Sixty years after the Sept. 30, 1955, crash that killed James Dean, and 10 years after the Volo Auto Museum made a $1 million offer for the legendary actor’s long-missing Porsche Spyder wreckage, a tip regarding the 550’s whereabouts is turning museum officials’ heads.
After Dean’s death, the wrecked Porsche was toured nationally as a highway safety exhibit. But the car went missing while being transported from Florida to California and was reported stolen in the early 1960s.
The car¹s disappearance, combined with its history and reputation for being cursed, makes it a sought-after relic. The museum made a $1 million offer for it in 2005.
It’s one of the biggest mysteries in automotive and entertainment history, Grams said. Over the past 10 years we’ve received hundreds if not thousands of phone calls from people claiming to know the car’s whereabouts.
While none of those tips ever panned out, interest in the museum’s still-standing offer renewed after an episode of Brad Meltzer’s Lost History aired last winter. The show featured the legend of the Spyder, as well as an interview with Brian Grams, director of the Volo Museum.
“We sifted through the new tips, and one guy who contacted us this spring had an intriguing story,” Grams said. The man said he was 6 years old at the time, and was present as his father and some other men put the wreckage behind a false wall in a building in Whatcom County, Wash.
The man also recounted some conversational details that further supported his claim. And he offered to take (and passed) a polygraph test, Grams said.
Communications are ongoing. However, the tipster is declining to reveal the building’s location until he inks a deal for a portion of the reward. The museum will pay only if it gains legal possession of the car, and its current ownership is in question. An Edmonds, Wash., lawyer is working on next steps with Grams and George Barris, who claimed ownership of the car at the time of its disappearance.
“He’s got our attention,” Grams said of the tipster, whose name Grams withheld to protect the museum’s lead. “We are ready with the funds. But we need legal rights to the car, assuming it’s there and this guy’s story is awesome, and our most believable lead to date. It’s kind of like Al Capone’s vault. If it is in there, it continues the legend of this car’s notorious history.”