Monday, January 4, 2010

Book details Dean's Royal Enfield ride

In the winter of 1953-'54, actor James Dean dashed across the frozen Midwest on his Royal Enfield 500 twin motorcycle. I discovered the story in the book James Dean: At Speed, by Lee Raskin. After I recounted the tale on this blog, author Raskin wrote with his thoughts about Dean's almost fool hardy ride.

"Thanks for including the whole story of James Dean's brief but exciting ride from Fairmount, Ind. to Harrisburg, Penn. and including a great map! This was a previously unpublished story, verified by a tape recording from the owner of Hunzinger's Motorcycles in Harrisburg, Penn. to Dean historian Phil Zeigler of Fairmount, Ind. (Dean's hometown).

"It was a long, extremely cold ride that many of us would not have attempted. Jimmy ran the bike hard once he got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The RE wasn't ready for Jimmy's red lining yet!"

James Dean: At Speed meticulously details what happened to the vehicles Dean rode and drove during his life. Unfortunately, the VIN of the Royal Enfield isn't known.

"Wouldn't it be sweet if the RE was rediscovered somehow!" Raskin wrote. He added:

"Jimmy's cousin, Mark Winslow found Jimmy's Triumph 500 TT high pipe with a VIN search and restored it to original condition. That bike is on display in Fairmount and its photo is in the book.

"James Dean: At Speed is the first accurate book to verify and list every motor bike and motorcycle that he ever owned. No, he never owned a Harley-D or a Norton or a Vespa scooter like so many authors before me alluded to," Raskin said.

"Attribution is so important if you want to be the best historian possible — especially when archiving cars and bikes."

James Dean: At Speed is available on, eBay or directly through the author, Lee Raskin, who will sign and inscribe books on request. The special price is $30, including shipping to U.S. For Europe and other continents shipping is at set postal rates. Contact the author at

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