News & Opinion | June 16, 2018 5:00 am

Why Porsche Became Hollywood’s Go-To Car

It became synonymous with James Dean and Steve McQueen for a reason.

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Actor James Dean gives a thumbs-up sign from his Porsche 550 Spyder, the Little Bastard, while parked on Vine Street in Hollywood. (Getty Images)
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When James Dean was 24, he was fresh off the success of East of Eden and had started racing his Porsche 356 1500 Super Speedster in California. He placed first in the under-1500 class at a competition in Palm Springs. Then he went to Bakersfield and won again. Dean traded in the Speedster for the latest race car, the 550 Spyder, got Von Dutch to paint “Lil’ Bastard” across the back and the duo became iconic. After finishing up filming of the movie Giant, Dean started driving towards Salinas in the 550 for another race, but he died in a crash along the way. And even though Dean never drove a Porsche onscreen, he cemented the Porsche and Hollywood connection for good. He was the first actor turned gentleman drive, handsome, powerful and possessing both means and dedication.

James Bond may never have driven a Porsche, but Sean Connery sure made driving his 356 look cool. Janis Joplin’s 656, meanwhile, took on psychedelic colors and Jacqueline Bisset’s Canary Yellow 356C convertible in Bullitt lends some balance to the film’s grit. In Scarface, Tony Montana has a gleaming silver 928, bought to impress Michelle Pfeiffer’s character. In Sixteen Candles, Jake Ryan rolls up to Molly Ringwald’s house in a bright red 944. You see Tom Cruise, Ray-Bans and all, driving the 928 in Risky Business. The examples of Hollywood and Porsche matchup are endless. And Hollywood’s obsession with Porsche seems as relevant today as ever.