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Hagerty Employee

James Dean's death car parts resurface

Almost 65 years to the day of James Dean's death behind the wheel of his "Little Bastard" Porsche 550 Spyder, the car's transaxle has been discovered.


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New Driver

This is wild.   In the photo of Dean isn't that a Ford, and wasn't the other car in the collision a Ford?


/s/ Chris Kennedy

Community Manager

I think you are right on both counts! 

Intermediate Driver

The Ford in the picture is the tow vehicle for the Porsche. There is an empty trailer behind it.

Intermediate Driver

that is so ironic. i love looking at vintage photos like this. that is a 46 to 48 plymouth behind the ford, followed by a 50 plymouth and finally maybe a 50 cadillac? cool street scene, not just for the Dean factor. i wonder what the ford was hauling on the trailer?

Intermediate Driver

I had been told that the twisted hulk of the body/chassis was hauled around to schools in California by the California Highway Patrol.  The touring wreck was allegedly displayed to graphically show the perils of high speed driving on public highways.

Advanced Driver

Back in the day displaying wrecked cars to teen drivers was pretty common, along with the gory real life film "Signal 30." Had no effect on any of us though; like all teens we thought we were immortal and invincible.

Intermediate Driver

Oh yeah, I remember watching "Mechanized Death" in drivers ed. That's back in the day when you were shown stuff like that precisely to elicit shock in hopes you learn from it. I still remember to this day in one video the emergency crews rolled over a 50 something chevy looking for additional victims of the crash to find the crushed body of a 3 year old girl. Nowadays the world is all fluffy with soft marshmallows suddenly appearing to negate the hard facts of life. Can you imagine the outrage if they showed that same footage in schools today?
Intermediate Driver

 I read somewhere that Alec Guinness saw James Dean at a restaurant the week before he died and told him not to drive the car, that he had some sort of bad premonition. Of course how could anyone resist.


Hi again

I did a lengthy response on the last Dean article. In this photo, The Ford wagon (with trailer behind) behind the Porsche had just unloaded it. My question is. Is the man to the left John Von Neumann? He sold the car to dean from his dealership in Hollywood, "Competition Motors"  I knew Von Neumann at the end of his fascinating life, but not sure if that is him??

Pit Crew

Actually,  The trailer was empty for the entire trip on 9-30-55 leaving from Competition Motors at 1219 N. Vine in Hollywood until the crash at the Cholame Junction Rt. 46/41.  The photo was taken at 2:30 p.m. PST at the Mobilgas station on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks...where James Dean was photographed by his mechanic, Rolf Wutherich using a 35mm Leica.  The man leaning into the Cadillac at the gas station is presumed to be the station owner.  Johnny von Neumann was not at Competition Motors on 9-30-55, although he was also heading to Salinas to race that weekend in his Porsche 550 Spyder.  The entire chronology of that fateful day is published in James Dean: On The Road To Salinas, 2015.   Lee Raskin,  James Dean historian /author  20190402_174727 (1).jpg


If Dean had put his race car on the trailer for the trip to the event he'd entered; Well, everyone knows the maybes and what ifs that would emerge and the movies, WOW! Coulda been Dean vs McQueen at La Mans.

Pit Crew

The photo at top of the article:   James Dean poses in the Porsche 550 Spyder in front of Competition Motors at 1219 N. Vine St. in Hollywood on 9-30-55 at 1:45 p.m. PST.  Standing next to the Porsche is Carl von Delius, a Competition Motors employee.  Porsche mechanic Rolf Wutherich took this photo with his 35 mm Leica.  In the background is Dean's 1955 Ford Country Squire with Warner Bros. stuntman, Bill Hickman at the wheel and photographer Sanford Roth riding shotgun.  The Ford would be hauling the empty two-axle trailer,  Dean and Wutherich in the 550 Spyder would lead the procession... on the their ill-fated journey to the Salinas Road Races that weekend.   Lee Raskin,  James Dean / Porsche historian / author.   James Dean: On The Road To Salinas,  2015 /2020.   

New Driver

Funny, but I was writing to a friend yesterday and was telling him I remembered the Dean car at a local New Orleans movie theater. I was 12 at the time.


I'm sorry. This may be in bad taste, but does anyone remember the "Blood Flows Red on the Highway" scene from the 80s comedy "Moving Violation"? that's all I can think of when I think of all of those "drive responsibly" you lousy teenager films.