The James Dean Death Car was just a stopping ground for Dean, he thought, waiting for his ultimate racing machine a superior Lotus MK X that was delayed. So it starts with the Spyder, it wasn’t even the car Dean was after. But being able to race again Dean wanted a car for the races at Salinas California.
The Spyder was customized by George Barris who went on to design the Bat Mobile. “Little Bastard” was numbered 130 on the front, side and back of the car. It had tartan on the seating and 2 red stripes at the rear of its wheel well.
Bill Hickman gave the car the name of “Little Bastard” and Dean asked Dean Jefferies to paint it on the car.
And so the legend of the cars energy begins…. After picking the car up Dean asked Alec Guinness to look at the car, and Alec told him the car look sinister, telling Dean that if he didn’t get rid of the car James would be dead in a week. Alec was right it was exactly one week later that the fatal crash took Deans life.
Alec wasn’t the only one that got “feelings” from the car. Ursula Andress, Deans current girl friend refused to even get into the car. Eartha Kitt and Nick Adams also expressed feelings of unease around the Spyder. When Adams verbalized his concerns to Dean he was brushed off with “I am destined to die in a speeding car” George Barris said the car gave off the feelings of impending doom. Maila Nurmi (aka Vampira) was horrified when she saw the Spyder even going as far as leaving a warning note on the windshield for Dean. The last of a long list of Warnings Jimmy received about the car was shortly before that fate full day from his own Uncle Charlie Nolan.
James Dean wasn’t just a bad-boy with a fast car, he was an accomplished driver. Dean had come in 2nd in the Palm Springs Road Race and 3rd in the 1955 Bakersfield races.
The “Little Bastard” was supposed to be trailered to Salinas that day but at the last minute Dean decided to drive her and took the mechanic with him, leaving the others in his group following behind in the station wagon he should have been in.
At 3:30 PM Dean was pulled over and given a speeding ticket for doing 65 in a 45MPH zone.
At 5:59PM Donald Turnupspeed (Yes that is really the mans’ name) was driving home from school for the weekend in a 1950 Ford Custom Tudor Coupe and travelling in the opposite direction from the Spyder. The 2 cars collided head on in the intersection of Rts 41 and 466.
James was pinned in the Porsche with a broken neck among other injuries and died in transport to the hospital. Wiretherick (the mechanic) was thrown clear of the Spyder but suffered a broken leg, broken jaw and a few internal injuries. Surviving the crash he would later go on to die in a 1981 auto accident.
Turnupspeed suffered only minor injuries and refused medical attention. He was not sighted for the accident but has Never talked about it.
Little Bastard was mangled and nearly torn into. Looking like, some said, a crumpled pack of cigarettes.
George Barris purchased what remained of the Spyder, selling off the engine to Troy Mchenry and the chassis to William Eschrid, both race enthusiast doctors.
The 2 tires that survived the wreck were sold to a young man in New York.
It was rumoured that when the car arrived at Barris’s garage it fell and broke a mechanics legs but there have been reports to the contrary. However, there are many, many things that did in fact happen.
Barris loaned out the wreckage to the State highway patrol in various locations for display to discourage speeding.
On October 21st 1956 both doctors raced their cars with the pieces of “Little Bastard” installed into their cars. Mchenry’s Porsche Spyder spun out of control and hit a tree killing him instantly.
Eschrid was seriously injured when his car rolled going around a curve in the race. Hurting him badly but at least not killing him. Some say, but it wasn’t the chassis that caused his accident, but seems like a little too much of a coincidence.
The 2 tires that went to the young man was reported to have both blown at the same time causing him to loose control of his car and end up in a ditch.
A souvenir seeker ripped his arm open on jagged metal when he was trying to steal the steering wheel, while the car was in storage.
Another tried to steal a piece of the blood soaked upholstery and was injured on the wreckage.
While being stored in a garage in Fresno California the garage caught on fire and everything but the Spyder was destroyed, barely even scorching the paint on her.
It cannot be verified, but it but it has been said that while on display in Sacramento on the anniversary of Deans Death the car snapped a bolt and fell off a pedestal it was displayed on, injuring a student.
Later in route to Salinas a truck driver, George Barhius, transporting the Porsche lost control of his truck and was thrown free of the cab only to die when “Little Bastard” fell off the flat bed a crushed him to death.
A fatal freeway accident was caused 2 years later when it fell off of yet another flat bed truck.
In 1958 a truck transporting the car was parked on a hill and smashed the windshield of the car behind it when the brakes gave out.
1959 on display in New Orleans the Porsche just fell apart into 11 pieces. Barris apparently having enough ordered the Spyder shipped back to him in California, and it is said it was shipped, however Barris reported that he never got it and the car has never been seen again.
However, on the 50th anniversary of Deans Death the passenger door of the Spyder was placed on display at the Volvo Auto Museum in Illinois. How they managed to find the door can’t track down, but there is currently a 1 million dollar reward for what is left of that evil car “Little Bastard”.
The remaining mechanical parts are reported to be with one of Deans relatives, but nobody knows or is saying who. A few years back it is reported that a piece was sold at auction on eBay.
Too many things happened to accept as coincidences, especially since so many people felt the evil that the car put off from the very start.
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