Monday, March 8, 2010

The Little Bastard, Rolf Wutherich and James Dean

Friends told James Dean that the car was trouble when they saw it - a rare Silver Porsche Spyder, one of only 90 in 1955. Nicknamed "The Little Bastard," the car carried the iconic screen rebel to his grave on September 30, 1955.
I cannot understand why license plate had so many digits

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 the mechanic's legs.

Barris with Bat Kid and his well known creation: the Batmobile

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. To this day, the "Little Bastard's" whereabouts are unknown.

Transmogrifer's comments: it appears that Donald
Turnupseed turned into James Dean's small,
low-slung racing car and that both vehicles

were near or a little over the limit of 55 mph.
Dean's car may have
been difficult to see but it
appears that Dean almost avoided what

would have been a head-on collision and saved
Rolf's life,
but I'm not so sure that was a good thing.
Both Rolf and Donald

suffered for the rest of their lives from that fateful crash.

Donald Turnupseed

Best visual comparison of Turnupseed and Dean's cars.
Notice that highest point on Dean's car is well below
the 1950 Ford's hood/view line. This four-door
Ford was one of the sturdiest, heaviest cars on the
road at the time and Dean's Spyder; one of the flimsiest.

This image gives you the relative size of Dean's
stylish "go kart"

Donald's approach to the lethal transition, skid
mark curves at point of impact
showing that the
Ford's left rear quarter panel would block most of
Dean's side of the road. There was nothing to tell
Dean that he was approaching a turnoff for opposing
traffic (unless he was very familiar with that road).
So he would suspect a turn from an on-coming car.
Because Dean was driving a race car and that he
had gotten a speeding ticket earlier in the day;
most speculated that the accident was probably
his fault. My research discounts that idea. So...
Indulge yourself while you can!

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