September 30, 1955 – The death of James Dean & the curse of his Porsche

American actor James Dean passed away at the age of 24 on this day in 1955 when he was involved in a wreck while driving his Porsche 550 Spyder. Dean, who starred in such movies as East of Eden, Giant and Rebel Without a Cause, was a beloved actor who took up an interest in auto racing in 1954. He first purchased Triumph Tiger T110 and a Porsche 356. He participated in his first professional race at Palm Springs Road Races March 26-27, 1955. He won first place in the novice and second in the main event.  His final race was May 30, 1955. He had to stop racing to film the movie Giant. After wrapping up his scenes for the movie Dean longed to get back in the driver’s seat. He was scheduled for a race in Salinas and was on his way there on this day in 1955 when he was ticketed for speeding at 3:30 pm in his Porsche 550. Approximately an hour and 45 minutes later at 5:15 a 11950 Ford Tudor went to turn in front of Dean. He could not stop in time and slammed into the vehicle, killing him almost instantly as a result of several injuries, including a broken neck. The man in the Ford walked away with minor injuries. Dean’s passenger and Porsche mechanic suffered a broken jaw and serious hip and femur injuries. In 1956 he wrecked car was sold to hot rod builder George Barris who decided to take it on tour as a sort of side-show. After a number of mishaps involving the car, including the death of a driver who put the Porsche’s engine in his racecar and crashed, and the car crushing a tow truck driver, it was assumed the Porsche was cursed. In 1960 the car was being transported in a sealed truck back to LA after a tour. When the truck arrived and was opened it was found the car had disappeared. To this day nobody knows the whereabouts of the car, but a man in Bellingham, Washington last laid claim to a $1 million prize offered by the Volo Auto Museum in Chicago, stating he saw the car being hidden behind a false wall in a building in Whatcom County. This was in 2015 and the story has yet to be authenticated.

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