There isn’t much left of the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder actor James Dean died in, but the car’s 4-speed transaxle survives and was just sold for $382,000 on Bring a Trailer. Yes, more than what Porsche charged for its latest 911 Speedster.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Dean was an enthusiastic amateur racer and had purchased the 550 Spyder to compete in SCCA events. However, Dean was killed in a collision near Salinas, California, on September 30, 1955—just days after buying the Porsche.
The wreck was reportedly sold by Dean’s insurance company to another California racer, and the transaxle was later separated from the rest of car before being placed in storage for several decades, according to the listing.
James Dean and his Porsche 550 Spyder
The current owner acquired the transaxle in March 2020, and it’s now mounted on a display stand that rolls on casters. It looks fairly complete in photos; drum brakes, a starter motor, and even intact CV-joint boots are all present. This is likely the largest remaining chunk of Dean’s 550 Spyder, as the body has been presumed lost for decades.
A Volkswagen serial number (the transaxle was a repurposed VW Beetle unit) stamped into the split magnesium case is what identifies this transaxle as the one from Dean’s car, according to the listing. Documentation showing that the number corresponds with the serial number of the transaxle installed in Dean’s car was included in the sale.
Who would pay over $300,000 for a piece of a dead celebrity’s car? The winning bidder is thought to be Zak Bagans, star of the Travel Channel series “Ghost Adventures” and owner of The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. So this macabre relic might soon be on public display.