James Dean was a Hollywood giant at 24, but the stardom he dreamed of was at the racetrack. For years, the actor used the Hollywood Hills as a Grand Prix practice track before entering his first professional race on March 26, 1955 in Palm Springs, Calif.
Now Dean fans can bid on a set of rarely seen pictures of the actor from that day by going to PremiereProps.com. The photos are being auctioned off along with over 1,000 movie and TV memorabilia items on March 22-23.
The late photographer Gus Vignolle shot the actor after being persuaded by his daughter Janis. “She had seen East of Eden,” recalls family friend Mel Felix. “When she saw James Dean, she said, ‘He’s going to be really really famous, Dad.’ That s what prompted him to take all these pictures.”
Six months later, on Sept. 30, Dean was speeding in his new Porsche 550 Spyder to another race in Salinas, Calif., when a car pulled out on the highway, resulting in a violent collision that killed the actor.
Ironically, only weeks before his death the actor taped a segment on driver safety, telling viewers at the end, “The life you might save might be mine.”
For more exclusive photos, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.