche Spyder occurred at a race at the Pomona Fair grounds on October 24, 1956. Two physicians, William Eschrid and Troy McHenry, were racing cars that included parts from Dean’s Porsche. McHenry’s car had the engine from the Little Bastard, which he lost control of and hit a tree, killing him. Eschrid flipped his car over after it suddenly locked up on a curve, but he survived.
The tales continued, with a story of a kid who tried to steal the famous steering wheel from Dean’s Porsche, and suffering a terrible arm gash. Barris sold two of the tires to a young man, and within a week he was involved in a crash because both tires blew out simultaneously. Ok, that one is creepy.
Barris then loaned the cursed Porsche Spyder to the California Highway Patrol to use in a safe driving display. Within days, the garage housing James Dean’s Porsche Spyder burnt to the ground, with only the Little Bastard unscathed. Every other vehicle parked in the building was completely destroyed. Was it coated in fire retardant, or put back after the fire? Hmm.
Next the Little Bastard got to visit Sacramento, where it fell from its display and broke a teenager’s hip. A man named George Barkuis was hauling it on his flatbed, when he was ejected from the vehicle and crushed to death by the Porsche.
These types of stories flourished until around 1960, when Dean’s Porsche was loaned out for a safety exhibit in Miami, Florida. Following the duration of the exhibit, the Porsche was en route back to Los Angeles when it mysteriously vanished. To this day, the whereabouts of the Little Bastard are unknown. I do not think I will be buying any used Porsche parts from California…just kidding.
I suppose my theory is that someone sold it and made a fast buck, or a superstitious Burris finally put it in a safe place? What do you think may have happened to James Dean’s car? Leave comments below!
*Pictured is a replica of Dean’s car, taken at the 2010 James Dean Festival in his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana where Imagine Lifestyles attended the auto show.
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