James Dean's "Little Bastard"

I wonder what SDopers know about the facts of James Dean’s death and the car he was driving which he nicknamed “Little Bastard”. Supposedly, two people he had shown the car to advised him not to drive it - one of which told him explicitly he’d be dead within the week. The warning came true within the last 30 minutes of said week, IIRC.
Furthermore, after James Dean’s death…those who used parts of the car were also in wrecks from professional race car drivers to sports-car officianados (sp?). And! The car was once stored in a garage with various other cars. A fire broke out gutting the whole place…but the “Little Bastard” remained untouched!

Is this all cloaked in legend and exaggeration, or there much truth to these stories?

Whatever the case, don’t borrow a coat from James Dean, right?

  • Jinx

People say such things all the time. “You’ll kill yourself!” is often said when someone buys a high-powered machine such as a 1000cc sportbike or a sports car. Dean’s car was a Porsche 550 Spyder – a car that was very successful in racing. (IIRC, he was on his way to a race.) “You’ll kill yourself” sounds like something someone who is not “into speed” would say to someone who just bought a fast car. By coincidence, they happened to be right in this case.

I think this is called the “green van” phenomenon. A green van may be parked in a certain place quite frequently, but nobody notices. Then something happens, and people say “Oh! There was a green van sitting there! It must have something to do with it!”

Don’t have a cite, perhaps someone can confirm this:

As I understand it, James Dean did not wreck because he was speeding. He was actually only going about 55 mph. The wreck was caused by the other driver who, coming from the other direction, tried to turn left right in front of James Dean. Obviously, he didn’t have enough room to make it.

In the movie “Crash,” it is said that James Deans last words were “Don’t worry, he sees us.” Did his passenger survive? I can’t remember.

Anyway, can anyone corfirm if this is true?

On a side note, John Mellencamp, who’s a JD fan, is credited as “Little Bastard” on some of his albums, I think as the producer or something like that…

Yes, John Turnipseed turned left in front of him.

Yes, his passenger was his mechanic, Rolf Wuetherich, who was thrown from the car and seriously injured, but survived. It’s been widely reported that Dean’s last words to Rolf were something along the lines of “that guy’s got to see us”, but I don’t know whether that’s true or false, or even if there’s even any way of verifying it one way or the other now.

I remember seing a television show where a guy made a computer model that supposedly shoed Dean wasn’t speeding, and I’ve heard other sources claiming the same thing, but again I can’t vouch for accuracy. I think the show I saw was this:


You can find others by googling “James Dean speeding.”

The “green van” effect you describe is better known as heightened awareness. That is one type of coincidence…

IIRC, his character died in the movie. Also, they claim JD had a fascination with death often posing for photos in coffins…weird!

If I’m not mistaken, one of the friends who told him he’d die in that car was Alec Guinness.

Donald Turnipseed, I believe.

I’ve also read that Dean wasn’t speeding - as others have said, he was going a perfectly safe 55 and the other car crossed the line and hit him dead on. It was on CNN.com that I read it, maybe 2 or 3 years ago?

This is not the car you’re looking for…

I seem to recall reading in some book or other that Vampira at some point claimed she had foretold Dean’s death, or at least had warned him about the car or something. She continued to turn up in various scandal sheets linked to him for some time after his death.

Incidentally, Rolf Wuetherich was killed a few years later in a car accident. He was driving on a highway in Germany, it was raining, he lost control, etc.