The Mysterious Disappearance Of James Dean’s Porsche
History.com) At 5:45 PM on this day in 1955, 24-year-old actor James Dean is killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he is driving hits a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, was dazed but mostly uninjured; Dean’s passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich was badly injured but survived. Only one of Dean’s movies, “East of Eden,” had been released at the time of his death (“Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant” opened shortly afterward), but he was already on his way to superstardom–and the crash made him a legend. James Dean loved racing cars, and in fact he and his brand-new, $7000 Porsche Spyder convertible were on their way to a race in Salinas, 90 miles south of San Francisco. Witnesses maintained that Dean hadn’t been speeding at the time of the accident–in fact, Turnupseed had made a left turn right into the Spyder’s path–but some people point out that he must have been driving awfully fast: He’d gotten a speeding ticket in Bakersfield, 150 miles from the crash site, at 3:30 p.m. and then had stopped at a diner for a Coke, which meant that he’d covered quite a distance in a relatively short period of time. Still, the gathering twilight and the glare from the setting sun would have made it impossible for Turnupseed to see the Porsche coming no matter how fast it was going.