THERE wasn’t much left of the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder actor James Dean died in, but the car’s 4-speed transaxle survived — and has just fetched $382,000 (AU $500,000) on the US Bring a Trailer classic car auction site.
That’s about what you’d pay for two new Porsche 911 Speedsters in Australia.
James Dean was a handsome young actor who, back in 1955, made the ladies swoon with his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden.
But he was also an enthusiastic amateur racer and had competed in several of the plentiful Sports Car Club of America events in his Porsche 365 Speedster.
He also had a love of motorcycles — he owned half a dozen of them — before he bought an MG TF, which he traded on the Speedster.
That was in early 1955.
On March 27, that year, he made his racing debut at Palm Springs, where he won the preliminary race, which qualified him for the finals.
He finished the race in third place, behind a pair of MG Specials, but one was disqualified on a technicality and James was bumped up to second place.
Next, he raced at Minter Field Bakersfield, California, again finished third, behind an MG Special and a Panhard Devin, and was first in his class.
A couple of weeks later he was at the Santa Barbara Road Races, where he drew 18th position for the under 1500cc race but had moved up to fourth place after four laps, before his Porsche blew a piston on lap five.
On September 21, ‘55, he traded the Speedster on a new Porsche 550 Spyder, chassis #550-0055 from Competition Motors in Hollywood and had the number 130 and the nickname “Little Bastard” applied to the body.
However, just nine days later, while driving to a race meeting at Salinas, he was killed in a collision with a 1950 Ford Custom at the intersection of State Route 46 and State Route 41 in Cholame, California.