Looking for the fastest way to haul several cases of tasty salad dressing or spaghetti sauce home 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 wagons the legendary actor and racer owned, and it's now for sale.
Wickedly fast at the wheel of a racing car and possessed of an effortless cool, Paul Newman was basically Steve McQueen without the unpleasant personal baggage. To 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, Connecticut, 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. Newman, though, liked his Swedish iron extra-spicy underneath, as shown by his 1988 Volvo 740 wagon, up for auction on Bring a Trailer (which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos).
A copy of the title indicates that Newman purchased this 740 in July 1988, and it's thought to be the first Volvo he had modified to his specifications. Those extended to the fitment of a turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 out of a Buick Grand National hooked to a five-speed manual transmission sourced from a Pontiac Firebird.
In 1988, a factory-spec Volvo 740 Turbo wagon came with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder good for roughly 150 horsepower. Newman's swap more than doubled the available power to approximately 320 horses (thanks in part to a chipped 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 bystander would think they were looking at an ordinary old boxy Volvo, right up until this thing smoked its rear tires and hammered off toward the horizon.
Newman, who reportedly got his first taste of racing while filming the Indy 500–themed 1969 film Winning, went on to own Volvo 960 wagons with V-8 transplants. He turned his Connecticut neighbor David Letterman on to them, too, and Jerry Seinfeld would drive one of those for an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Besides movies and racing, Newman's philanthropic work is what really puts the final gloss on his legend. His Newman's Own brand has contributed some $600 million toward 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 dealing with serious illness could 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 of the sale to the Hole in the Wall Gang camp. If a Grand National–powered sleeper wagon with celebrity provenance wasn't enough, casting the winning bid on this Volvo will do a little good in the world. It's doubtless what Newman himself would have wanted.
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