Oddly, the Felt "Little Bastard" cruiser was named and designed after James Dean's "cursed" 1955 Porsche Spyder. Here is the story of his cursed car...
Sleek, silver and rare. The car seemed to be a perfect match for James Dean and he fell in love the instant he saw it. It was a 1955 Porsche Spyder, one of only 90 made of that year model. Dean had a fondness for auto racing and had purchased the car planning to participate in the upcoming races in Salinas, CA on Oct 1st, 1955. He affectionatly nicknamed the car "Little Bastard".
While Dean revelled in his new purchase, his friends thought much differently. Many believed that the car was no good, having received bad vibes from it instantly. Stars Ursula Andress and Nick Adams both expressed feelings of unease but when Adams mentioned it, Dean shrugged it off and told him that he was destined to die in a speeding car. George Barris (a.ka. Kustomizer King), a car designer and master customizer who had worked on Dean's other sports cars, had once stated that the car gave "a weird feeling of impending doom". Actor Alec Guiness reportedly told Dean to get rid of the car, but Dean did not. The last warning about the auto had been given to Dean from his uncle Charlie Nolan, not long before he set out to drive to Salinas.
Dean's premonitions of his death would be realized on September 30, 1955 at the age of 24. Dean liked to drive fast and was good at it, having taken top honors in several of his early races. The car windsheild had been replaced by a smaller and sleeker racing shield and the car was topless, perfect for an afternoon journey. He and a small group of friends head out around 1:30 pm, leaving Los Angeles heading east on Route 99 (now Interstate 5). Accompaning Dean in the Spider was Rolf Wuetherich who was also Dean's mechanic. When purchasing the car, a deal was struck that Rolf, a top Porsche mechanic, would accompany Dean to all his races. Following the duo were Bill Hickman (actor) and Stan Roth, an accomplished photographer planning a photo story of Dean at the races. They were driving a station wagon, towing a trailer that was originally intended to carry Little Bastard for the trip. Dean decided to drive the vehicle at the last minute.
On the open and nearly empty highway, Dean and his companion gleefully speed along at top speeds. Roth and Hickman followed much further behind. At 3:30 PM, Dean is pulled over near Bakersfield and ticketed for speeding at 65 mph in a 45 mph zone. A bit later, Dean and party stop at Blackwell Corner, at the intersection of Route 466 (new HWY 46) and Route 33 to chat with Lance Reventlow, son of Actress Barbara Hutton, who was also on his was to Salinas. Dean and Wuetherich leave and begin their ascent of the Diablo Range mountains.
Donald Turnupspeed was a student at California Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo and was traveling home to Tulare for the weekend. He happened to be traveling in the opposite direction of Dean. At 5:59 PM at the intersection of Routes 41 and 466 near San Robles, Dean's car bore-down upon Turnupspeed as he attempted to make a left turn across the highway in his 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe. Turnspeed slammed on the brakes and the two cars crashed head-on into each other, pinning Dean in the wreckage with a broken neck and various other injuries. He died en route to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital. Wuetherich was thrown from the vehicle but suffered a broken leg, fractured jaw and several internal injuries (ironically dying in a 1981 car wreck). Turnupspeed suffered a gashed forehead along with assorted bruises but was not hospitalized, nor charged with the accident. James Dean's reported last words to Wuetherich were "He's got to see us." Police concluded the twilight dusk camouflaged the Porsche's color, making it nearly impossible to have seen.
Little Bastard was mangled and nearly torn in two. Roth was quoted as saying the car was “looking like a crumpled pack of cigarettes.” Despite his misgivings and bad feelings, George Barris bought the wreck for parts for $2,500. Upon arrival at the garage, the wreck slipped off the trailer, breaking a mechanic's leg.
But the misfortune did not stop there. The engine was sold to Troy McHenry and the drive-train purchased by William Eschrid, both physicians who were planning to use the parts in their own race cars. On October 2, 1956 at the Pamona Fairgrounds in California, the doctors raced their vehicles for the first time using the parts from Little Bastard. McHenry's Porsche Spyder spun out of control and hit a tree, killing him instantly. Eschrid was seriously injured when his car rolled over going into a curve.
Two of the Porsche's tires were unharmed during Dean's accident. Barris sold those to young man who returned within days. Both tires had blown simultaneously, causing him to run off the road.
One souvenir-seeking young man attemped to steal the steering wheel from the wreckage at the garage. He ripped his arm open on jagged piece of metal. Another person was injured while trying to steal a piece of bloodstained apholstery.
Because of these incidents, Barris decided to store the wreck but was persuaded by CHP (CA Hwy Patrol) to loan the wreck out for use in a traveling highway safety exhibit. Two uneventful exhibits took place but prior to the third, a garage in Fresno that was used to store Little Bastard went up in flames, destroying everything except the Porsche. The car barely suffered scorched paint. While on display at a Sacramento CA high school, a student's hip was broken when the car fell off it's pedestal. Later, while en route to Salinas, the truck driver lost control, was thrown free, then killed when Little Bastard fell off the flatbed and on top of him, crushing him. A freeway accident was caused two years later when the car fell off another flatbed truck, crashing onto the road. In 1958, a truck carrying the porsche was parked on a hillside in Oregon. The truck's brakes slipped and crashed into another car, shattering it's window. In 1959 while on display in New Orleans, Little Bastard suddenly broke into eleven pieces. No one was ever able to determine the cause of that incident.
In 1960, the car was crated after an exhibit in Miami Fl. It was placed on a truck bound for Los Angeles CA and never arrived. Little Bastard vanished and it's current whereabouts are unknown.