All photos and info of James Dean and his spyder are credited to The Selvedge Yard Please check his website out, there is a bunch of great articles on his blog.
Circa 1955– James Dean on the lot of Competition Motors with his infamous silver Porsche 550 Spyder, not long before is tragic death– Sept. 30, 1955 – Image courtesy mptvimages.com. Jimmy had finished shooting George Stevens’ epic “Giant”– notice his hairline was shaved by the studio to play the older, receeding Jett Rink. With the film in the bag, Jimmy was now free to race.
Lee Raskin is widely considered an expert in regard early Porsche auto history, and in particular– James Dean’s brief but spectacular Porsche racing career. Lee has consulted with authors and video producers regarding James Dean’s motorsports activities and the mysterious disappearance of his “Little Bastard” 550 Spyder following Dean’s death in 1955. In fact, his book James Dean: At Speed is considered the final authority on the subject, and a must-read for any James Dean fan.
Recently, Lee himself contacted TSY– wanting to set the record straight on a few myths that have long haunted James Dean and his “Little Bastard”. I also feel it’s well deserved to pay tribute to Lee Raskin for all the personal sacrifice, energy and resources he’s put into preserving the history of Porsche and James Dean.
James Dean going over the Porsche Spyder at Competition Motors on Vine Street in Hollywood.
I would like to correct some facts: James Dean had entered the Salinas Airport Races for the Oct. 1st weekend of 1955. Dean was a provisionary racer with the Calif Sports Car Club and Sports Car Club of America. He did not have a permanent race number. He selected 130 which was available. He did not go to George Barris for any painting or striping. Dean Jeffries, who had a paint shop next to Barris did the work which consisted of: Painting ‘130′ in black non-permanent paint on the front hood, doors and rear deck lid. He also painted “Little Bastard” in script across the rear cowling. The red leather bucket seats and red tail stripes were original. The tail stripes were painted by the Stuttgart factory, which was customary on the Spyders for racing ID. –Lee Raskin, Porsche historian, and author of James Dean At Speed.
James Dean with his “Little Bastard– great view of the tail stripes and Dean Jeffries’ handiwork.
James Dean’s fatal accident wreckage was used for PSA’s warning drivers about the dangers and consequences of careless driving. As shocking and insensitive as it is to see, I’m sure it made a lasting impression.
James Dean and his infamous “Little Bastard” Porsche Spyder.
On September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic Rolf Wütherich set off from Competition Motors, where they had prepared his Porsche 550 Spyder that morning for a sports car race at Salinas, California. Dean originally intended to trailer the Porsche to the meeting point at Salinas, behind his new Ford Country Squire station wagon, crewed by Hickman and photographer Sanford Roth, who was planning a photo story of Dean at the races. At the last minute, Dean drove the Spyder, having decided he needed more time to familiarize himself with the car. At 3:30 p.m., Dean was ticketed in Mettler Station, Kern County, for driving 65 mph (105 km/h) in a 55 mph (89 km/h) zone. The driver of the Ford was ticketed for driving 20 mph (32 km/h) over the limit, as the speed limit for all vehicles towing a trailer was 45 mph (72 km/h). Later, having left the Ford far behind, they stopped at Blackwells Corner in Lost Hills for fuel and met up with fellow racer Lance Reventlow.
Dean was driving west on U.S. Route 466 (later State Route 46) near Cholame, California when a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, driven from the opposite direction by 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed, attempted to take the fork onto State Route 41 and crossed into Dean’s lane without seeing him. The two cars hit almost head on. According to a story in the October 1, 2005 edition of the Los Angeles Times, California Highway Patrol officer Ron Nelson and his partner had been finishing a coffee break in Paso Robles when they were called to the scene of the accident, where they saw a heavily breathing Dean being placed into an ambulance. Wütherich had been thrown from the car, but survived with a broken jaw and other injuries. Dean was taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 5:59 p.m. His last known words, uttered right before impact, were said to have been “That guy’s gotta stop… He’ll see us.”
James Dean is equally iconic as Marilyn Monroe. They are still idolized by people of all ages. I have friends that are huge fans and yet they were born 29 to 30 years after his death. One of my favorite paintings Edward Hopper’s famous 1942 painting, Nighthawks. I am not sure when someone did a parody of the painting, using 3 famous persons.
Here is the Original:
Click on photo to enlarge
Here is the parody done by the artist Gottfried Helnwein:
Click on photo to enlarge
James Dean was an icon that died too early. When you are driving faster than you should, just remember speed kills. Don’t get me wrong I love going fast but I know my limitations. Just like in Deans death, knowing your limitations is not always enough. You must also watch out for idiots on the road. I learned this while riding in the cobra. When people look at the car, they tend to steer into us unintentionally. So you must drive offensively and defensively. If you drive faster than you should thats your choice. Just don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly. Stay safe..
Thanks for reading,