|Photo Credit: Porsche AG|
Towards the end of May, an online auction was held for a legitimate one-of-a-kind piece of automotive and Hollywood memorabilia. After 10 days and 42 bids, the listing ended with a sum of $382,000 in American money (about $465,000 Canadian) for the transaxle that once resided in a rare Porsche 550 Spyder sports car owned by iconic 1950s actor James Dean and linked to his tragic fatality.
Described in length in an article published last month on this website, a four-speed manual transaxle viewed as one of the few documented components connected to the Porsche Dean lost his life driving on September 30th of 1955 was listed on the vehicle-centered Bring a Trailer. According to the auction listing, the component was stored in a wooden crate for decades and eventually made its way to Massachusetts. Featuring a serial number of 10 046, transaxle was mounted into a steel display stand for exhibition.
The seller of the Porsche 550 Spyder’s transaxle also included extensive paperwork to prove its connection to the car purchased by James Dean. Through Porsche and the State of California vehicle registration, the chassis as well as the engine number match the transaxle with the serial number 10 046 effectively concluding its authenticity. To this date, it is one of the only major parts to have surfaced since the disappearance of the car’s remains back in 1960.
Ending on May 29th of 2:05 p.m. eastern time, the sale price of $382,000 US for the transaxle of James Dean’s Porsche ballooned from the $128,550 highest bid on May 24th. With only 90 examples of the Porsche 550 Spyder produced, the lightweight sports car’s rarity and racing pedigree has resulted surviving models garnering multimillion-dollar purchases at auctions. A restored 1956 Porsche 550 RS Spyder sold for $3,042,500 Euros (about 4,477 million dollars Canadian) at a Paris sale with RM Sotheby's in 2019. In 2016, a record-setting amount of 6.1 million dollars American (approximately 7.74 million Canadian at the time) was the hammer price for another 1956 model at the Bonhams's auction at the Goodwood Revival in the United Kingdom.
Besides the scarce original versions of the race-prepped German sports car, the Porsche 550 Spyder has been copied at a spectacular rate with number of recreations being sold. In those reproduced examples, the spirit of the 550 Spyder’s race history and the soul of James Dean lives on.