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Rare part from James Dean's 'cursed' Porsche 550 Spyder sold for $382,000

The four-speed transaxle from the Porsche 550 Spyder that James Dean suffered fatal injuries in has been auctioned for $382,000.

James Dean in the Porsche 550 Spyder he nicknamed 'Little Bastard' on Vine Street in Los Angeles.

James Dean in the Porsche 550 Spyder he nicknamed ‘Little Bastard’ on Vine Street in Los Angeles.
(Bettmann via Getty Images)

The unit is the only documented part from the wrecked car whose whereabouts are still publicly known.

Dean died after colliding with another vehicle at an intersection in Cholame, Calif., on Sept. 30, 1955, while on his way to compete with the Porsche in a race in Salinas.

(Bring a Trailer)

The transaxle was one of several components scavenged from the wreck by Dr. William F. Eschrich, who purchased the car from the insurance company for $1,092, but it was never used again.

Another racer, Troy McHenry died in a racing accident in 1956 in a car that was reportedly equipped with several other parts from Dean’s car, one of several tragedies connected to it that led to the myth that it was cursed.

Photos from the scene of James Dean's fatal crash.

Photos from the scene of James Dean’s fatal crash.
(RR Auction)

The crumpled bodyshell was reported stolen in 1960 and hasn’t been seen since. 

Eschrich eventually sold the transaxle and it changed hands several times until it ended up in storage, where it spent a few decades before being discovered last year by Porsche restorer Don Ahearn while he was looking for parts for another classic Porsche model.


The well-maintained and documented unit was then mounted to a display frame that replicates how it would be installed in the 550 Spyder and offered for sale on the Bring a Trailer website.

The high bid of $382,000 was roughly three-times what a similar transaxle would be worth without the celebrity connection.

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