Stars We Lost Behind The Wheel

KISS THEM FOR ME, Jayne Mansfield, 1957
Everett Collection
Everett Collection

While we love the freedom and adventure of the open road, cars have also claimed the lives of several famous celebs. Here are a few notables who perished as a result of auto accidents.

James Dean

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, James Dean on set, 1955

Everett Collection

The iconic 24-year-old’s life was cut short on Sept. 30, 1955, when he crashed his new Porsche 550 en route to a California auto rally.

Jayne Mansfield

Vera Jane Palmer (1933 - 1967) better known as Jayne Mansfield, an American actress in the passenger seat of a limousine.

Express Newspapers/Getty Images

The blonde bombshell, her boyfriend and their driver were killed in the early hours of June 29, 1967, when their car struck the rear of a tractor-trailer on a highway near New Orleans. Three of the actress’ children (including Mariska Hargitay) were asleep in the back seat of the car and survived the accident with minor injuries.

Grace Kelly

THE SWAN, Grace Kelly, 1956

Everett Collection

On Sept. 13, 1982, the Hollywood star turned princess suffered a stroke while driving, and her car veered off of a cliff. The 52-year-old princess died a day later, and the vehicle’s passenger, 17-year-old Princess Stephanie, suffered multiple injuries including broken ribs, cervical fractures and a shattered collarbone.

Sam Kinison

ON LOCATION, Sam Kinoson, (1987), 1976-.

HBO/Courtesy Everett Collection

The 38-year-old comic was driving to a sold-out performance in Nevada on April 10, 1992, when a truck, driven by a 17-year-old drunk driver, swerved into his lane and struck his car head-on.

General George Patton

American General George S Patton (1885 - 1945) with his bull terrier Willie, 1944.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The legendary World War II general was a passenger in a car that collided with an American army truck on Dec. 9, 1945, near Mannheim, Germany. The accident paralyzed the 60-year-old from the neck down, and he died of congestive heart failure 12 days later.

Harry Chapin

American singer-songwriter Harry Chapin (1942 - 1981) plays the guitar and sings on stage during a performance, 1970s.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On July 16, 1981, the folk singer suffered an emergency while driving on the Long Island Expressway. His slow-moving car was hit from behind, causing it to crash and burst into flames. Although Chapin was rescued from the inferno, he died from what was later ruled a heart attack.

Jack Johnson

American heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson in action sparring.

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

On June 10, 1946, 68-year-old Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion, was killed after racing his car away from a Raleigh, N.C., diner that refused to serve him.

Dale Earnhardt Sr.

15 Feb 1996: Dale Earnhardt celebrates his seventh Gatorade125 Qualifying race as he chases the remarkable 500th win, at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

David Taylor/Allsport

The NASCAR racing legend competed in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1975 to 2001 winning a total of 7 championships until he died on Feb. 18, 2001 doing what he loved while competing in the Daytona 500.

Leslie Jordan

THE COOL KIDS, Leslie Jordan, (Season 1, airs September 28, 2018).

Pamela Litky/Fox/courtesy Everett Collection

The beloved comedian was on his way to a casting call for the show “Call me Kat’ when the 67 year old had a medical emergency and died slumped behind the wheel of his car in October of 2022

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Stars & Cars

April 2018

Rev up your engines for an issue filled with the hottest cars in Hollywood

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