Was James Dean’s Porche Spyder, which he nicknamed “The Little Bastard,” cursed? Not only did the car carry James Dean to an early grave, but it was also responsible for several accidents and fatalities after Dean’s death.
James Dean was driving west on U.S. Highway 466 (later California State Route 46) near Cholame, California when a Ford Tudor driven from the opposite direction by 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed attempted to take the fork onto California State Route 41 and crossed into Dean’s lane without seeing him. The two cars hit almost head on.
Dean’s last known words, uttered right before impact, are said to have been: “That guy’s got to stop… He’ll see us.”
After the tragedy, master car customizer George Barris bought the wreck for $2,500. When the wreck arrived at Barris’ garage, the Porsche slipped and fell on one of the mechanics unloading it. The accident broke both of his legs.
While Barris had bad feelings about the car when he first saw it, his suspicions were confirmed during a race at the Pomona Fair Grounds on October 24, 1956. Two physicians, Troy McHenry and William Eschrid, were both racing cars that had parts from the “Little Bastard.” McHenry died when his car, which had the Porsche’s engine installed, went out of control and hit a tree. Eschrid’s car flipped over. Eschrid, who survived despite serious injuries, later said that the car suddenly locked up when he went into a curve.
The car’s malevolent influence continued after the race: one kid trying to steal the Porsche’s steering wheel slipped and gashed his arm. Barris reluctantly sold two of the car’s tires to a young man; within a week, the man was nearly involved in a wreck when the two tires blew out simultaneously.
Feeling that the Porsche could be put to good use, Barris loaned the wrecked car to the California Highway Patrol for a touring display to illustrate the importance of automobile safety. Within days, the garage housing the Spyder burnt to the ground. With the exception of the “Little Bastard,” every vehicle parked inside the garage was destroyed. When the car was put on exhibit in Sacramento, it fell from its display and broke a teenager’s hip. George Barkuis, who was hauling the Spyder on a flatbed truck, was killed instantly when the Porsche fell on him after he was thrown from his truck in an accident.
The mishaps surrounding the car continued until 1960, when the Porsche was loaned out for a safety exhibit in Miami, Florida. When the exhibit was over, the wreckage, en route to Los Angeles on a truck, mysteriously vanished along with the driver and truck. To this day, the “Little Bastard’s” whereabouts are unknown.