Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If only there was a photo of James Dean
with his Royal Enfield motorcycle

Royal Enfield motorcycles remain relatively little known in the United States. Imagine how different things would be if there was a picture of the young James Dean, posing with his Royal Enfield motorcycle?

Dean's powerful persona lives on in his films and, especially, in the iconic still photographs made of him. It hardly seems possible that a man who died so young (and made relatively few motion pictures) had time to impress such powerful visual images on our collective memories. It turns out there was a method to it.

Dean's striking looks and love of motorcycles and cars are amply documented in James Dean: At Speed, Lee Raskin's gorgeously illustrated book about Dean's life and his vehicles.

In an appearance recently on Jay Leno's Garage, Raskin revealed Dean's secret; part of it, at least.

Why is the actor's racing life so well preserved in photographs, right up to his death in the crash of his Porsche Spyder? The reason, Raskin tells Leno, is that Dean made sure there were cameras around. In fact, the color photos of his final drive were made with Dean's own camera, brought along for the occasion.

You can watch Jay Leno's complete interview with Raskin here:

The pictures of Dean racing in Raskin's book blend together nicely in the mind's eye with movie stills from Rebel Without a Cause. The actor burned the crisp, cool image of the young man in the leather jacket onto film. Every indication is that this is how he wanted to be seen.

Dean wasn't always so savvy. James Dean: At Speed details the stirring story of the actor's nearly frozen dash across the United States on his Royal Enfield in the winter of 1953-'54.

Raskin writes that Dean wore an aviator's leather helmet and a hood to cover his face, with just slits for the eyes.

Royal Enfield would be a lot better known if a photograph existed from that epic ride.

James Dean: At Speed is available on, Ebay or directly through the author, Lee Raskin, who will sign and inscribe books on request. Contact the author at for price and shipping information.


  1. Patience is a virture. While no one has yet discovered a photo of James Dean and his Royal Enfield 500cc, a recently discovered original invoice from Carter Motors, Fairmount, Indiana has shed some new light on this bike. For the first time, a VIN is available to those seeking to located James Dean's 'lost' 1951 Royal Enfield 500cc, as described in the story above. If you have any information about J2/7484...please let me know! Happy Hunting! Lee Raskin Author James Dean At Speed.


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