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Curse of James Dean’s Porsche Spyder: Background

James Dean was an American actor that appeared in films, such as ‘A Rebel Without a Cause’ and ‘East of Eden.’ He died before his prime at the age of 24. Besides being a celebrity with a tragic ending, Dean is also known for his Porsche Spyder, which has a reputation for being cursed. In this article, you will learn more the background about Dean and the vehicle that would take his life.

There are many different versions of what happened to James Dean and his Porsche Spyder after his death. This is just one of them retold. It was the spring of 1955 and Dean had just gotten a part in ‘East of Eden’. He entered the Palm Springs Road Races and came in second place with his Porsche 356 Speedster. He would enter other races, placing fourth or better. However, this is not the car that would go down in history as being infamously cursed.

During his time on the set of ‘Rebel Without a Cause,’ Dean traded his Speedster for a Porsche 550 Spyder. This particular car was one of only 90 made. While filming ‘Giant,’ Dean was under a contract that kept him from racing.

The Spyder underwent customization at the hands of Georges Barris , the same man who would later design the Batmobile. Dean’s stunt driving coach Bill Hickman in ‘Giant’ gave the car the nickname ‘Little Bastard,’ which was painted on the side of the car. Dean invited actor Alec Guinness to look at the Spyder on September 23. When the actor laid eyes on the car, he described it as looking ‘sinister.’ Guinness reportedly told Dean “If you get in that Porsche, you will be dead next week.”

Dean intended on entered the Spyder in a car race in Salinas, California. Dean and his mechanic got the car ready on September 30. The initial plan was to place the car in a trailer, but at the last minute, the actor decided that he wanted to drive the vehicle himself so that he could get more familiarized with it. Behind the wheel, he took off in the Spyder with his mechanic Rolf Wütherich in the passenger seat.

Before losing his life, Dean was given a ticket for driving 65 in a 55 mph zone. Traveling down what is now known as State Route 46, Dean was heading towards a Ford coming from the opposite direction. The driver crossed into the lane Dean was in without seeing the actor. The two cars were soon involved in a near head-on collision.

The officers called to the scene found the driver of the Ford was a gash in his forehead and a bruised nose. Wütherich was tossed from the Spyder with a broken jaw and other injuries. Dean was transferred to an ambulance. He was breathing heavily, but he did not make it. When he reached the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, he was pronounced dead.

In the aftermath of the accident, Wütherich never fully recovered. He lived through several suicide attempts, and later died in a road accident in Germany in 1981.