James Dean had declared several times: “Live young, die young and you will be a beautiful corpse”, and he fulfilled it to the letter. His early death, at the wheel of his Porsche 550 Spyder, at only 24 years of age, made him a legend and his memory continues to be a business that moves millions of dollars.
Born on February 8, 1931 in Indiana, United States, the actor really enjoyed speed. His latest acquisition was a Porsche 550 Spyder, an authentic racing car baptized as the little bastard, this because of its difficulty to be driven, although this nickname also contains several stories that have surrounded the German sports car since that tragic accident.
On September 30, 1955, James was driving his brand new Porsche on the Salinas Freeway in Paso Robles, California. It had been delivered to him a week earlier, on September 23.
While Dean was traveling down the highway at 160 km / h, accompanied by his mechanic, a Ford Custom passed at high speed at the junction of highways 41 and 466, driven by student Rolf Weuterich.
The actor tried to dodge it, but the impact was inevitable. Due to the speed, the 550 Spyder crashed into the Ford and James broke his neck and his head hung above the door, his arms and legs were shattered and the left part of his face was completely disfigured upon impact, losing the life instantly.
The driver of the Ford only broke his nose and injured his shoulder, while Dean’s mechanic was thrown from the car, breaking his leg and jaw. James Dean was buried in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana, on October 8, 1955. This terrible episode made him a legend, but it also punished all those who came into contact with the car.
The 550 Spyder was not only the first sports racing vehicle launched by the German firm, it was also the first Porsche to obtain an outright victory in a test, the 1956 Targa Florio. In total, the 550 Spyders achieved 95 overall victories and 75 category victories out of a total of 370 races contested.
More than enough figures for a small aluminum sports car weighing just 590 kilos, which could accelerate from zero to 100 km / h in seven seconds and develop a speed of up to 220 km / h, powered by a small four-cylinder engine 1.5-liter engine, powered by two twin-body Solex 40 PJJ-4 carburettors, generating 110 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels, mated to a four-speed manual transmission.
By ironies of fate, James had appeared in a television interview a couple of weeks earlier, where fellow actor Gig Young asked him some questions. James advised young spectators to be cautious, warning them of the risk involved in speeding. “Drive carefully, the life you save may be mine,” James said.
At that time, Dean, turned into a youth idol, had already starred in only three films: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, the latter had not yet been released at the time of the accident, however, James Dean became the first actor to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for best actor and still remains the only actor to have earned two after death.
After the accident in which the young actor lost his life, the vehicle was left by the famous Hollywood car preparer, George Barris. When it was lowered from the truck, the restraints broke and the Porsche fell on both legs of a mechanic, who broke them.
Later, in the middle of a race, the tires blew out and the driver was seriously injured, and years later his drive shaft and engine were mounted on two racing cars; both pilots had an accident and died. After these mishaps, Barris got rid of him and took him to a museum, where he fell from his pedestal, breaking a visitor’s hip. Before its destruction, the truck that was transporting it to the junkyard suffered an accident and the driver of the vehicle that hit it died.
Throughout the history of the automobile, many vehicles have earned an important place, either because of their design, commercial success, power, or because they became the worthy representatives of a particular era, however, other cars have won fame due to different inexplicable events that have surrounded them, some kind of curse on them that have classified them as cursed cars.
Unfortunately, regardless of its sporting achievements, the Porsche 550 RS Spyder will always be remembered for being the vehicle James Dean was driving at the time of his death.