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Friday, December 21, 2018

Decemystery 20: James Dean and The Little Bastard

James Dean with his car, the Little Bastard.

When I put this miniseries together, I wanted to focus on more obscure or lesser known mysteries. However, things changed and I'm not one to (normally) pass up a request. That, combined with time restraints (caused partially by laziness) have made me bend the rules a bit. So fasten your seat belts. It's time we discuss legendary story of James Dean and the Little Bastard.

For those unfamiliar with James Dean, he was the epitome of a hot, young actor in Hollywood. He was a sex icon through and through—and a pretty talented actor at that. To give you an idea, look at any 20-something year old actor nowadays and then apply legitimate acting talent to them. I know, it may be hard, but just do it.

Now then, Dean was a fan of automobile racing and had partook in several races. He owned a Porsche Spyder, which was nicknamed the “Little Bastard”. On his way to one certain racing event, he got into an extremely bad wreck, which he died in at the ripe old age of 24 years old. His death sent shockwaves through America, with many being heartbroken. It’s probably one of the best examples of a young actor having caused grief in the hearts of those who didn’t know them, though whether or not that was due to them wanting a bit of the Little Dean is up to you to decide.

Though while Dean may have perished in the wreck, the Little Bastard didn’t. In fact, this is where the car takes the stage from the owner. This myth, according to Warren Beath—a man who’s written about Dean—supposedly originated from the “King of Kustomizers” George Barris; a man who purchased the wrecked car and put it on display. Barris went on to purport that a series of horrible accidents happened around the vehicle, including one death (a truck driver).

Another book entitled “James Dean: At Speed” claims that the car, after an insurance settlement was reached between the insurance company and Dean’s father, was sold to a former racing opponent of Dean’s. The racers name, Dr. William F. Eschrich, took apart the Little Bastard’s engine and installed it into his Lotus IX race car’s chassis. Calling his new ride a “Potus”, he went to a race and was subsequently involved in a “minor shunt with another racer”.

The aforementioned Barris had his own book, “Cars of the Stars”, where he states that Dr.Eschrich loaned another doctor, with the surname of McHenry, the Little Bastard’s transmission. Dr. McHenry installed the transmission into his own car and took it to a race, only for his car to lose control and crash into a tree, killing him. This was the first time since Dean’s own crash that the transmission had been used.

There was a claim that the Little Bastard was stored away in a garage in Fresno, California. It’s said that while stored here, a major fire broke out. However, The Fresno Bee states that, while a fire of unknown origin did break out, it was a minor one and nobody was injured. What does match up is that the Little Bastard was unharmed and remained a bastard to the tires of other cars that were burned.

Later that same year, Barris had the Little Bastard shipped to an automobile show. Although he signed papers signifying that the car was, in fact, in a sealed boxcar, the vehicle never arrived. In fact, the car itself went missing—completely. Since 1960, Dean’s legendary car has never been seen again.

Indeed, this story is one with two unsolved mysteries. We shall go over them both, starting with the curse of Dean’s car. It’s here that we have two that we'll discuss thanks to it being a “one way or the other” type of mystery. The first of these two is that Dean's car was, in fact, cursed. Whether it was by him or something else depends on who you ask. As an obligatory mention, perhaps it was an alien.

Now, curses are something that'll vary very heavily depending on who you’re talking to. Some will see a “curse” as demonic possession, while others flatout will not believe in either-or. To pass this theory off as fact is to step on someone's toes, but to outright dismiss it is to step on the other person's toes. That said: is there any truth to this theory?

Well, curses and demonic possession are both spiritual and religious beliefs. All one can ride off with this is the very weird string of events that followed those who used the Little Bastard's parts. Sure, the events are extremely coincidental and perhaps even creepy. That said, does it mean anything? Maybe. Or maybe it's just all coincidental.

Which brings us to the second theory. There's nothing at all to see here. It's all coincidental. This is the one that I believe most people—even those who do believe in curses—buy into. While it is fun to believe that Dean’s car was cursed and its inner parts are metallic death bringers, the likelihood of such a thing is slim to none. It is entirely possible that the pieces were faulty and lead to the demise of those who used it; I know that I only listed a few of the people who supposedly fell victim to the curse. However, Wikipedia didn’t list all of them and I can’t say for certain if all of the stories are real or not.

The second unsolved mystery is where the car is. Dean’s car was shipped out in 1960 to go to an automobile show and Barris—who had the car on display for about four years by then—was supposedly beginning to feel the sting of “the times, they are a changin’”. Anyone who’s familiar with the 1960s knows that it was a cultural revolution of sorts. The cars of yesteryear weren’t the types of cars kids liked then. It’s possible that Barris wanted to reinvigorate his famous show by having it purposefully disappear. If this is the case, it did nothing in the long term as I wasn’t aware until the time of this writing that the car had even vanished. If I’m to be honest, I thought it was disassembled or that someone bought it and stored it away.

The second theory to this second mystery is that some idiot misplaced it and it’s in a warehouse, having been forgotten about. As unlikely as this may seem, mistakes happen and it’s possible that someone mistook once package for another. Let’s face it, people can be the biggest idiots on the face of the Earth and to believe that someone wouldn’t somehow misplaced an item that had (and still technically has) cultural significance is naive.

Whether or not you think that the Little Bastard was cursed is entirely subjective. Curses, demonic possession, and other spiritual phenomenon vary heavily from person to person. As such, to try and claim whether the curse is real or not is a bit on the mean spirited side in my eyes. As for a more objective finalization: where the Little Bastard is today is anyone's guess. Maybe it’s forever gone, maybe someone out there is the [un]lucky owner of a piece of it and the curse is waiting to make its untimely return. Maybe it has and we just don’t know about it because nobody knew that an automobile wreck was caused by it. What we do know is that James Dean’s legacy lives on in spite of his incredibly untimely demise—as does the Little Bastard’s legacy, which remains one of the world’s most famous haunted vehicles.


  1. Honestly, as fun to believe in a cursed car is (Hello Christine...) I have doubts about the Little Bastard being actually that. To me, it's just one lucky car with a lot of faulty parts. Mind you, as for it's vanishing act, that theory about Barris does sound plausible at the very least.

  2. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezDecember 21, 2018 at 9:22 PM

    As amusing as a cursed car may be, obviously it's a coincidence. Or stretch it and say damaged parts are damaged parts. Now the vanishing part does make the mind wonder. Possibly stolen and chopped up? Anything is possible I suppose.