“Alvaro Martínez” is a freelance writer who writes articles in his spare time and works making automotive reviews and many many more things


“Live intensely, die young and leave a beautiful corpse” That was the phrase once pronounced by the late James dean, and sadly he had managed to fulfill it after only a week of ownership of his brand new car. The American actor which was an icon of fame in the 1950s was also a well known car enthusiast, and could often be seen around the Palm springs racetrack driving whatever he could get his hands on.

A few weeks before the tragic accident, the actor had ordered a Lotus Mk10 to race in which he would use to compete at the Paso robles racetrack. The British car however, was going to be delayed and so… James traded in his Porsche 356 for a friend’s Porsche 550 Spider, due to the car’s hard handling he nicknamed it “Little bastard” James would then be on his way…towards the grave.

Although James Dean could barely enjoy the car for a week he had fallen in love with it, the car had been customized by George Barris. A famous tuner of many movie cars in the 50s, a few days before the accident Sir Alec Guinness warned Dean about the Porsche -”If you get in that car they’ll find you dead in a week” Alec warned to James. There was something sinister about the car that didn’t inspire confidence to the actor, Anyone naturally would remove iron from such a grim warning taking it as an invitation to drive safely.  

The Accident & it’s following misfortunes.

On Sept 30, 1955 James Dean went with his friend Rolf Weutherich to a race that was held in the state of California. He was following route 446, away from the highways which would have attracted lots of attention. James had been earlier pulled over by a policeman who had recommended him to slow down, a warning that he certainly should have taken more seriously.

At the intersection with route 41, “Little Bastard” collided frontally with a Ford Tudor driven by a student. James then spun out the road and slammed against a fence. The young actor died on it’s way to the hospital, while his passenger Rolf survived with severe injuries as he was thrown of the car and landed on a roadside ditch.

Although the accident had left the car turned into an unrecognizable jumble of irons, some parts of the car were still usable and George Barris bought the wreckage and brought it to his shop wanting to restore it. And thus the Porsche’s frightening story began, the crane that was lowering the wreck of the Porsche had it’s ropes snap causing an accident in which both legs of a mechanic were broken by the falling vehicle. However, that wouldn’t be the last incident Little bastard would cause.

Scared by this misfortune, Barris sold the engine, transmission & tires to three racers. During a race one of them would end losing control and get killed after crashing against a tree, the other ended badly injured after a collision with the racetrack walls and the last racer ended in a coma… after the car’s tires blew and crashed against a wall. And if that wasn’t enough, two thieves that tried to steal the steering wheel of Little Bastard would leave empty handed with one of them losing his arm to the vehicle… Even then Little bastard had still a lot more to dish out under its bodywork. 

The later months & the last victims. 

After this chain of misfortunes, Barris suspected that the car was haunted and so he went to get rid of what little was left of the car. Although later he was convinced to donate the car to the CHP to be shown in an exhibition about road safety, which would ironically become an exhibition against it.

The exhibition didn’t get to be opened, since the building where Little bastard was stored burned down to the ground along many of the other exhibits. The Porsche 550 Spider barely suffered any damage and soon was brought to a museum in Sacramento CA in which the car would fall off a stand and break a student’s hip. Eventually, the people started to grow aware of what accompanied the car and so the haunted Porsche was returned to Barris who wished to get rid of “Little bastard” once and for all.

Another incident involving “Little Bastard” would involve a truck hauling it’s remains to George, a car lost control and crashed against the truck hauling it. The truck driver would then perish as Little bastard crushed it as it’s restrains snapped loose, after this incident the Porsche vanished out of the face of the earth. There’s a lot of theories on the car’s whereabouts and rumors about its fate. And so far it’s been confirmed that the car’s transaxle has been found and is currently exhibited at Zak Bagan’s haunted museum in Las Vegas CA.

As for James Dean’s passenger Rolf Weutherich, a fellow racer and mechanic would find his demise on a car accident 26 years later in Germany. Rolf was driving back home when his Japanese sedan skidded on a turn in a wet road and smashed into the wall of a house. Rolf died almost inmediately at the scene due to it’s head injuries and just like James, Rolf had to be cut off from the vehicle.

What do you think has happened to the rest of the Porsche’s pieces? do you think that Little bastard is still out there on the roads? Let me know on the comments below!


Published in Car Stories

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