James Dean’s Demonic Porsche

September 30, 1955. A head-on collision claims the life of up and coming young film star, James Dean. But, perhaps, the accident was not his fault, nor the fault of the other driver. Perhaps, legends say, it was the fault of the new Porsche Spyder Dean was driving. After the accident, and Dean was laid to rest, George Barris, a car designer, bought the remains for parts, it rolled off the delivery truck at Barris’ garage and crushed both of the mechanic’s legs.

Dean’s friends had tried to discourage him from buying the rare auto (only 90 were made in 1955), telling him it was nothing but trouble. Ursula Andress, Dean’s girlfriend at the time, refused to get in the car. Alec Guiness told Dean to get rid of it or he would be “dead in a week.” (He was right, too.) Barris claims to have had the same feelings when he first saw it, feelings which were soon confirmed.

Beverly Hills doctor, Troy McHenry, bought the engine to replace the engine in his own Porsche and, as the legend goes, was killed in a car wreck the first time he took the car out. The actual truth is that McHenry did die in a car race at the Pomona Fairgrounds on October 22, 1956, in the Porsche that was said to have housed Dean’s Spyder’s engine, but whether or not Dean’s engine was in fact the engine that propelled McHenry to his death. McHenry lost control of the car and hit a tree.

In the same race, a Porsche housing the Dean drive train, driven by another doctor, William Eschrid, rolled. Eschrid survived, sustaining serious injuries, and later said that the steering locked going into a curve. Barris sold two of the tires to another young man who crashed his own car when both the Dean tires blew out at the same time.

Despite the bad feelings he had about the car, Barris felt that all the destruction it had caused could be put to good use so he loaned what he had left to the California Highway Patrol to be used in a highway safety demonstration. Only days later, the garage where the wreckage was being stored burnt to the ground. The Spyder wreckage was the only thing that survived the fire. While on display at Sacramento High School, the car fell from its pedestal and landed on a student, breaking his hip.

According to the October 30, 1989 issue of the Los Angeles Times, George Barris claims the last time he saw the car was at an exhibit in Florida, where it reportedly fell apart. The story is that it inexplicably collapsed into eleven parts, eleven parts which Barris ordered put into separate boxes and shipped back to California. The boxes were loaded onto a truck and sent cross-country to Los Angeles but when it arrived at its destination, eight days later, the car was gone and hasn’t been seen again in forty five years.

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