Friday, September 30, 2011

Jimmy and Tru

In my life I have had a number of really goofy cars, but never a Porsche. I shopped for one once and quickly gave up the search, knowing in my heart of hearts I'd kill myself in a week. Happened to someone else too.

I suspect that this is a generational shift event, one in which you had to have been around to understand and appreciate its implications. I was, barely, so James Dean, his life and his legacy are lost on me. Today however marks the 56th anniversary of Dean's death in his Porsche spyder, "The Little Bastard".

Dean may have died, but The Little Bastard's legacy lived on for another 5 years. George Barris, the king of the California custom car craze, purchased the wreck for $2500 with no real purpose in mind, other than selling off some parts. When the Bastard arrived at Barris' garage, the Porsche slipped from its tow and fell on one of the mechanics unloading it. The accident broke both of the mechanic's legs.

A year later, at the Pomona Fair Grounds on October 24, 1956 two physicians, Troy McHenry and William Eschrid, were each racing cars that had parts from "The Little Bastard." McHenry died when his car, which had the Porsche's engine installed, went out of control and hit a tree. Eschrid's car flipped over. Eschrid, who survived despite serious injuries, later said that the car suddenly locked up when he went into a curve.

The car's malevolent influence continued after the race: one kid trying to steal the Porsche's steering wheel slipped and gashed his arm. Barris reluctantly sold two of the car's tires to a young man; within a week, the man was nearly involved in a wreck when the two tires blew out simultaneously.

Feeling that the Porsche could be put to good use, Barris loaned the wrecked car to the California Highway Patrol for a touring display to illustrate the importance of automobile safety. Within days, the garage housing the Spyder burnt to the ground. With the exception of "The Little Bastard," every vehicle parked inside the garage was destroyed. When the car was put on exhibit in Sacramento, it fell from its display breaking a teenager's hip. George Barkuis, who was hauling the Spyder for Barris, was killed instantly when the Porsche fell on him after he was thrown from his truck in an accident.

The mishaps surrounding the car continued until 1960. The Porsche was loaned for a safety exhibit in Miami, Florida. When the exhibit was over, the wreckage, en route to Los Angeles on a truck, mysteriously vanished. To this day, the "Little Bastard's" whereabouts are unknown.


He'd be 87 today.

As much as I love his stories I love his Aunt Marie's Fruitcake even better.

Happy birthday Mr. Capote.



ADG said...

The Fruitcake Lady NEVER fails to make me guffaw. Garrison Keillor (you remain asleep I hope-I have to be awake and at the MINI dealer by 730) just did a spot on NPR about Tru. His mama was told that little six year old Tru was in need of some psychological help. That he had some learning difficulties. Turned out he had a genius IQ.

Anonymous said...

Damn, this is a remarkable story, I've not heard this tale before. Excruciating. There was a time in my life, late 70s, I HAD to have a Porsche, my uncle had one, my cousin had one, my grandfather favored German cars, so the fam was showing up in these things, I had my eye set on one specific model, I wanted a 1965 C, yellow, buttercup yellow, so the local dealer chased one down for me. I owned it; and that's when I learned that the car had possession of me rather than the reverse. The car was wasted on me, I'd just been in love with its body rather than its soul. That same lament played itself out in many other arenas of my early years. We eventually grow up, if we're lucky.


Toad said...

Anyone remember the name of the Southern woman who occasionally pops up on "all things considered", lives with her mother and after daddy left forever kept Flo's Porsche on the back porch?

Karena said...

Toad an amazing story, fascinating! Oh and happy Birthday to Truman!

Art by Karena

Anonymous said...

"Anyone remember the name of the Southern woman who occasionally pops up on "all things considered", lives with her mother and after daddy left forever kept Flo's Porsche on the back porch?"

Oh I know her....yeah yeah yeah.... BaileyBaileyBailey....Bailey White?


Toad said...

Yes, of course. Thank you, that would have driven me nuts all weekend

JMW said...

Whoa, I never knew the history behind James Dean's car. It sounds like inspiration for Stephen King's "Christine." And happy birthday to the late Mr. Capote. :)

Anonymous said...

"...that would have driven me nuts all weekend."

Fret not ever again, not for a moment much less a weekend. That's why your chorus is here; as Max says, "ask us anything."


Toad said...

F, I was stuck on Rita Mae, but knew Brown wasn't right. Myrtle Mae, of course, is Elwood's sister.

Bailey is so much better.

Anonymous said...

"I was stuck on Rita Mae, but knew Brown wasn't right. Myrtle Mae, of course, is Elwood's sister."

Helldam, I thought Myrtle Mae was Elwood's niece. But you know what? You need not suffer these times when only half a name will come to mind. These days, the government is not the only entity intent on "helping us," we also have Google and Amazon BOTH outfitted now with auto-complete. All you have to do is key in part of a name, and like magic a whole menu of other-name-part-options will magically drop down to jog your memory. True, try it.


Toad said...

Even while looking at IMDB I screwed that one up. Darn

The Preppy Princess said...

As a rule I do not dwell in great cosmic mysteries and curses and the like. However. Having read several stories about "The Little Bastard" over the decades, I came to the unsettling conclusion that Mr. Dean was not happy about George Barris purchasing and profiting from what was left of his Porsche.
Furthermore, I decided (this is the sort of thing that is really troubling to friends on those rare occasions when I share such theories) that in some strange way there was a payback for those who participated in said purchases.

I do love your post, and appreciate the birthday sentiment for Mr. Capote.

Not really insanely yours,

Anonymous said...

I never knew the story or legacy of this crash. Jimmy Dean's
coolness still influences generations.
It is wonderful to read your reference to A Christmas Story.
Poignant and beautifully written. It's fruitcake weather.
The story is part of a collection of short stories and I think was made for TV. I'm not sure if it's possible to see it.
Great post and blog. BarbaraG

Toad said...

Barbara, anything for you:

There are 6 episodes

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