Paul Newman’s overachieving ‘Volvette’ up for bid

For the longest time, it was the ultimate suburban family hauler. But this particular Volvo wagon had a life far beyond the Wegmans parking lots and high school playing fields.

This particular 1998 V90 belonged to no ordinary soccer mom or dad, as Paul Newman owned it. Maybe he raced it around the rural roadways of Westport, Connecticut, with kids is tow or to pick up pizzas.

The actor, who owned a race team in and out of three decades and racked up four SCCA National Championships, was given the “Volvette” as a surprise gift from one of his teams in 2007, so-called because it was crammed with a 400 horsepower 6.0-liter Chevy LS2 engine and four-speed automatic found in sixth-generation Corvettes from 2005 to 2007.

The car, as well as dozens of artifacts of Newman’s racing career including rings, medals, art, and memorabilia, are on auction currently at RM Sotheby’s online: High Speed: Paul Newman’s Racing Legacy. Bidding closes June 13.

The V90 is one of two Newman machines on the block. Estimated winning bid is expected to be $20,000 to $25,000.

Newman’s affection for Volvos dated back some time: his first pumped-up Swedish example was a1988 Volvo 740 powered by a 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 from a Buick Grand National. The car recently sold on Bring a Trailer for $87,777.

The middle-child swapped Volvo was a 1995 960 with a supercharged 5.0-liter Mustang V8. Newman famously convinced friend David Letterman to get one (Letterman once co-owned Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing). Quipping that Volvo station wagons were “just as ugly as homemade shoes,” Letterman nevertheless ordered one and went on to rave about it. With upwards of 400 horsepower or more, one such modified Volvo 960 tested by Car and Driver was as fast as a mid-’90s Mustang Cobra.

The hot-rod Volvo currently on offer accommodates Porsche 911 components in the front end and mods to the driveshaft. Says the auction’s description, “The exterior was kept unchanged, as Newman was known to prefer a stock look with his Swedish station wagons.”

Sadly, Newman had not enough years left to sufficiently enjoy the Volvette. He died of cancer at age 82 a year after it was given to him.

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