On this day in auto history - September 30th

Thu 30th Sep 2021

It was on this day in 1955 the world was rocked by the news that heartthrob actor James Dean - on his way to superstardom at the time - had been tragically killed in a car accident in California.

The 24-year-old actor, famed for his love of racing cars, was killed en route to an auto rally in Salinas when his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder - a car he famously called the “little bastard” - was involved in a head-on collision with a Ford Tudor Sedan at an intersection.

The driver of the other car, 23-year-old student Donald Turnupseed survived the accident, as did Dean’s badly-injured passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wutherich.

Sadly, ’survivor guilt’ reportedly caused Wutherich to develop deep psychological problems later in life and he himself was killed in a car crash in Germany whilst driving intoxicated in 1981.

At the time of his death, Dean had only starred in one film which had been released (East of Eden) but his tragic death ensured that his fame had already ascended to bewildering heights before two subsequent films in which he starred were released the following year - Giant and Rebel Without A Cause.

Dean’s posthumous popularity as a cultural icon has ensured that the Porsche 550 Spyder retains an enduring appeal which routinely sees ‘originals' fetch millions of pounds at public auctions, whilst the vehicle remains one of the most reproduced of all the classic automobiles.