The story of the cursed Porsche 550 Spyder that killed James Dean

It was nicknamed: "Little Bastard"

4w ago

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On September 30th 1955, we lost a terrific actor named James Dean. Today marks 65 years since his death and his story still continues to be told. Not only was James a fantastic actor but he was also a car lover and this also happens to be one of the reasons he isn't with us today.

Back in 1955, James Dean had just dropped off his 356 which he chopped in for a Porsche 550 Spyder in California. A great day I would assume. Just imagine that for a second. Leaving the dealership on a sunny day in California in a Porsche 550 Spyder while being James Dean. It doesn't get much cooler than that.

He was obviously very proud of this new purchase and decided to show it off to some friends. In fact, on September 23 of 1955, Dean met actor Alec Guinness (best known for his role in Bridge on the River Kwai) outside of a restaurant and had him take a look at the Spyder.

Guinness told Dean that the car had a “sinister” appearance and then told Dean: “If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.” And as he said, Dean was killed in his beloved “Little Bastard" seven days later in a head-on collision with a Ford Tudor.

While that may seem suspicious, the plot thickens. That “Little Bastard” not only killed James Dean, but killed and injured many others who came in contact with it causing many to say that it was cursed. George Barris, the man who originally customised the 550, bought the wrecked carcass of “Little Bastard” for $2,500 and soon after, it slipped off its trailer and broke a mechanics leg.

Not long after that, he sold the engine and drivetrain to two men named Troy McHenry and William Eschrid. While these two were racing against one another in cars that had parts from the “Little Bastard,” McHenry lost control and hit a tree, killing him instantly and Eschrid was seriously injured when his car suddenly locked up and rolled over while going into a turn.

But the plot thickens still as after the car had been crashed by James Dean, Barris sold two tyres from the 550 which were untouched in Dean’s accident. Not long after he had sold them, both blew out simultaneously causing the new owner’s car to run off the road.

Due to all the incidents involving the “Little Bastard,” Barris decided to hide the car but was convinced by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to lend the cursed heap to a highway safety exhibition.

However, the first exhibition was unsuccessful as the garage that housed the car caught fire and burned to the ground. But strangely enough, the car suffered virtually no damage from the fire. And then the next exhibition at a local high school ended abruptly when the car fell off its display and broke a nearby student’s hip.

And if you thought that wasn't enough, when the “Little Bastard” was being transported, the truck carrying the car lost control which caused the driver to fall out and somehow get crushed by the car after it fell off the back. The car fell off of two more transport trucks after that while travelling on the freeway fortunately not injuring anyone. The CHP decided that it had had enough of the “Little Bastard” and while transporting the car to Barris, the car mysteriously vanished and has not been seen since.

It's a very strange and mysterious story of this cursed 550 Spyder and one which I would love to be found. Whether it was at the fault of those who handled it or not, it does seem odd that one car could cause so much damage. I do wonder where it is today but for now, it remains lost and by the sound of it, it's for the best.

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Comments (58)

  • A great read Ben. I had no idea about it’s history. Do you think it was lurking in a Chinese food market at the end of 2019 with a suspiciously dry cough?!

      1 month ago
  • It’s been 65 years since this Porsche killed James Dean @tribe

      1 month ago
  • Christine. Just saying.

      1 month ago
  • Read this story before, you did a good take on it Ben, keep it up!

      1 month ago
  • In 1997 I met a man from NYC who claimed to know where the car was at that time. He was "in sanitation" which is code for mafia. He claimed a mafia figure had it stored in a garage in NYC and was sitting on it as his prized possession. I was given no further details and was in too much of a shock to ask the right and not the wrong questions. That's my brush with this car.

      1 month ago

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