Trashed cars usually end up in a junkyard after a wreck — unless perhaps a celebrity was killed as a passenger or behind the wheel.
The shell of James Dean’s Porsche is said to be out there, but even the Lincoln that JFK was assassinated in was refurbed and served several future Presidents. So the most infamous preserved write-off is probably the Buick Electra in which Jayne Mansfield met her untimely end in 1967.
For a long time that twisted mass of metal — complete with broken glass and blood stains from Mansfield’s fatal injury — was on display at the Tragedy in U.S. History Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, but was auctioned off when the museum closed in 1998.
It’s been in private hands ever since, and future public display seemed unlikely as “it’s just such a bizarre collectible, and not something an average person can share with a lot of people — but we can,” says Scott Michaels of Dearly Departed Tours and Gallery, a tour company that’s been looking at the darker side of Tinsel Town for over a decade.
“Ever since I’ve known that this car existed I’d fantasized about seeing it,” he says. “There aren’t many ‘iconic’ artifacts to do with the dark side of Hollywood, and so getting to own this is an amazing opportunity.”
In a casual negotiation that started a couple of years ago after Michaels and his partner, Troy Musgrave, were invited to see the car, he “fished around to find out if the owner was interested in selling” after confirming that it was indeed the authentic car. “Truthfully I never thought in a million years we could obtain this,” says Michaels, who again called the owner late last year to ask, “Hey, when are you going to sell us the Mansfield car?”
Another viewing followed, and this time the owner admitted he thought the car should be display for everyone to see, and that Dearly Departed was the logical place.
Potentially the seventh owner, Michaels and his haunted-horror-tour team need to raise $25,000 to ensure safe delivery of the delicate cargo — which Michaels says would be a "game changer" for his business — and to find a place to store and display it in time for the 50th anniversary of the accident next year.
The buxom blonde bombshell, her lover, the driver and several of Mansfield's dogs were killed when the car slammed into the back of a tractor trailer en route to New Orleans. Augmenting the tragedy, Mansfield's three children, including future actress Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), were in the backseat; they survived with just minor injuries.
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Michaels is an avid fan and collector of Hollywood history, and said that the car “was being acquired because of our love for Jayne Mansfield and Hollywood. The car is history and although it’s not the kind of history everyone embraces, this is our thing. It always has been.”
He already owns a pink Mansfield suitcase — Kat Von D owns the matching makeup case — but in order to find a new home for Dearly Departed that's big enough to show off this piece of vehicular history (and knowing their Sunset Boulevard rent is about to rise unaffordably high), he's holding a unique sale to raise funds.
Set to take place at the gallery on February 28 — the morning of the Oscars — it’s really for serious collectors more than bargain hunters, even if it will doubtless attract the definitely curious. “We’ve had a clear out, looked everywhere, gone to the wall in the gallery and at home,” says Michaels, adding that “there will be creepy shit.”
Some of the treasures that will be on the block include signed Sharon Tate Valley of the Dolls memorabilia, autographs, funeral programs, weird clown art, a Jeffrey Dahmer drawing, bricks from the Tate House and the Ambassador Hotel, strange funereal photographs and other fun items like board games, silly souvenirs and even “an occasional ice cube tray.” None of this is everyday stuff though – it’s all designed to bring Jayne’s car to town for everyone to be able to see. Everyone who wants to see it.