23 November 2015
JAMES BYRON DEAN
By Lee Raskin, Author of James Dean: On The Road To Salinas
A Passion for Competition
There is no doubt that Jimmy tried to push harder whenever he could. Whether it was racing the Czech CZ, playing basketball, or performing in a high school play; he exhibited an explicit kind of passion. His family and friends came to understand Jimmy's constant need for being competitive.
Poster of a 1949 Ford Custom V-8
From Lee Raskin collection.
Mark Winslow recalls a James Dean car story: "Larry Smith, a high school friend of Jimmy's, told me one time that he and Jimmy drove the family's 1949 Ford Custom V-8 to the movie show in Marion. Jimmy was 'hot rodding' a little by speed shifting along the way. The transmission developed a 'noise,' so Jimmy and his friend decided to park the car and go into the movies. When they came out, the transmission 'noise' had disappeared, so Jimmy didn't ever mention the problem to the Winslows."
Many teens did the exact same thing with their family cares. Laying rubber from a stop sign, followed by a speed shift into second gear -- might cause a clutch to overheat and begin to 'whine.' If you got lucky, the noise went away after the clutch cooled down. Jimmy got lucky that night and he was thankful that he wasn't going to be in any trouble -- as it allowed him to drive the Ford to his senior prom that spring.
The original 1949 Ford Custom V-8 is always on display at the James Dean Festival Days each year. Photo by Mari Ryan
Mark Winslow owns the original 1949 family Ford Custom that was repainted in a 1949 maroon color. Mark stated, "I guess I'd have to say that I knew all along that Jimmy drove the Ford, but I never thought it would mean so much to all the James Dean fans."