Sports Car Modification

Paul Newman’s Highly-Modified 1988 Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon

This 1988 Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon was originally owned by racing driver (and actor) Paul Newman, who had it significantly modified over stock with the fitment of a Buick Grand National turbocharged V6, a Borg-Warner 5-speed manual gearbox, an Aero-style body kit, lowered suspension, a limited-slip differential, and quite a bit more.

As far as practical daily drivers go the Volvo 740 wagon is about as practical as they come, with space to comfortably transport five adults and plenty of luggage. The series of performance additions by Paul Newman to this specific 740 make it undeniably one of the coolest Volvo wagons anywhere on earth, and they don’t detract from its practicality – which was probably his intention.

Fast Facts – Paul Newman’s Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon

  • The Volvo 740 was released in 1984 and sold until it was replaced with the 900 series in 1992. The 740 was the best selling model series in the 700 model family, and its distinctive boxy design would strongly influence the Volvos that would follow.
  • The 740 was offered with a number of four and six cylinder engines with both gasoline and diesel versions. The quickest was the 2.3 liter inline-four with an intercooled turbocharger.
  • The vast majority of 740s were sold to families in the United States and Europe, though they were also commonly used as police cars in Scandinavian countries. The wagon variant was the most spacious, with seating for five and ample cargo space in the rear.
  • The Volvo 740 wagon you see here has been modified significantly over stock, it has a Grand National turbocharged V6, a Borg-Warner 5-speed, an LSD, uprated suspension, an Aero-style body kit and a slew of other changes to make it suitable for use by championship-winning racing driver Paul Newman.

The Volvo 700 Series

The Volvo 700 series was a range of mid-size luxury cars produced by the Swedish automaker Volvo from 1982 to 1992. The series included the 740, 760, and 780 models, which were designed to compete with other luxury sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series. The Volvo 700 series was a significant improvement over the earlier 200 series, with advanced safety features, improved suspension, and a more modern design.

Above Film: This film includes both “Road to Atlanta” and “At the Limit” – both documentaries about Paul Newman and his racing career.

One of the key selling points of the Volvo 700 series was its safety features. The car was equipped with a reinforced safety cage and crumple zones, which helped to protect the passengers in the event of a collision. In addition, the car featured anti-lock brakes, which helped to prevent skidding and maintain control in emergency situations. The Volvo 700 series also featured a sophisticated airbag system, which was one of the most advanced of its time.

The Volvo 700 series was offered with a range of engine options, including both gasoline and diesel engines. The most popular engine option was the 2.3 liter inline-four gasoline engine, which was available in several different power levels.

The top-of-the-line engine was a turbocharged version of the 2.3 liter engine that produced 165 horsepower and 188 lb ft of torque. The car was also offered with a diesel engine option, which was popular in Europe and became known as one of the quietest automotive diesel engines of the time.

The distinctive design of the 700 series firmly established Volvo’s reputation for boxy cars, however the advanced safety features and excellent fuel economy won over a lot of consumers, particularly in the United States.

Volvo 700 Series Brochure

Image DescriptionAlthough it may not look particularly aerodynamic, the Volvo 700 series did offer signifiant aero improvements over the earlier models that helped to further increase fuel efficiency.

The 700 series was replaced by the Volvo 900 series in 1993, the 900 series Volvos featured styling that was starkly reminiscent of the 700 series, though with slightly softer curves and upgraded features throughout.

The Volvo 740

The Volvo 740 is a mid-size car that was produced by Volvo from 1984 to 1992. The car was introduced as a replacement for the Volvo 240, and it was designed to be a more modern and sophisticated car that could compete with other mid-size luxury sedans on the market.

Development of the Volvo 740 began in the early 1980s, and the car was designed to be a significant upgrade over the outgoing 240 model, the 740 would be released two years after the closely related but more luxurious Volvo 760 as the more affordable mid-range model.

One of the main goals of the 700 series development team was to create a more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient car that would further advance Volvo’s growing reputation for building the safest cars in the world.

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Image DescriptionInside the car looks almost completely stock, there are a couple of discreet new gauges of course, but the car retains its air-conditioning, heated seats, and other luxury refinements.

The Volvo 740 would remain in production from 1984 to 1992 with the rest of the 700 series. Today it remains a cult classic thanks to its unusual boxy styling, the wagon in particular is sought after by Scandinavian modern classic enthusiasts.

Paul Newman: Racing Driver

Paul Newman is remembered by most of the world for his prolific acting career, but in the automotive world he’s best remembered as a professional-level racing driver who won countless races and four SCCA National Championships starting competing in a Triumph TR6 and ending in the Nissan 280ZX Turbo.

Newman first got into racing almost by accident, he had been cast to play the male lead role in the 1969 motor racing film Winning and he signed up for the Watkins Glen Racing School to learn the ins and outs of being a competitive driver.

As it turned out, Newman was a natural behind the wheel and in later years when describing his love of racing he would say that it was “the first thing that I ever found I had any grace in.” He drove in many Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, winning those four championships in the process, he also drive at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Barbour Porsche 935 and finished in 2nd place.

Paul Newman Winning Movie Poster

Image DescriptionThis is a poster for the 1969 racing film “Winning” starring Paul Newman. He prepared for this role by attending a race driving school where his passion for the sport was ignited. Image courtesy of Universal Studios.

Almost 20 years later he won his class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona, and a decade after that he would compete in the brutal Baja 1000 before returning to the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2005 at the age of 80.

In 2009, a year after his death, he was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame and in a touching tribute the “No Name Straight” at Lime Rock Park, where he raced many times over the decades, was renamed the “Paul Newman Straight” in 2022.

The Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon Shown Here

Paul Newman’s love of cars is well documented, but quite what possessed him to buy a 1988 Volvo 740 Wagon and set to work making it a sports car is lost to history. The series of modifications applied to this Volvo was no small feat and likely took weeks to accomplish, if not longer.

The original Volvo engine, transmission, and differential were all removed. The turbocharged 3.8 liter V6 from a Buick Grand National was then sourced and paired with a Borg-Warner 5-speed manual gearbox, and a limited-slip differential.

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Image DescriptionThe engine was fitted by HESCO Engineering of Birmingham, Alabama in 1988, it’s a turbocharged and intercooled Buick Grand National 3.8 liter V6.

In standard trim the Buick Grand National 3.8 liter V6 is good for up to 200 hp at 4,400 rpm and 300 lb ft of torque at 2,400 rpm. This engine has been modified over stock, and it now has a HKS turbo timer among other changes.

Once the drivetrain was done the attention turned to the suspension, Bilstein struts and shock absorbers as well as IPD lowering springs and sway bars were fitted front and back and a set of 16″ Gemini alloy wheels were bolted into place shod with BFGoodrich g-Force Comp-2 A/S tires.

Interestingly the car retains all the convenience and luxury features it came with from the factory including the stowable third-row seating, air conditioning, heated front seats, and the power-operated sunroof.

This unusual Volvo wagon is now being offered for sale out of Algonquin, Illinois with a copy of the Connecticut title in Paul Newman’s name, some manufacturer’s literature, partial service records, an accident-free Carfax report, and a clean Illinois title in the seller’s name.

If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here on Bring a Trailer.

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Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer

Paul Newman Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon

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