Paul Newman’s Hot-Rodded Volvo, Racing Medals, and Other Track Memorabilia Head to Auction

The late Paul Newman was a true Renaissance man. He proved himself one of the finest actors of his time with films such as Cool Hand Luke and The Hustler. He also distinguished himself as a skilled race car driver with a podium finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. The Ohioan’s many talents (and achievements) will be highlighted at RM Sotheby’s this spring.

The auction house is holding a sale in late May dedicated to Cool Hand himself. Fittingly titled High Speed: Paul Newman’s Racing Legacy, the auction will include 100 lots of automotive accouterments from the estate of the Hollywood great and his beloved wife, actress Joanne Woodward.

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Many of Newman’s greatest on-track victories can be relived through his racing suits, custom helmets, glitzy trophies, and championship rings. There are also two cars up for grabs that highlight his passion for eclectic autos.

Paul Newman's 1998 Volvo V90 "Volvette"
Newman’s 1998 Volvo V90 “Volvette.”

The first is a one-off Volvo V90 wagon that was built in 2007 by Newman’s race team as a gift to the actor-turned-driver. Newman was known for installing the powertrains of muscle cars into Volvo station wagons. In fact, he famously convinced his friend David Letterman to buy one such suped-up ride.

“Paul Newman calls up and he says, ‘Dave, I’m thinking about getting me a Volvo station wagon and I’m going to stuff a Ford 302 V-8 engine into it,’” the talk show host recounted in a 1995 interview with John Stewart. “This engine is about the size of a small piano, so we’re going to have to push back the firewall. Do you want one?’”

Paul Newman's 1998 Volvo V90 "Volvette"
Under the hood of the “Volvette.”

Letterman ordered one and went on to rave about it, according to RM Sotheby’s. It’s easy to see why: Newman’s third and final hot-rodded Volvo is an elegant mix of U.S. grunt and Swedish style. The aptly named “Volvette” packs a 6.2-liter Chevrolet LS3 V-8 crate engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission for truly fearsome performance. It is expected to fetch between $20,000 to $25,000 at the upcoming auction.

Paul Newman's 1997 Legends racing car
Newman’s 1997 Legends racing car.

The second four-wheeler is a 1997 Legends racing car that Newman reportedly bought and used to sponsor young drivers in the series. It still wears its original livery with the actor’s initials above the doors. It is expected to hammer down for between $5,000 and $10,000.

That’s only a taste of the rarities on offer, too. (You can peruse the full catalog here.) All 100 pieces will be sold without reserve at the auction on May 31.

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