James Dean’s Collection of Icons and Racecars

By Simon Boseman

Published May 3, 2024

James Dean’s Collection of Icons and Racecars

In the Golden Age of Hollywood, James Dean was a remarkable American actor known for his insanely accurate personification of troubled adolescence and raw emotions. In the very short span of only three movies, he received Academy Award nominations for two of them; East of Eden (1955), and Rebel Without a Cause (1956).

James Dean died at the age of 24 while breaking in the engine of the next racecar called the 'Little Bastard'. At that time he was exploring his love for automobiles and particularly racing, that said here are all the cars that James Dean has owned and associated with in his short, diverse, and nothing short of legendary career.

6. 1949 Ford

What's better than starting with arguably the first car that James Dean drove to his school and senior year prom? After the death of his mother Mildred Marie Wilson, Dean's father Winton Dean could not care for him and sent the upcoming legend to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm in Fairmount, Indiana. The 1949 Ford was originally bought new by his uncle Marcus Winslow from the Ford Dealership in Fairmount.

1949 FordSpecs
Engine3.9L Flathead V8
Horsepower100 hp
Torque180 lb-ft
Transmission3-speed automatic
0-60 MPH17 seconds
Top Speed65 mph

1949 Ford

It was reported that the original color of James' first ride was gunsmoke metal (a shade of light gray), however, it was repainted in a cherry red color. The car currently resides on the Winslow family farm and Dean's cousin brother Marcus Winslow Jr. still drives it to the Annual James Dean Festival.

5. 1949 Mercury Coupe

The second most famous car after the little bastard, James Dean drove a 1949 Mercury Coupe in his movie 'Rebel Without a Cause' that got released at New York's Aster Theatre in October 1955 after one month of his demise. The Mercury Coupe became a pop culture symbol and also played a part in the car culture heavily converted into Hot -Rods.

1949 Mercury CoupeSpecs
Engine4.2-liter Flathead V8
Horsepower110 hp
Torque200 lb-ft
Transmission3-speed manual
0-60 MPH17.1 seconds
Top Speed83 mph

The 1949 Mercury Coupe currently resides at the National Automobile Museum in Reno. The historic car also became a part of a wager in 2011 when the Sacramento River Cats won the sixteen-game series against the Reno Aces the vehicle was transferred to the California Automobile Museum for a year.

4. 1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Pall Mall Tourer

James Dean’s Rolls Royce Pall Mall Tourer was one of the unique vehicles featured for the 1st time in his movie, ‘The Giant’. The car is fitted with a Brewster body in Pall Mall style built by famous coachbuilder Merrimac. Originally the 80EE chassis number Silver Ghost was acquired on 18 February 1931 by the Warner Brothers film studios in Hollywood.

1920 Rolls Royce Silver GhostSpecs
Price$11,750 (stock price)
Engine7.0-liter inline-6
Horsepower48 hp
Transmission4-speed manual
0-60 MPHN/A
Top Speed50 mph

1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

The 1920 Rolls Royce exchanged several hands before once again being listed on RM Sothby's auction house and sold for 342,500 CHF ($375,606) in 2021. The price of this particular example can be considered as a bargain. According to Classic.com, the average price of aa Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost sits well above $600,000, let alone the one associated with none other than James Dean.

3. 1953 MG TD

In April of 1954 after securing the starring role of Cal Rrask in 'East of Eden', James Dean gifted himself a red-colored 1953 MG TD sports car. The MG TD was the first car that James Dean reportedly bought with his own money and there was a reason behind it. James always embraced fast cars and MG was a pretty quick one, also thanks to its independent front suspension it handled like a charm.

1953 MG TDSpecs
Engine1.3 L inline-4
Horsepower54 hp
Torque64 lb-ft
Transmission4-speed manual
0-60 MPH22.6 seconds
Top Speed77 mph

1953 MG TD

James Dean's 1953 MG TD was bought preowned in a beautiful red exterior, and although it was fast it did not suffice the racing needs of Mr.Dean. To hone his skill and in search of a better racer, James exchanged his MG TD with the next car on the list.

2. 1955 Porsche Super Speedster

Besides his film career, James Dean used to have a high interest in making a motor racing career. So he purchased a 1955 Porsche Super Speedster in white with black interiors from John von Neumann at Competition Motors in Hollywood. It was reported that within 10 days of purchasing the car, he had put 1,000 miles on the Speedster driving mostly on the Mulholland Drive, where there were several technical curves to hone his skills.

1955 Porsche 356 SpeedsterSpecs
Engine1.5-liter Flat-4
Horsepower55 hp
Torque76 lb-ft
Transmission4-speed manual
0-60 MPH14.1 seconds
Top Speed96 mph

1955 Porsche 356 Speedster

Right before the filming of Rebel Without a Cause began, James entered his first road race in his Speedster on March 26th and 27th, 1955, and reserved a third place on the podium. The victory pushed him to do more and he went for 10 laps under 1500-cc category mixed race, which he was not able to complete as he blew a piston while pushing hard. After he was done with filming his shorts, he once again went to Competition Motors for a newer, more powerful, faster car mentioned next on the list.

1. 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder

"Racing is the only time I feel whole," For Mr. Dean racing was not just an expensive hobby he loved the thrill of speed and chasing cars. For that very reason, he once again went to Competition Motors to get his hands on the latest and greatest Porsche 550 Spyder (VIN 550-0055) on September 21st, 1955 for the upcoming Salinas Road Race, little did he know this car was going to be his last.

Porsche 550 Spyder ‘Little Bastard’Specs
Engine1.5-liter DOHC Flat-4
Horsepower108 hp
Torque89 lb-ft
Transmission4-speed manual
0-62 MPH8.5 seconds
Top Speed136 mph

1955 Porsche 550 Spyder

On September 30, 1955, James Dean had a catastrophic collision while driving his Porsche 550 Spyder. It brought a bad omen to him even after several warnings from his mates. In the words of British actor Alec Guinness ‘The sports car looked sinister to me . . . exhausted, hungry, feeling a little ill-tempered in spite of Dean’s kindness, I heard myself saying in a voice I could hardly recognize as my own: ‘Please never get in it. . .  if you get in that car you will be found dead in it by this time next week.’”

Honorable Mentions

1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy

A special mention to one of the unique vehicles in James Dean’s garage is this 1955 Triumph TR5 motorbike, which he bought after getting inspired by Marlon Brando's 6T Triumph Thunderbird he drove in The Wild One.

1955 Triumph TR5 TrophySpecs
Engine490 cc parallel-twin
Horsepower38 hp
Torque35 lb-ft
Transmission4-speed manual
0-60 MPH9.5 seconds
Top Speed108 mph

The motorcycle was based on the Speed Twin, the TR5 was more focused on offroading with its knobby tires and overall setup. He only owned the TR5 for a few months. The motorcycle is currently on display at the Indiana State Museum in a near-perfect condition.

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