Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Famous Cars and the Drivers Who Drove Them

        Auto | Unusual Cars

James Dean and "Little Bastard"
This isn't Dean's actual car -- but it's a good replica. (Creative Commons/flickr/zbdh12)
This isn't Dean's actual car -- but it's a good replica. (Creative Commons/flickr/zbdh12)

James Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder tops the list of the most famous cars for its infamy -- it's widely considered to be the most unlucky car of all time. Dean was only 24 when he was killed driving his beloved Porsche. He'd just bought it, and George Barris, a car customizer who was well known around Hollywood, had just finished some bodywork and interior work. Actor Alec Guinness experienced something of a prophecy when he saw Dean's car (aka "Little Bastard") and warned Dean he'd die in the fancy, fast sports car within a week. And that's exactly what happened. Dean's neck was broken in a car crash exactly a week later, on Sept. 30, 1955, as he was driving Little Bastard to a racetrack in Salinas, Calif.

Since Dean was driving fast on his way to race at an event, and since it was well known that living on the edge was part of his fierce persona, on-screen and off ... well, people drew their conclusions. But that can't explain what allegedly happened next. Little Bastard was sold to Barris, the car customizer. Some time after, it broke a mechanic's leg when it came off its trailer unexpectedly. The car was parted out, and three known accidents occurred in cars that had Little Bastard parts. Thieves tried to strip the shell, but they were hurt in the process. This much has been corroborated by friends of Dean [source: Jalopnik]. Later, a garage burned down while the car was stored inside. A safety exhibit at a high school ended with a student being nearly crushed to death beneath the car when the display stand collapsed. It then proceeded to fall off three transport trucks. Some of these reported events are disputed, and James Dean's family found the rumors disrespectful to his memory. The few known remains of Little Bastard are scattered around the United States at various auto museums, but no new incidents have come to light.