The Day James Dean Took Me for a Drive in the "Little Bastard"

One of the Unluckiest Cars Ever Built

The Curse of the "Little Bastard"

Hardly anyone remembers James Dean anymore, let alone his racing car, the one he named the "Little Bastard," a bluish silver, Porsche Spyder, one of only 90 that were made. I remember The name, "Little Bastard", he had it painted on the trunk along with red racing stripes a day or two before we went for our historic drive.

The day, it was Friday, the last day of the month, September 30, 1955. James was showing off, washing and rinsing his new car, buffing and polishing it with turtle wax, as I sat watching, admiring the car. 

"Wanna go for a spin," he said looking at me. 

We drove around the block once, then he dropped me back off in the driveway. I remember waving good-bye, and telling him I loved his new car. I felt guilty after I said it, because there was something strange about it.

The car, an actual racing car, looked ominous, but everyone had a sense of horror when they saw it, you could see it in there faces, something they couldn't explain. A kid with a reckless nature and a high powered sports car, not a good combination. 

Stories were told of strange occurrences even before James brought the car home. From the moment it entered Competition Motor's Showroom strange things started to happen. Several mechanics hurt themselves, one broke his thumb in the car door as he was closing it, another received severe cuts that needed medical attention when working on the engine checking the timing. At the time, no one connected the dots.

As you know, later that day James was in a fatal car accident. He was killed.

The tow truck driver, that retrieved the car after the fatal crash, was George Barris. He was the man who originally customized the car for Dean. He took it back to the garage and dismantled it for parts. The undamaged engine was sold to Dr. William F. Eschrich a racing enthusiast. His friend Dr. Carl McHenry bought the transaxle. On both men's first race after installing the used parts, they both were in accidents, one became paralyzed from the neck down and the other died.

Another man who bought the two rear tires that were still in good condition used them on a car he had in a race. They blew out when first used, and he narrowly escaped with his life.

Barris decided to sell what was left of the car to the California Highway Safety Patrol, hoping the machine would do some good after all, touring the school circuit but while it was stored in the Patrol's garage a mysterious fire broke out. Most of the Patrol's other cars were severely damaged, but The Little Bastard, survived remarkably unscathed. While moving it out of the garage the tow truck was involved in an accident and the driver was thrown into a ditch. He survived! Only to be killed when he was unloading it from the flatbed. It slid, broke it's chains and crushed him.

Four years later, Barris put the car on display in Detroit. As a boy was taking pictures of it, the structure that was holding the display collapsed and fell onto the boy, crushing his legs, eventually they had to be amputated.

They moved the display two weeks later to another location. During the move again it slipped off the flat deck and injured two men bad enough, ambulances were called. Both barely survived to tell the story.

Finally, while at a show in New Orleans, the vehicle spontaneously fell apart, right in front of astonished onlookers.

Sounds unbelievable doesn't it, but that's not the end:

Barris had, had enough; he crated up the car, parts and all and had them shipped back to his garage in California, through the Panama Canal. When it arrived months later, Barris proceeded to uncrate it. He heard some noises coming from inside the crate shook as if the engine was idling. After getting the first plank off, the noise stopped. Once opening the crate fully he realized the car had disappeared.

I told you it sounds unbelievable.

James Deans sports car could have been stolen but no trace of it has ever been found to this day.

The curse of "Little Bastard."

It's the truth, check the facts! 

Dog Brindle 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The car is in the Washington state, somewhere around Seattle, hidden behind a fake wall of some old factory. I read it. The guy who said it was the son of the original thief.