In a thrilling showcase of automotive history and celebrity prowess, RM Sotheby’s presents an extraordinary event: “High Speed: Paul Newman‘s Racing Legacy.” This exclusive auction offers over 100 lots from the esteemed estate of the late Paul Newman, featuring a captivating array of racing artifacts and cherished keepsakes that encompass his remarkable life.
Legend has it that one evening, the affable TV host David Letterman received a peculiar phone call from an old friend—the charismatic Paul Newman himself. “Dave, I’ve got a proposition for you,” Newman exclaimed. “It’s a custom Volvo 960 station wagon, but it’s no ordinary ride. This one’s going to be fitted with a small-block Ford V-8 racing engine, stripped of its transmission and suspension, and then supercharged. My guy will make it happen. Would you like one too?”
Naturally intrigued, Letterman replied, “Well, Paul, who wouldn’t want a car like that?”
Following Newman’s passing in 2008, Letterman shared with his television audience, “This was the type of car that made people stop at streetlights. It was like an atomic furnace beneath the hood. I loved driving it. It would hit speeds of 170 miles per hour, and the exhaust system would glow a fiery orange.” Newman’s zest for life was unmistakable. The fact that he transformed a Volvo—an emblem of ’80s safety and reliability—into a high-performance machine only amplifies the intrigue. As Newman himself put it, this car could “chew anybody’s ass from 20 to 100 mph.”
Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, the blazing Volvo met its fiery demise on the New York Interstate. However, a preserved version of Newman’s hot-rodding experiment can now be bid upon at the forthcoming RM Sotheby’s auction.
Beyond his need for speed, Paul Newman was also renowned for his approachability and down-to-earth nature, which enhanced his immense appeal and enduring legacy. In a 1991 interview with the New York Daily News, Newman candidly remarked, “I had no natural gift for anything—neither for athletics, nor acting, nor writing, nor directing, nor painting garden porches, nor anything. I have worked relentlessly because nothing ever came easily to me.”
Yet, truth be told, Newman was a man blessed with a multitude of natural talents.
Throughout his illustrious lifetime, he ventured into three major careers. First and foremost was his successful acting career, followed by his admirable philanthropic foundation. However, it was his passion for racing that truly defined him.
Newman’s affinity for motorsports blossomed after his starring role in the 1969 film “Winning,” and in 1972, at the age of 47, he commenced his professional racing career. Just seven years later, he achieved a remarkable second-place finish at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a Porsche 935. In 1983, he co-founded Newman-Haas Racing alongside sports car driver Carl Haas, assembling a formidable lineup featuring two former Formula One World Champions—Nigel Mansell and Mario Andretti. Under Newman’s ownership, the team amassed an astounding 107 Indy car race victories, solidifying his status as a world-class race car driver and one of the most successful team owners in the sport’s history.
The forthcoming auction will showcase a remarkable collection of Newman’s race-worn fire suits, custom helmets, and championship rings, allowing enthusiasts to relive the excitement of his most glorious on-track triumphs.
Despite the studios’ attempts to hinder his racing endeavors, Newman persevered, often competing under pseudonyms. However, his magnetic presence was unmistakable—those iconic piercing blue eyes, resembling laser beams amidst the dimness of the pit garage or peering out from the grid beneath his helmet’s visor.
Newman’s final race took place at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2006, when he was a remarkable 81 years old. He departed this world on September 26, 2008, at the age of 83, in his Connecticut home near Lime Rock Raceway, where he had savored one last race just weeks prior, surrounded by cherished family, friends, and loved ones.
As Letterman aptly summarized, “Newman was a guy who knew how to embrace life fully.”
Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the captivating legacy of Paul Newman as RM Sotheby’s presents “High Speed: Paul Newman’s racing legacy.” The auction runs until June 13, allowing enthusiasts and collectors to seize the opportunity to own a piece of racing history tied to the iconic Paul Newman.