When James Dean died at the wheel of his 550 Spyder on September 30, 1955 he and his car, affectionately called “little bastard”, became an infamous part of Porsche’s history and lore. To this day the legend surrounding Dean’s car continues to grow.
Used as a highway safety exhibit for a while, the wrecked shell of what is said to be Dean’s Spyder toured the country before going missing while being transported from Florida to California. Since then, the car, its parts and the resulting wreckage have taken on a life of their own. By many accounts, its parts and wreckage are cursed. There are others, however, who believe the lore is all just part of a story, a marketing ploy if you will, by a great showman (George Barris) and that the real body of Dean’s Spyder was sent to a scrap yard and is never to be found again.
Today, a new twist to the old story came to light. ABC7 in Chicago posted a story about the possibility of a new “lead” in the hunt for James Dean’s wrecked Porsche. Their story goes on to recount a tale from the Volo Auto Museum (the same museum who put up a $1MM reward, in 2005, for the lost wreckage). After reading the story we decided to reach out to the Museum ourselves and hear what they had to say. Here’s what we learned after speaking with Brian Grams, director of the Volo Auto Museum.
Grams told us that interest in the wreckage has always ebbed and flowed, but gained some traction in the winter of 2014 after an episode of “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” aired recounting the story of the missing 550 Spyder. One call in particular caught his attention.
“The past 10 years have brought me in contact with a lot of interesting characters. This most recent gentleman approached us.” Specifically, Grams said, “This man told me he was there when his father and others hid the wreckage behind a false wall in Whatcom County, Washington. It was too good of a story, it sounded fabricated.”
Intrigued by the details of the story, Grams said the man volunteered to take a lie detector test, did so, and passed.
As of now, the exact location of the supposed wreckage has not yet been revealed as Grams negotiates with the man for a piece of the reward money. Grams said the museum will only pay the reward if it can get legal possession of the wreckage (it’s current legal ownership status is unclear).
Grams thinks the man, and his story, are believable. Is it true? We have no idea. We do know the legend of Dean’s “little bastard” lives on and continues to grow every time there is a story like this. Will bring you more when we learn more.
For those of you interested in even more details about Dean’s death, the conflicting reports and legend, what’s true and what isn’t, we’re told that “The Death of James Dean” by Warren N. Beath is worth a read as is Lee Raskin’s “James Dean: At Speed“.