Old School Americana & Nostalgia


What Happened to James Dean’s ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ Car?

What Happened to James Dean’s ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ Car?

In February of 1955, the world grieved the loss of actor James Dean in a fatal car crash. A month later, Rebel Without A Cause was released.

The movie was not only a box-office success but also a cultural sensation. James Dean’s untimely passing left a deeper impact. The film showcased his exceptional acting talent and hinted at his potential to become Hollywood’s next superstar. His 1949 Mercury from the movie became a sensation among the hot-rodding generation.

In the movie, Dean cruises in a subtly enhanced Mercury Eight. Similar to the hero, the car appears unobtrusive until you unleash its power. Yet, it was the character’s racing prowess that propelled it swiftly in the film, particularly during confrontations with rival gangs and villains. Of course, the Mercury stars in one of the film’s most famous scenes, when Stark plays “chicken” with his rival.

However, the car wasn’t always a hot rod favorite. It debuted as a family car, according to Hot Cars. Rolling out in 1939 with the bold slogan “The car that truly dares to ask ‘Why?’” this vehicle was not only large but also affordable. By the close of 1940, over 140,000 Mercury Eights featuring a 3.9-liter engine generating 95 horses sold during a successful two-year period.

Following James Dean‘s tragic death, the Mercury Eight took on a more rebellious essence. It went from a family car to gaining popularity among fans and youth after the movie’s success.

Where is the Car James Dean Drove in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ Now?

The 1949 Mercury Eight Coupe, the car driven by James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, is preserved at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. The vehicle collection primarily belonged to the late casino owner William F. Harrah, and the museum was formerly referred to as the Harrah collection.

In 2011, this car was prominently exhibited for an entire year at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento. According to Motortrend, the unique circumstances stemmed from a friendly wager between the two museums during baseball season. They placed their bets on a sixteen-game series between the local minor league baseball team, the River Cats, and the Reno Aces. With the River Cats emerging victorious, the James Dean Mercury from the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, was temporarily loaned to the California Automobile Museum. However, it was returned to its home in Nevada., where it’s currently on exhibit.