Lot 199

High Speed: Paul Newman's Racing Legacy

1998 Volvo V90 "Volvette"


$57,200 USD | Sold

United States | Milford, Connecticut



Chassis No.
US Title
  • One-off V90 wagon built in 2007 by Paul Newman’s race team as a gift to the actor turned racer
  • Powered by a 6.0-liter Chevrolet LS2 V-8 crate engine; four-speed automatic transmission
  • Accompanied by original Volvo engine, transmission, and manuals

Of the many pursuits actor turned racer Paul Newman was known for, his penchant for Volvo station wagons modified with muscle-car powertrains was one of the most unique. His first wonder-wagon was reportedly a 1988 Volvo 740 powered by a 3.8-liter turbocharged V-6 from a Buick Grand National. Then came the infamous Volvo 960 with a supercharged 5.0-liter Mustang V-8. Newman famously convinced friend David Letterman to also buy one, as the talk show host recounted in a 1995 interview with fellow host John Stewart. “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,’” Letterman said. “‘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?’” 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 on tap, one such modified Volvo 960 tested by Car and Driver was as fast as a mid-’90s Mustang Cobra.

Newman’s third and final hot-rodded Volvo is offered here. Unlike the other two, it was not his idea to build it, but rather was conceived and constructed by his race team as a surprise gift in 2007. Shoehorned under the hood is a Chevrolet LS2 V-8 crate engine—the same 6.0-liter found in a C6 Corvette—mated to a General Motors four-speed automatic transmission. The V90’s rear-wheel-drive layout meant that, besides shortening the stock driveshaft and tweaking the linkage for the shift lever to line up properly in the center console, no further fabrication or major modifications were required. The wiring was professionally reworked by an electrical expert. The rear suspension remained stock, while the front end was reportedly modified with components from a Porsche 911. The exterior was kept unchanged, as Newman was known to prefer a stock look with his Swedish station wagons. Unfortunately, he passed not long after the car was completed and so was not able to fully enjoy its fearsome performance. This “Volvette,” replete with custom “V06” rear badge, is now offered with its original inline-six engine, transmission, and factory manuals.