Unseen Photos of James Dean’s Fatal Porsche 550 Spyder Wreck Heading to Auction
The photos originally served as evidence for the lawyer representing a man involved in the storied incident.
It seems this is the summer for some genuinely incredible automotive-related artifacts to come out of hiding. Earlier this month, we saw a portion of Elvis Presley’s private car collection surface, which will be auctioned off for the first time ever in history. Now, RR Auction in Boston is listing some never-released photos of James Dean’s horrific and fatal car accident in his Porsche 550 Spyder.
The collection consists of a total of 30 black-and-white physical prints from the scene of Dean’s infamous accident on Sept. 30, 1955, many of which have never been released to the public. The famed Hollywood star met his fate when a Ford Tudor sedan supposedly cut him off at an intersection on Route 466 in Cholame, California. Dean was supposedly on his way to a motorsports event in Salinas at the time.
The photos were originally meant as evidence in a lawsuit attempt by former Porsche mechanic Rolf Wutherich, who was riding with Dean at the time of the incident. They were eventually collected by Robert Everett Coyle, who represented the insurance company covering the Ford driver, Donald Turnupseed, at the time. But the case never made it to the courthouse and Wurtherich returned to West Germany in 1957.
Coyle then held on to the photos and eventually handed them down to his son, Robert A. Coyle Jr., who is a self-professed “history buff” and listed as the seller through RR Auctions.
Speaking to news reporters, RR Auction Executive Vice President Bobby Livingston said he estimates the photos could sell for $20,000. Though because of how unique and “unusual” the photos are, it’s difficult to attribute an accurate selling estimate.
"The early death of James Dean reverberates to this day," Livingston told CNN. "These images offer an intensely unique perspective of the crash location and the resulting carnage—many of the photos taken only hours after the accident."
Interestingly, nobody reportedly knows the location of the the wrecked Porsche 550 Spyder’s remains. Rumor has it that it was stripped down for parts while the body changed hands to George Barris, a renowned car customizer from the era. Barris wanted to restore the car but instead began loaning it to the National Safety Council for vocational uses. It has since then disappeared. To this day, the Chicago-based Volo Auto Museum has a reward offering of $1 million for anyone who turns the wreckage over to them.
The Volo Auto Museum received a tip back in 2014 but that lead apparently went stale.
The photos will hit the “Pop Culture” online-only auction running between Aug. 8 and Aug. 15.