A New Auction Focuses on Paul Newman’s Auto Racing Career

From vintage helmets to the singular "Volvette"

Paul Newman, 1970
Paul Newman Filming "Once Upon A Wheel" At Ontario Motor Speedway, 1970.
Fred Enke/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

The idea of movie stars having second careers in addition to their acting work didn’t begin with the likes of Ryan Reynolds and George Clooney owning spirits companies. In 1972, Paul Newman made his first foray into competitive auto racing; he continued to race competitively until the year before his 2008 death. And, by all accounts, he was quite good at it — a second career that dovetailed with his primary one in unexpected ways for much of his life.

Now, a host of objects from Newman’s time on the track — including two of his cars — are being sold at auction via RM Sotheby’s. The auction, titled High Speed: Paul Newman’s Racing Legacy, incudes several of the awards he won during his racing days, along with a wide variety of memorabilia from that era.

The two cars at the center of the auction are especially interesting. One is the “Volvette” that Newman received as a gift in 2007. As Autoblog’s Stephen Williams writes, the car is a 1998 Volvo V90 with the same engine and transmission found in Corvettes from 2005 to 2007. It may look like an inconspicuous late-’90s Volvo, but the performance it’s capable of is eminently surprising. Evidently, Newman enthusiasts think so as well — bidding is up to $40,000, or nearly double what it was estimated to bring in.

The other car was built in 1997, and was made to compete in the NASCAR Legends series. Specifically, it was designed to be entered in the Young Lions tier, intended for younger drivers. As per RM Southebys, the car features “what appears to be Ford coupe-styled bodywork over a Yamaha FJ1200 air-cooled, inline, four-cylinder engine.”

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The auction spans a wide range of items — from helmets and racing suits to awards and trophies. It’s a fascinating part of Newman’s biography — and a concentrated dose of automotive history. Bidding for the items in High Speed: Paul Newman’s Racing Legacy runs through June 11, 2023.

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