It’s probably not what you’d expect to hear, but legendary actor, racing driver, and purveyor of pasta sauce Paul Newman developed a bit of a fetish for Volvo station wagons later in life. Not just any soccer mom Volvo wagons, though. The star of classic films such as “The Hustler” and “Cool Hand Luke” had to have American iron transplanted under the hood. But before he graduated to shoehorning in Ford and Chevy V8s, there was this car that started the mania.
Currently being auctioned at Bring A Trailer, this 1988 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon was purchased brand new by the actor and modified with a truckload of performance and appearance modifications, not the least of which was a spicy new powerplant. According to Bring a Trailer, this Volvo still had its new car smell when it was brought over to HESCO Engineering in Alabama in 1988 to be transformed into the ultimate sleeper. The Volvo’s stock 4-banger was replaced with a somewhat unique choice of propulsion — a turbocharged 3.8 liter V6 from a Buick Grand National.
Horsepower was instantly doubled from approximately 150 for the stock Volvo turbo 4-cylinder to a claimed 320 horsepower from the Grand National mill. In factory form, the Grand National only made about 235 horsepower, but the powerplant in Newman’s ex-car benefits from an aftermarket exhaust system, high-flow air intake, and performance chip for the ECU. In keeping with the sporting nature of this wagon, the Grand National’s mandatory 4-speed automatic gearbox was eschewed in favor of a Borg-Warner 5-speed manual from a fourth-generation Pontiac Firebird.
[Featured image by nakhon100 via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY 2.0]
But as everyone knows, Paul Newman was more of a road race type than a drag racer, so his Volvo wagon had to go around corners and brake just as impressively as it accelerated. To that end, stock suspension components were replaced with Bilstein shocks and struts, plus beefier sway bars and lowering springs that dropped the wagon 2 inches. The stock wheels were also upgraded to 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels from Gemini. Nowadays, you might expect to find 16-inch wheels on a bargain basement econobox but in 1988, they were cutting edge.
On the exterior, we find just the right amount of tasteful flair. Specifically, a front lip spoiler, side skirts, and a rear defuser, all color matched to the car’s metallic gray paint. Besides the later go-fast additions, this wagon left the factory already well-equipped, including heated leather seats, a power sunroof, and fog lights.
Newman’s wagon shows 76,000 miles on the odometer and the current owner claims that only 3,000 of those miles were added during his tenure. So presumably, Paul used the car as a daily driver for at least a while. At press time, bidding for the 740 Turbo was still a somewhat reasonable $26,000 which isn’t a bad price for a stylish grocery-getter with serious celebrity provenance and an equally serious secret lurking under its nondescript hood.
[Featured image by Johannes740 via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0]