How far did Paul Newman’s stardom lift his Volvo’s value?

Bring a Trailer/Robkeller

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Who is cooler, Paul Newman or Rod Stewart?

It’s an out-of-left-field question, to be sure, but one the collector-car market was effectively asked to weigh in on last week, as cars formerly owned by each of them sold on Bring a Trailer. Stewart’s ride was a 1989 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary. Newman’s was a modified 1988 Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon with a turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6.

Of course, the answer is entirely subjective. This being Insider, though, we do have a rubric from Hagerty Price Guide publisher Dave Kinney for guessing how much a celebrity will add to a car’s value. You can go read it, we’ll wait here.

1989 lamborghini countach 25th-anniversary front three quarter
Bring a Trailer/Steves_exotics

Back? OK. Let’s run through it.

First, let’s discuss how famous these famous people really are. I happen to be a fan both—I’ve seen Cool Hand Luke multiple times and think Stewart’s cover of “Street Fighting Man” is better than the original—but would have to give Newman the nod here. When you’re talking about “household name,” it’s hard to do better than one that literally lives in peoples’ refrigerators and food pantries.

Both are “car guys.” Newman’s credentials hardly need to be stated: Four-time SCCA National Champion, co-owner of a successful racing team, star of multiple car-loving movies. Stewart, it must be noted, is no slouch—he’s owned many fabulous cars over the years, including more than one Lambo.

Where the Volvo really pulls away, however, is its condition. Were these normal sales, the Countach would be clearly superior, showing just 12K kilometers (roughly 7300 miles) and only minor signs of wear, in contrast with the Volvo’s 76K miles, clearly creased seats, and major drivetrain modification.

In this case, the mods and the wear attest to the attention the celebrity paid the car. The rich and famous can, after all, afford to buy lots of cars but, like everyone else, have only so much time. The Volvo clearly reflects the interest and personality of its owner; the Lambo does not.

Bidders seemed to agree with us. Both cars brought strong prices—the Lamborghini more at $555K, and the Volvo $84,777. Yet Stewart’s car is right around what the Hagerty Price Guide expects for a Silver Anniversary Countach in #2, or Excellent, condition.

Volvo’s 700-series cars are not in our price guide, yet even a cursory look at previous BaT sales indicates these are not $80K cars—somewhere between $10K and $20K would be more typical. (The Buick motor is, admittedly, a curve ball. Yet conventional wisdom holds that period-modifications generally do not add greatly to a car’s value.)

These results largely fall in line with what we observed with our 2022 Power List, which quantified the premium celebrities add. Stewart made a strong showing on the list, at number 10 for musicians. But Newman? Among movie stars, he was number one.


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    only one of the above cars is not a american shitpile from the 80’s. I wasn’t even born then, so unlike “some”, I can look at all this pretty objectively lol.

    Thirty some years ago while I was employed by C/D we constructed a special Nissan for Newman dubbed ‘A Maxima with Moxie.’ While Paul was not especially appreciative, his wife JoAnne Woodward apparently loved and drove that car for ages. I’m not sure what became of it.

    Am I remembering correctly: you brought it to his home, he came out and looked at it. He then went back into his house and didn’t come out again. There was, I think, some issue about him not wanting to be photographed in shorts with his skinny legs. And, wasn’t there another similar Volvo wagon that was built at the same time/by the same people for David Letterman? I remember Letterman talking about that in some interview.

    It still amazes me that anyone gives a rats behind about who owned a particular vehicle in regards to said vehicles value.

    This story seems to keep popping up. Well for the third time on this story I will say I’d pick the Volvo because of that turbo buick engine swap.

    A local shop owned by Lee Hurley called HESCO did the swap with another friend Rodney Jones doing the work on the Volvo wagon.

    I was at Kissimmee auction and up rolls, Johnnie Cochran’s ride, a run of the mill Eldo. Besides folks asking, “who is Johnnie Cochran?”, it did not amount to anything. A bit later up rolls Matlock’s Mercedes 220 cabriolet. It brought good money, not because it was Matlock, the lawyer’s ride, it brought money because Pontoon Cabriolets are rare. That said, $84k for a Newman anything seems like a steal.

    Wasn’t there another Volvo Wagon that Newman drove that had a Ferrari engine installed? That’s the car I was thinking about first when I read the headline… I saw it in a museum once, just can’t remember which one. That car would get a lot more, I imagine.

    His first was a 5.0 Ford – that is correct. Done by Ross Converse, IIRC, as was Letterman’s. I met (and shook hands with) P.J. Newman (as he preferred at the track) during the 1971 SCCA Run-offs. A real gentleman, taking time to chat with the little folk.

    The red block engines in the Volvos are bomb proof as well as the rest of the vehicles.. why put anything else in them? Also my 2003 XC 70 came out with a 20 rustout prevention guarantee, tho today it’s 12 yrs on current vehicles.

    The way I heard the Letterman story, Newman had the car built for him (they shared a love for cars/racing). Letterman drove (the crap outta) the car home to Connecticut, and noticed that it got was getting quite hot in the car. So he pulled over to check it out and noticed that the exhaust pipes were mounted hard against the floorboards, and were literally white-hot from the turbo. Then the car started smoking. Then burst into flames.

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