by Laurance Yap
Carmel, California – If you’re into “Twilight Zone” stuff, you may wonder whether James Dean’s death – driving at 57 mph in a 60 mph zone at the intersection of Highways 466 and 41 near Salinas, CA – was somehow predestined. For there’s a not insignificant amount of evidence that his car, Little Bastard, may have been somehow cursed.
Just days before the crash, Dean conducted a telephone interview with a popular Los Angeles radio show. The announcer reminded listeners of his reputation for fast driving and asked him if he had any any advice for young drivers. He explained that since beginning racing he never drove fast on the road, because he could never be sure what other drivers were doing, whether they would see him or not. His last words to his passenger on that day as Donald Turnipseed pulled out of the intersection in his 1953 Ford? “I wonder if he sees us.”
George Barris – who did much of the customizing work on the car, including painting its name on the back – bought the remains of Dean’s 550 Spyder back for $2500. Upon arriving back at his shop, the car fell off its trailer and broke both of the legs of the mechanic that was unloading it.
Barris subsequently sold some parts off Little Bastard to two racers who were participating in a race on October 24, 1956. The first crashed and died. The other one, which was using Little Bastard’s engine, suffered a fire, lost control, and flipped, seriously injuring its driver.
Later on, a kid trying to steal the 550’s steering wheel from Barris’ shop was hurt while trying to escape. Another racer to whom Barris sold two tires off Dean’s car suffered a massive blowout, crashed, and was nearly killed.
Not sensing that it might be a bad idea, the California Highway Patrol asked Barris to use the Porsche in a travelling exhibit on road safety. The CHP garage in which it was being stored burned to the ground, though the car still survived. At the first of many exhibit stops, the car fell off the wall it was mounted on, breaking a teenager’s hip.
By 1960, the CHP had finally had enough and shipped the car back to Barris from San Francisco. The car and the transporter carrying it simply disappeared into thin air, never to be seen again.