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Hidden Component of James Dean Porsche 550 Spyder Revealed

A major component of James Dean’s well-known Porsche 550 Spyder recently surfaced, 65 years after the infamous crash. After being hidden from public view for more than 30 years, the original and complete transaxle assembly, which was kept in a wooden crate in rural Massachusetts, was again found. It was Porsche collector Don Ahearn who announced the discovery of the part of the car that is arguably one of the most famous of the Porsche marque. 

The 550 Spyder only has three permanently traceable components, the chassis, the engine, and the gearbox/transaxle. The transaxle has a correct factory serial number #10046 stamped on it, and what makes it special is that it could possibly be the only documented and provable part of what is now known as the James Dean Spyder, to still exist.

James Dean
James Dean in Porsche Spyder 550

The transaxle has been in continuous, documented ownership, and has been verified by specialists to be the original element of the James Dean Spyder. 

The original body/chassis of the James Dean Spyder, bearing serial number #550-055 was recorded as stolen back in 1960 while it was being returned from a highway safety exhibition. Disappointingly it has never been seen again. Through the years, there have been whispers regarding the location of the lost wreck, but none of the rumors have proven true. The original engine bearing serial number #90059, is said to be in California, although it has been decades since it was last seen or verified. This makes the surfacing of the gearbox assembly truly unique as it is the only verifiable part of the James Dean Spyder that fans can see and appreciate. 

Expert metal shaper Steve Hogue built the custom fabricated display stand that the transaxle is currently mounted on, after it was removed from its crate. The assembly is displayed exactly as it was in the original James Dean Spyder. 

Transaxle of Porsche 550 Spyder

It is possible that the transaxle might be offered for sale to a major collection or museum. If the sale pushes through, it will be the first time ever that any part of the original James Dean Spyder is offered to the public.  

September 30th 2020 marks James Dean’s 65th death anniversary. 

[Source: Ahearn]