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Famous death cars No. 4 – James Dean’s 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder
James Dean made it clear that he didn’t want to go through life with one hand tied behind his back. So even though he probably had both hands on the wheel of his silver 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder – which Dean reportedly called his “Little Bastard” – the 24-year-old megastar couldn’t walk away from a car accident with a 1950 Ford Tudor being driven by one Donald Turnupseed. It happened on State Route 46 in Bakersfield, Calif., on Sept. 30, 1955. Turnupseed would go on; Dean did not.
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Curiously, the remains of Dean’s care were sold, and lent to the California Highway Patrol for use in a safety demonstration. As the parts were eventually sold off, the owners of cars with Dean’s parts installed died in fatal car accidents. By 1960, the car that had James Dean’s old engine mysteriously disappeared from existence.
Famous death cars No. 5 – Death car of legend, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado coupe
There’s no celebrity involved in this death car story, but the specific 1959 Cadillac Eldorado coupe involved is famous in its own right. In 1959, the car was reportedly spotted at the scene of the murder of Rhode Island injection molding tycoon Maurice Gagnon. The story is that Gagnon was robbed, and when he resisted attempts by the thugs to keep him from testifying against them, the thugs kidnapped him and eventually murdered him in his 1959 Cadillac Eldorado coupe. The car was subsequently abandoned by the killers in New Hampshire, yet police were quickly able to find it. After 15 years in evidence, that car was released into the wild.
Famous death cars No. 6 – President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Lincoln limousine
If Bonnie and Clyde’s death car isn’t the most famous in U.S. history, then JFK’s 1961 Lincoln would have to take the top spot. The $200,000 presidential limousine crafted by Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati inadvertently served as Camelot’s last ride when President John F. Kennedy was shot dead on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. It would be the last time that a U.S. president would parade about in public in an open limousine.
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Dubbed X-100 by Secret Service, JFK’s death car began as a standard limousine, but was cut in half, reinforced, then extended 3.5 feet so that it would be optimal for parade gallantry. It was leased to the White House by Ford for $500 per year at the time. After X-100 was impounded as evidence, it was eventually converted again as a part of “Project D-2,” into a closed, armored car that would be used by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter. Upon retirement in 1977, the X-100 went to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
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