In most cases, when the Porsche 550 Spyder is brought up in conversation, someone will mention James Dean's "Little Bastard", the Porsche in which he ultimately died. The 550 has become synonymous with James Dean even among people who are not automotive enthusiasts. While the Porsche 550 was a legend in its own right, it has gained something of a notoriety because of this unfortunate event. Forever, the 550 Spyder will be inextricably linked with James Dean, and the reverse is also true.
With the tragic deaths of Paul Walker and Roger Rodas just over a week ago, it seems that the Carrera GT has garnered a similar reputation. Some of the mainstream media are reacting in a typically knee-jerk way, calling the beloved and spectacular CGT 'unsafe' and 'not fit for public roads'. Certainly, what these members of the media are best at, the sky-is-falling finger pointing, arm waving and fear mongering, is going full force, creating a witch hunt looking for someone to blame. Some have even called Porsche the responsible party in this tragic accident for building the car in the first place. While it is truly not a tame car in comparison with the normal commuter-mobile, there are certainly more suspect cars being sold to the general public and Porsche is not at fault.
James Dean And Paul Walker
While I don't mean to compare James Dean with Paul Walker, but rather the infamy of the 550 and the potential for it with the CGT, the comparison of Dean and Walker is almost inevitable. The fact remains that both lives were ended prematurely at the heights of their respective acting careers in very high-profile accidents, and both involved the highest of performance Porsches at the time. Both of the actors mentioned here led active lives in the automotive communities, and both were very experienced behind the wheels of various racing cars on Southern California racetracks.
The accidents themselves were very different; one being a single car accident, and the other having two afflicted parties. Dean's Porsche was contacted by an unfortunately mobile Ford wagon, while the Walker Porsche struck an unfortunately immobile pole. However, they are also strikingly similar. Both mid-engine high performance Porsches were broken in half, nearly doubled on themselves at the driver's compartment, and in both cases, the occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.
What Does The Future Hold For The Reputation Of The Carrera GT?
Will Porsche's Carrera GT survive the reputational assault that a tragedy of this magnitude can bestow, or will this event be the proverbial albatross around the neck? It has been 58 years since Dean's passing, and not only his car, but all 550s are linked to that event in our collective consciousness. Will the first memory of the Carrera GT always be as the car that Paul Walker and Roger Rodas lost their lives in?
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Is This the Final Picture of James Dean in his Porsche 550 Spyder? If So it’s up for Auction!
Porsche Spyders by Karl Ludvigsen
Dean for a Day