- Looking for the fastest way to bring home several boxes of tasty salad dressing or spaghetti sauce from the grocery store? Consider this 1988 Volvo 740 Wagon.
- Formerly owned by Paul Newman, this brick-shaped Volvo packs a surprise under the hood: a turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 from a Buick Grand National.
- This 740 is one of a series of modified Volvo cars owned by the legendary actor and racer, and it’s now up for sale.
Paul Newman was wickedly fast behind the wheel of a racing car and possessed an effortless cool, basically Steve McQueen without the obnoxious personal baggage. For most people he was the star of films like Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but Newman was more Lime Rock than Hollywood. A favorite son of Westport, Conn., and a family man with a marriage that lasted half a century (until his death in 2008), he had a penchant for Volvo station wagons. However, Newman liked his Swedish iron extra-spicy bottom, as demonstrated by his 1988 Volvo 740 wagon, up for auction on Bring a Trailer (which, as Car and Driveris part of Hearst Autos).
A copy of the title indicates that Newman purchased this 740 in July 1988, and it is believed to be the first Volvo he modified to his specifications. That extended to fitting a turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 from a Buick Grand National mated to a five-speed manual transmission from a Pontiac Firebird.
In 1988, a factory-spec Volvo 740 Turbo wagon came with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder good for about 150 horsepower. Newman’s swap more than doubled the available power to around 320 horses (thanks in part to a hacked ECU).
Subtle bodywork is complemented by a mild lowering on Bilstein dampers and springs and anti-roll bars from Volvo specialist IPD. The five-spoke 16-inch wheels are classic 1980s Volvo and wear BFGoodrich g-Force Comp-2 A/S tires. Despite these clues, any onlooker would think they were looking at a regular old boxy Volvo, until this thing smoked its rear tires and hammered toward the horizon.
Newman, who reportedly got his first taste of racing while filming the Indy 500-themed 1969 film Win, continued to own Volvo 960 wagons with V-8 transplants. He also named his Connecticut neighbor, David Letterman, on them, and Jerry Seinfeld would drive one of these for an episode of Comedians in cars getting coffee.
Beyond movies and racing, it’s Newman’s philanthropic work that really puts the finishing touches on his legend. Its Newman’s Own brand has contributed about $600 million to charitable causes since its founding in 1982. In 1988, the year this Volvo was delivered, he founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a place where children with serious illnesses can enjoy the freedom of summer camp.
As a nod to this charitable spirit, the seller of this ex-Newman Volvo will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale to the Hole in the Wall Gang camp. If a Grand National-powered sleeper with famous provenance wasn’t enough, the winning bid on this Volvo will do the world some good. This is undoubtedly what Newman himself would have wanted.
Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. He grew up with his knuckles on British cars, came of age in the golden age of Japanese sport-compact performance, and started writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is the intersection between humanity and machinery, be it the races. career of Walter Cronkite or the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He taught both of his young daughters how to shift a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse they provide to constantly buy Hot Wheels.