The spotlight of fame burns brightly on people from all walks of life for many reasons. While vastly different from each other, the celebs profiled here were uncompromising figures cut down by tragedy. What else do they have in common? They died young—in cars.
Come with us to learn more about the famous faces of an earlier era and the fatal circumstances that made the view from a car window their last.
You know that quote, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”? James Dean said that—and he meant it. Dean also said, “Racing is the only time I feel whole”. The precocious 24-year-old method actor was a speed demon with a deep love for race cars.
Dean swapped his 1953 MG for a ‘55 Porsche Spyder and named it “Little Bastard.” On September 30, 1955, Dean, fresh from filming the epic Giant, was driving the teensy Porsche to a road race in Salinas, California, when a 1950 Ford Tudor struck him head-on. Dean died instantly, but parts from the ravaged Spyder were resold. According to History, the parts went on to be involved in numerous other fatal accidents.
Alabama’s own Hank Williams was America’s first country music star whose poignant lyrics and heart-wrenching tone earned him the nickname “Hillbilly Shakespeare.” Songs like “Cold, Cold Heart” and “I Saw the Light” made him famous, but Williams’ physical and emotional pain left him vulnerable to alcohol and drug addiction.
Williams hired a teenager to chauffeur him to an out-of-state gig in his 1952 baby blue Cadillac Series 62 convertible, but he’d never make it there. A mixture of alcohol, morphine, and chloral hydrate in the 29-year-old singer’s bloodstream stopped his heart. Williams died in the back seat of his car on January 1, 1953, with unfinished lyrics and empty beer cans by his side.
American-born Jean Seberg’s star rose in the late 1950s and early 1960s with French-made films like Bonjour Tristesse and Breathless. Although Seberg lived in Paris, her open support of the US civil rights group The Black Panthers was motive enough for J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to decimate her career, planting vicious rumors in the press that tested Seberg’s resolve.
After missing for 10 days in 1979, Paris police found Seberg’s decomposing body in the back of her little white Renault, bundled in a blanket next to a bottle of barbiturates and a quick suicide note. To this day, Seberg’s death is suspicious. A toxicology report raised questions about how an impaired person could move their car and tuck themselves in the back to die. Sadly, we may never know the truth.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the renegade duo who never did anything halfway, will forever rest in infamy for their Depression-era crime binge and flagrant defiance of the authorities.
Bonnie and Clyde were touring America’s roads in a string of stolen cars when they weren’t robbing banks, shooting people, or posing for couples photos.
By 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were the FBI’s most wanted. When the police were tipped off on the couple’s whereabouts, they set up an ambush in rural Louisiana as they approached in a stolen 1934 Ford Fordor Deluxe sedan with a catch-me-if-you-can V8 engine. The car became immortalized when the cops sunk around 112 bullets into the chassis, killing them both.
If you were alive, you probably remember where you were when news broke about Princess Diana’s deadly car crash in a Parisian tunnel. The accident, which occurred on the night of August 31, 1997, shocked the world. The fact that Lady Di’s (intoxicated) driver was attempting to evade the paparazzi angered many as photos of the mangled 1996 Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class circulated the globe.
The Mercedes, containing driver Henri Paul, Trevor Rees-Jones, Princess Diana, and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed, slammed into a tunnel pillar at a reported 121 mph. Only Rees-Jones survived. Conspiracies over the nature of the accident persist, but sadly, an ongoing search for answers will never bring the People’s Princess back to life.
This article originally appeared on MyCarMakesNoise.
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