Halloween Special: The Curse of “Little Bastard”


It was the 30th of September 1955. Up and coming Hollywood actor and amateur racer  James Dean was driving his custom built Porsche 550 Spyder, “Little Bastard”, to Salinas in California for a weekend of racing with Porsche mechanic Rolf Wutherich. Dean was driving the Porsche enthusiastically as he hadn’t much seat time in the car and was using the drive to the races to get to know the way the car behaved.

On the other side of the road, a 23 year old Donald Turnupseed in his 1950 Ford Tudor went to turn left at a junction and moved straight into the path of the oncoming Porsche which he did not see. The following head on collision was harsh. The heavy Ford was shunted 12 meters away from the initial site of impact and Dean’s Porsche cartwheeled off the road and into a gully.

Dean was killed pretty much instantly, suffering a broken neck along with a string of other broken bones and internal injuries. Wutherich survived the crash but had a broken jaw and bad hip and femur injuries and Turnupseed was able to walk away with slight facial injuries.

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The misfortune caused by the Porsche didn’t end at Dean’s accident though!

Following the accident  Dr William F. Eschrich brought the car and put who put the Porsche’s engine and running gear into his Lotus XI chassis. Eschrich was badly injured after his car locked up going into a corner and rolled over. The engine later found it’s way into the car of Dr Troy McHenry who was killed after hitting a tree in his first race with the engine. Apparently two wheels from Dean’s Porsche found their way onto another car, both tyres blew out at the same time forcing the car to leave the road.

The shell of the car eventually fell into the hands of a chap called George Barris, the “King of Kustomizers”. Barris hired out the wreckage to the LA branch of the National Safety Council who displayed it at car shows and movie theatres to promote road safety. Sadly Barris had distorted the history of the car, turning it into a bit of a myth, so more people would go and see it.  Two oddities actually happened over the course of the cars time on display from what I have gathered. Firstly a garage the car was being stored in before a show caught fire, the car suffered no major damage and there were no injuries. Secondly the car managed to fall off a plinth and broke a students hip bone.

The car mysteriously vanished in 1960. It was in transport in a sealed box truck. When the truck arrived the seal was intact but the car was gone. Some believe Barris purposefully lost the car as interest in it was fading to round off the myth of the machine.

Whatever happened to the wreckage all we know is that a young and promising talent was snatched from us too quickly by an accident that really shouldn’t have happened. Stay safe on the roads kids! Speed limits are there for a reason!

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I’ve been told that if you wear very dark glasses and stand a long way away I actually look a little like James Dean!

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