This is Paul Newman’s 1998 Volvo V90 “Volvette” – it was built for the legendary actor and championship-winning race car driver by his racing team as a gift. It’s powered by a 6.0 liter Chevrolet Corvette LS2 V8 and it has a number of other performance upgrades fitted.
Paul Newman had a long-running love affair with modified Volvo station wagons, his first was a 1988 Volvo 740 powered by a 3.8 liter turbocharged V6 from a Buick Grand National. Next up he got a Volvo 960 with a supercharged 5.0 liter Mustang V8, and finally he had the car you see here in this article.
Fast Facts – Paul Newman’s Volvo V90 LS2 V8 “Volvette”
- The car you see here is a 1998 Volvo V90 station wagon that was built into a Corvette V8-powered sleeper by Paul Newman’s own racing team as a gift. Newman had a well-known passion for Volvo station wagon sleepers, and he owned three of them with the car you see here being the last.
- The car looks almost completely stock right down to the original Volvo bodywork and alloy wheels. The only indication that something has been changed would be those red brake calipers, or perhaps the distinct low V8-burble emanating from the exhaust when the car is running.
- The original Volvo engine and transmission remain with the car, they were replaced with a Chevrolet Corvette LS2 V8 crate engine, a General Motors 4-speed automatic transmission, upgraded front suspension, and upgraded brakes to better handle the power output.
- The Volvette is now being offered for sale on RM Sotheby’s in an online auction, it has a price guide of $20,000 – $25,000 USD, and the car is based in Milford, Connecticut.
Paul Newman: Racing Driver (And Actor)
Many actors take an interest in motor racing but only a handful are genuinely good at it, people like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, and more recently the likes of Patrick Dempsey. Of all of them, Newman was the most successful, having risen to the ability level of a professional driver and winning a stack of races and SCCA national championships.
The general public will always remember Paul Newman for his film work of course, including major hits like Exodus (1960), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Towering Inferno (1974), Slap Shot (1977), The Verdict (1982), Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990), and many others.
He continued acting and racing well into his 70s and into his 80s, in fact he took a class win at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona at the age of 70 and is still the oldest driver to be part of a winning team at a major event. He also raced in the Baja 1000 in his late 70s and again at Daytona at the age of 80.
His last major film role saw him not appear on camera at all – he provided the voice for Doc Hudson, a retired race car, in the Pixar film Cars in 2006. He would later posthumously voice the character again in Cars 3 in 2017 thanks to archive recordings.
Paul Newman And His Volvo Sleepers
Newman had a very well-known love of Volvo station wagon sleepers. Just when you thought you couldn’t like the guy anymore than you already do. We wrote a story about his first Volvo sleeper last year, as mentioned in the introduction it’s a 1988 Volvo 740 that has had a 3.8 liter turbocharged V6 from a Buick Grand National fitted.
Above Video: When David Letterman appeared on Jon Stewart’s talk show in 1995 he told a story about Paul Newman and his love for highly-modified Volvo station wagons. Without giving too much of the story away, Letterman ends up getting one of his own Volvo sleepers with 400 bhp and a supercharger. The segment begins 13:42 into the episode.
The V6 was a good option as it fit reasonably well into the engine bay. It seems like more power was desired however as in the early 1990s he set about building Volvo 960 station wagon that was powered by a supercharged 5.0 liter Ford Mustang V8. This engine was too big for the engine bay and so modifications were needed, including moving the firewall back a little.
Interestingly, while developing the idea of this car Newman called his friend David Letterman, the famous American talkshow host, and asked him if he wanted one also. Letterman wisely said yes, and the two men specced out their cars. A few years later in 1995 Letterman would relate the whole story to Jon Stewart in an interview which we have embedded above. It’s well worth watching.
Newman’s last Volvo sleeper would be the car you see shown in this article, it was nicknamed the “Volvette” as it’s powered by a Chevrolet LS2 crate engine, the same V8 that was used in the C6 Corvette.
Paul Newman’s 1998 Volvo V90 “Volvette”Shown Here
This car is the “Volvette,” so named because it combines a Volvo with a Corvette V8 – specifically an LS2 with a displacement of 364 cubic inches (6.0 liters or 5,964cc).
In stock trim the LS2 produces 400 bhp at 6,000 rpm with 400 lb ft of torque at 4,400 rpm – almost four times more power than the smaller Volvo engine options and twice as much as even Volvo’s most powerful offering.
The original Volvo automatic transmission wouldn’t have lasted five minutes behind the LS2, and as a result they swapped it out for a General Motors 4-speed automatic transmission. Apparently the rear suspension was left in standard configuration, but the front end with its new much heavier engine received suspension parts from a Porsche 911.
Though front suspension arrangement this sounds very interesting there’s no more information available about it. High performance disc brakes were fitted front and back, the wiring was professionally reworked by an electrical expert to get everything working, and a discrete V06 badge was added to the rear.
Under the hood you’ll find a red Monte Carlo bar, a cold air intake, and a Newman-Hass Racing Team sticker. In the passenger compartment there’s an additional gauge on the A-pillar and a plaque on the glovebox dedicated to Newman (see it below).
The Volvette is now being offered for sale by RM Sotheby’s along with a treasure trove of other Paul Newman belongings, including trophies, championship rings, racing helmets, pictures, and more. The price guide for the car is $20,000 – $25,000 USD and you can visit the listing here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.
Images: ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.