In March 1955, after his success seemed sealed with the huge success of East of Eden in February, Dean traded the MG in on a new 1955 Porsche Super Speedster and at the end of that month while in between films (and contracts) entered his first car race at Palm Springs, finishing first in the novice class on the Saturday and following up with a second overall in the main race. Early in May he raced again at Bakersfield where he finished first in class and third overall, and in his third outing at Santa Barbara on May 30 he started in 18th spot, worked his way through the field to fourth, and then blew a piston. Those three meetings were the total extent of James Dean’s racing experience and he’d proved that he was at least moderately good at it, if a little wild. Things slowed down then, because when he started filming his third and final movie, Giant, Jack Warner’s studio banned him from motor racing until the job was done. Bracker, by then a convert, had traded his almost-new Buick Century convertible in on a new red Porsche Speedster in June 1955.
On 18 September 1955 Bracker drove past the local Porsche dealership and saw a stunning new $7 000 Porsche 550 Spyder on display. He later mentioned it in a telephonic conversation to Dean, who didn’t have too much to say before abruptly ending the conversation. Three days later Dean arrived at his friend’s house in the gorgeous silver race car. Bracker’s response was instantaneous – he called the dealership and arranged to buy Dean’s traded in old Super Speedster, which was faster than his own Speedster. He too decided to race, and Dean, the old hand with three race meetings already under his belt, took him under his wing and guided him through his first event. It was to be the only race meeting that they attended together, and they never had a chance to compete against each other on the track.
Once Dean’s Spyder arrived he sent it in to a local custom shop where customiser Dean Jeffries painted James Dean’s race-number, 130 onto the car. He’d wanted No. 13 but organisers often refused to permit the use of the supposedly unlucky number. Jeffries also painted the name that Dean had chosen onto the car – “Little Bastard – in quotation marks. One theory is that this was a dig at Jack Warner, who’d angrily called Dean a “little bastard” during an altercation, while another has it that the name was fondly aimed at the car itself. The truth is probably a combination of the two.