Hollywood

Parts from James Dean's wrecked Porsche Spyder found 60 years after they disappeared

James Dean's popularity was amplified after his death, with his sports car serving as a warning against dangerous driving.

Photo courtesy of Don Ahearn

Sixty years after they disappeared and 65 years after the nighttime crash that claimed the life of actor James Dean, parts traceable to the 1955 Porsche 550 Speedster that Dean was driving that evening have been found.

Porsche collector and U.S. businessman Don Ahearn revealed the discovery of the parts, which include the Porsche's chassis, engine, and gearbox/transaxle. The transaxle is stamped with the correct factory serial number #10046. According to a release, the assembly may be the only documented and provable part of the James Dean-affiliated vehicle that exists today.

James Deal Porsche Spyder James Dean purchased his Porsche 550 Spyder from Competition Motors in Hollywood, California.Photo courtesy of Don Ahearn

The transaxle has been in continuous, documented ownership and it has been authenticated by experts as far back as 1984 as being the original component to the 550 owned by Dean.

The parts were found in rural Massachusetts after being stored in a wooden crate and hidden from view for over 30 years. That still leaves 30 years of their existence unaccounted for.

In September 1955, Dean had famed vehicle designer George Barris racing stripes, the number 130, and the words "Little Bastard" on his 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder. Little Bastard was Dean's nickname on the set of the film "Giant", a movie he co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in about the life of a Texas cattle rancher.

Filming wrapped on "Giant" and a week later, on September 30, 1955, Dean and mechanic Rolf Wütherich hopped in the Porsche and, after having breakfast at Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine Street in Hollywood, which is across from Competition Motors, headed up to Salinas, California for a race.

James Deal 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder Dean had the car custom painted shortly before his death.Photo courtesy of Don Ahearn

Dean and Wütherich, along with Bill Hickman and Stanford Roth who was following behind in a 1955 Ford Country Squire station wagon, stopped for gas at the Mobil station on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California.

On the way, Dean received a speeding ticket - something quite on-brand for an actor Hollywood who portrayed the rebel without a cause. He was caught doing 65 mph in a 55 mph zone.

At approximately 5:45 p.m. that day, a driver of a Ford Turdor coupe turned in front of the Porsche, which was being driven by Wütherich at the time. Wütherich reacted by attempting to steer the Spyder away from the impending collision but it was too late. Dean's Porsche flipped up into the air and landed back on its wheels in a gully northwest of the junction, near Cholame, at the intersection of State Routes 41 and 46 (now James Dean Memorial Junction).

Dean passed away shortly after the crash. Wütherich survived the crash though he suffered debilitating injuries. He would die in another crash years later.

James Deal Porsche Spyder wreckage garage display Following Dean's death, the car was taking around the country and displayed.Photo courtesy of Don Ahearn

The car was sold for parts and eventually wound up in the hands of famed car designer George Barris, who is most known for designing the car used by the Munster family in "The Munsters". Barris sold the drivetrain and the engine to race car drivers Troy McHenry and William Eschrid.

It is rumoring that the powertrain, which is thought of as being cursed, remains in California. McHenry was behind the wheel when, during a race using another 550 with the donor engine in it, the car locked up going into a turn. McHenry lost control and crashed into a tree. He was killed instantly.

After spending some time as a show car that warned against the hazards of driving recklessly, and being invoiced in several unfortunate incidents - everything from falling on a student and breaking their hip to being caught up in a barn fire - in 1960 the body of Dean's Porsche was on its way back to L.A. The driver of the truck hauling it back to L.A. lost control of the rig. It flipped and the 550 came loose, landing on the driver and killing him instantly.

From there, the whereabouts of the 550 and its remaining parts were unknown. Over the decades, there have been rumors about the whereabouts of the car. Polygraphs have been taken and investigations have been undertaken. But, so far, those efforts have come up empty handed.

James Dean's 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder transaxle display

Photo courtesy of Don Ahearn

The transaxle is currently mounted in a display stand that was custom-fabricated for it. In the future, the current owner expects to sell the piece of a museum or collector.

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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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