Newman’s own LS-swapped Volvo wagon headed to auction

RM Sotheby's

Though he got a late start at age 47, Paul Newman swiftly made his mark in auto racing. Behind the wheel he racked up four SCCA National Championships, along with class wins at Le Mans and Daytona, and he found a wealth of success as a team owner during his more than three decades in the sport. Many of the spoils of Newman’s storied career, including championship rings, medals, art, and memorabilia, are headed to RM Sotheby’s online auction, High Speed: Paul Newman’s Racing Legacy, which opens on May 27. Though we could easily find wall space for some of the racing art in the sale, the lot we’re really watching is more racing adjacent: a 1998 Volvo V90 that received an LS engine swap from his race team.

RM Sotheby's

Paul Newman and the phrase “hot rod Volvo” go together like salad and his famous dressing. Newman enjoyed flying under the radar and couldn’t leave his lead foot at the track, so over the years he commissioned a couple of Swedish sleeper wagons he used to bomb around the New England roads near his Connecticut residence. Perhaps the most well-known of these cars was the second one: a 1995 960 with a supercharged Ford 302-cubic-inch V-8. He suggested pal David Letterman get one, too, and it was the comic’s retelling of the story during an interview with fellow comedian Jon Stewart that let the world in on Newman’s love of swapped Volvos.

Before the Ford-powered car, Newman owned a 1988 740 with a Buick 3.8-liter turbo V-6 under the hood. The car recently sold on Bring a Trailer for $87,777, well above the going rate for 740s without a famous owner in their histories, and also exceeding the premium many other stars add to their former cars.

RM Sotheby's

There’s a third, and final, chapter to this story, however. Probably the least known of Newman’s wagons is this LS-swapped V90 coming to sale with RM. A surprise gift built by his race team and delivered to Newman in 2007, the “Volvette” features a 400-hp 6.0-liter Chevy LS2 engine and four-speed automatic found in sixth-generation Corvettes from 2005. Although the car is also reported to have some front suspension modifications, and it rides on Borbet wheels like those on his more notorious Ford-powered 960, the rest of the car remains factory Volvo.

The “Volvette” is a bit more toned down than his 960, for which he requested more aggressive suspension along with a T-5 manual transmission. Still, 400 horsepower is nothing to sneeze at, and though he was 81 when he received the V90 in 2007, Newman could still wheel a car—he finished fourth that year in the final race of his career. Unfortunately, Newman did not get to enjoy this wagon as he did the others—his health declined shortly after receiving it.

RM Sotheby's

As presented, the car is not without cosmetic flaws, but similar issues did not keep Newman’s Buick-powered 740 from its dramatic sale price. The car is offered without reserve and RM estimates bids in the range of $20,000–$25,000. We’ll be watching to see if the Paul Newman premium creates a flurry of bids for this high-powered wagon. Bidding for all lots concludes on June 13.

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    I have a hunch that if he were with us today, his political leanings would have made him lean cuisine towards electric cars, but also more troubling, the “let’s make gas prohibitively expensive to keep the ‘riff-raff’ from fouling the environment, while I, and my rich friends, can carry on as before”.

    Hey! This is Hagerty, not Twitter. The snarky political stuff is out of place here, and I for one want to keep it that way. Newman was a hell of a car lover and racer, and this car is interesting too. His politics, or yours, or mine, aren’t important here.

    Amen, Wentwest and Mark. Paul Newman, James Garner, Andy Griffith, Johnny Carson, Doc Severinsen, Steve Allen (owned an LA motorbike shop), and other “Hollywood liberals” who, like the late Terry Ehrich, publisher of Hemmings Motor News and an arborist, were unabashed environmentalists, able to see past their own hood ornaments, well read enough to grasp the big picture.

    EV fan Jay Leno voted for Joe Biden.

    Indy racing team co-owner Dave Letterman voted for Nader. John B, please leave the down-home politik to Fox ‘n’ tawk radio. We’re here for cars, esp. if Hagerty curbs the content-R-us listicles and runs more interesting articles by Aaron Robinson and Larry Webster.

    Four-wheel drifter, I hope you can see the irony in your comments to John B – saying ‘Amen’ to WentWest and Mark Robinow, then espousing political comments about other car lovers is the same – neither WentWest or Mark said anything political, so I don’t believe they need your support. Please keep it about cars and don’t even use the ‘P’ word. Thanks!

    A guy in my area has a Volvo wagon with a 302 ,5 speed Tremec in it, it needs body work too. I have wondered what it was worth.

    Much earlier he also had a VW convertible with a V8 where the back seat formerly resided.

    Once again I will say I love Paul’s motor swapped wagons. The Buick turbo V6 one was my favorite but the LS swap here would be fantastic too.

    A guy pulled up next to me on Woodward last week in a grey Volvo wagon. I’m sure it had an LS, and I know it had sticky tires. I didn’t bite.

    I have in my possession the Volvo that was the last one Paul drove. It has a worked over Volvo engine. My son Stanton and I along with Paul’s assistant Darice and her Husband Eddie Wirth along with friend Mike Brockman took Paul to Lime Rock to test the VoVette. Paul was too sick to drive and wanted me to take him around the track. I suggested he let Stanton drive him as Stanton raced Nascar also and as it would mean a lot to him. Paul was his God Father.The car broke on the second lap which ended our day. Paul was too sick to really enjoy the day. I tried to give Paul back my car right after he got sick as he missed it but he said that Brockman was having one built for hi. The car had 100000 miles on it and was rough. Mine had 6000 when Volvo send an Engineer and Mechanic over from Sweden along with an engine and it took over a month to marry the engine with the wagon. A similar engine was originally in the Luxury sedan but this one was worked over. Right now I have no intention of selling it. I have a lot of gifts from Paul but this is special as we had some great times in this car.

    The writer stated that the car has a “four-speed automatic found in sixth-generation Corvettes from 2005 to 2007.” 2006 and 2007 Corvettes did not have four speed automatic transmissions.

    Thank you, CharlieO. I misremembered the timing of the move over to the six speed and have made the correction.

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