The legend of James Dean is perhaps larger than his life, which was cut short at the tender age of 24.
Dean is remembered for the handful of films in which he appeared, as well as the promise he showed as an actor. But he was also recognized as an avid racer of cars, and his death in a crash occurred on his way to a race in California.
Dean was driving a Porsche 550 Spyder which, in 1955, cost him $7,000. The legendary vehicle has had a strange journey since its owner’s death, last seen in public in 1960 before being stolen from a locked trailer — never to be heard from again.
That is, until now. Reports have surfaced that a key component of the 550 Spyder has been discovered in rural Massachusetts. According to a press release, the “original and complete transaxle assembly will see the light of day after being stored in a wooden crate and hidden from public view for over 30 years.”
Discovered by a Porsche collector, the assembly is said to be documented with the factory serial number associated with Dean’s vehicle. It is now said to be the only verifiable part of the 550 Spyder that still exists and could be on display and viewable to the public. That’s because the owners may sell it to a museum or collection.
According to Sports Car Digest, the long-ago-stolen chassis has never resurfaced, despite persistent rumors over the years relating to its whereabouts. Likewise, the original engine is thought to be somewhere in California, but has not been seen for decades. That’s why, as the only other permanently traceable component, the discovery of the gearbox assembly is so exciting.
Sept. 30 marked the 65th anniversary of James Dean’s death.