Paul Newman Was The King Of Sleeper Cars
An enthusiast’s true character is revealed when he can find, build, and afford just about anything he’s interested in. For actor and racer Paul Newman, this meant an impressively dedicated interest in building the ultimate sleeper cars.
In fact, I’m pretty convinced that Newman was some sort of “Q-Car” deity, especially once you stake stock of how he modified his 1967 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible.
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
I’ll cut to the chase on this one: it was faster than it had any business being. This most devilish car was made in a straightforward way, by dropping a Beetle Convertible body onto a mid-engined chassis built by Jerry Eisert.
In the middle say a Holman-Moody Ford Racing V8 that sent its power to the rear wheels via a ZF transaxle originally intended for cars like the Ford GT40. Said to have been finished in 1970, the only drawback I can think of is the high-speed manners of a Beetle Convertible…
That said, the chassis wore reinforcements and the car was completed as a no-expense-spared canyon carver that just so happens to look like a pedestrian Beetle.
Volvo Wagons With Attitude
Newman’s first dabble in making a frighteningly fast Volvo was when he reportedly had a 740 Wagon fitted with the turbocharged V6 engine from a Buick Grand National, a conversion that pops up for sale from time to time but is said to have been the actor’s daily driver for quite some time.
If you’ve seen the episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee featuring David Letterman, you’re well aware of this next sleeper car idea that was brought to life by Newman: instead of a turbocharged V6 engine, why not a big V8?
When Newman decided to have a 380 horsepower Ford Racing V8 engine—topped with a Kenne Bell supercharger—fitted to his Volvo 960 Wagon, he famously called Letterman and asked if the Late Night host would like one of his own built. Paul Newman: Best Friend Ever?
The result was an extreme sleeper car, one that made it possible to lay waste Chevrolet Corvette drivers and slip under the gaze of law enforcement at the same time. Jerry Seinfeld and Letterman agreed that it fit Newman’s “sense of humor”.
Now, there are dozens of similar conversions, which means that thanks to Newman, we now have many V8-fitted Volvos to choose from.
With a small stable of racing cars and a notable amount of on-track success, Newman proved he was a fantastic driver. But when it comes to the cars he built to drive around in when he wasn’t racing, Newman’s no-expense-spared sleeper cars make us wonder what other Q-Ships prowl the roads…