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Paul Newman Racing Documentary

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a Datsun guy (don’t you judge). As I became successful as a comedian, I started picking up vintage Datsun race cars. During the hunt for a new car to add to my growing collection, I came across an ‘84 Nissan for sale, which Paul Newman had raced. Truth be told, it struck me as kind of ugly, but it was a Nissan with Paul Newman’s name on it. I thought it would make an interesting conversation piece, so I picked it up on a whim, with no intention of ever racing it.

Later on, I saw the sister car to the ‘84 car come up for sale. It was one that he had raced in 1985. Well, I already had one, I might as well have the set of them to go together, right? And now that I have two, I might as well keep my eye out for more Newman cars. The collecting bug always starts the same way — so innocently. You get one item, and then you get another to keep it company. As soon as you get a third, it’s “your thing.” Before you know it, you’re the guy with a basement full of minor league baseball bobbleheads, velvet paintings, vintage calypso records or whatever. And there’s never an end in sight. There’s always one more thing to add to the collection.

Adam’s Paul Newman IMSA GT 300ZX

Adam’s Paul Newman IMSA GT Nissan 300ZX

Anyway, I acquired more Newman cars as they came up for sale and then I started to get into vintage racing. Amazingly, I finally found myself on the track in the actual cars that Newman had raced.

Back before the era of the Youtube, when all these underground guys were passing around bootleg skate videos, I would get bootleg DVDs of Paul Newman racing back in the 1970s and ‘80s and it was really impressive. The more I learned about him, the more I was surprised to find out that he was doing serious racing at the height of his popularity as an actor.

For any of you young folks out there that don’t know how big this guy was, let me say that over the course of his fifty years of acting, he had a career that would put him on anyone’s all-time top ten list. Paul Newman was, without exaggeration a genuine Hollywood superstar—a true icon. The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting, Towering Inferno, Slap Shot, The Verdict, The Color Of Money—like they say in classified ads, too much to list.

Bob Bondurant Adam Carolla

Bob Bondurant and Adam Carolla

Newman had been sent to the Bob Bondurant racing school for the 1969 movie Winning and that fired up his passion to compete in racing. By 1972, he was driving in professional events. He won four championships in the SCCA, ran on the Bonneville Salt Flats and finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. When he won his class at the 24 Hours Of Daytona in 1995, he was 70 years old. He had started late in life, but by all counts, he was a great driver.

I really enjoyed the book, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, but I couldn’t believe that a definitive telling of his racing story had never been done as a documentary. It seemed like a perfect idea. I pitched the idea to my friend Bill Simmons, who created ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. He thought it might be better suited for one of their shorts, but I felt the story could barely be covered in a 60 minute format. So, I’ve set out to make the documentary independently.

It’s a work-in-progress, so I can’t tell you where it will ultimately air. We haven’t even settled on a title for it yet. But I wanted to give my humble readers an inside look at what we’ve done so far, because I’m really excited about it. We sat down with Robert Wagner, who starred with Newman in Winning, as well a Bob Bondurant, who gave racing lessons to Wagner and Newman. We’ve also got interviews with some legends from the world of racing. Bob Sharp, who was his team owner, Sam Posey, who was a teammate, and Lyn St. James, who raced against him in the Trans Am series in the 1980s. Then we’ve got Patrick Dempsey to give us a racing celebrity’s perspective and also Jay Leno, because he is required by law to be included in any car-related production.

And of course, we’re also trying to feature all of Paul’s cars, most of which are still around—and every one of which I plan to own some day. And I won’t be done collecting until I end up owning every car Paul Newman ever drove, but ironically, I’ll probably have to buy half of them back from my ex-wife after the divorce.

Newman IMSA GT Nissan 300ZX twin turbo Lime Rock Park

Newman IMSA GT Nissan 300ZX twin turbo at Lime Rock Park

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  1. Pingback: CarCast Newman

  2. Brian October 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm Reply

    I like what you collect and how you collect and please stop referring to collector cars as a “piece”. Douchy. Love Carcast and I look forward to the Newman documentary.

    • CHER October 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm Reply


  3. Chris October 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm Reply

    You just may be the new “King of All Media.” Stern never made a documentary. Looking forward to the release of documentary! Should be one of the greats. Glad to see Leno is wearing his best denim throughout your filming. As far as a title, you should call it Paul Newman: The Salad Days Before The Salad Days.

  4. Jeff October 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm Reply


    I am really looking forward to seeing this doc. I have always loved racing that has right turns and cars that are unique racing against each other. I try to go to the Rolex 24 at Daytona every year and hope someday soon to see you there. If you want, my wife and I will help throw a Mangria Party for charity there just like Cinco de Mangria…by the way, that was a great party!

  5. Spanki October 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm Reply

    What happened to Paul’s Champion 1979 Champion Datsun. I hear it is by Lime Rock.

    • Spanki October 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm Reply

      The 1979 Datsun 280ZX is almost ready.

  6. Ray November 3, 2013 at 12:55 am Reply

    Ace Man I can’t wait to see this. You have so much going on, you must be burning the candle at both ends.

  7. Trevor Hall November 3, 2013 at 9:58 am Reply

    My son and I were there at Daytona, 1995, 24 Hours, when Jack Roush’s Ford won for the 10th straight time. They took a year off after nine, but Paul Newman put together the backing for the Nobody’s Fool 70 car. Newman did a double stint late at night. His radio interview that early morning mentioned gentlemen and gorillas out there, as in life. Please excuse the hero worship here in Orlando.

  8. Michael P. January 18, 2014 at 12:30 am Reply

    Hello Adam:
    I am also a fan of Mr. Newman, he is champion on many levels.
    Have you had any contact with BRE Datsuns? Peter Brock’s team
    had the first win for the Datsun 240z at riverside, I think that
    was in 1972?

  9. Bill Hackett April 17, 2014 at 3:35 am Reply

    I purchased a 1984 Nissan 300Z in Ft Worth TX which had Paul Newman’s name on the “T” top as well as Tom cruise’s name. It was an SCCA ITS Nissan 300Z prepared by Eugine Crow of Bob Sharp Racing. It came with the log book which had him and Tom having logged time in the car. I hate to say it, but it was one of the most poorly prepared race cars we have bought or ever had come through our shop. I got it at a fire sale where one of the owners of the Chilli’s chain wanted to dump the car. He apparently bought it off of Paul or Bob Sharp and left the names on the “T” tops. He raced for one season according to the log book. Nothing much was developed and marketed for racing the 300Z’s. It’s like the performance industry passed them right over and the car was put directly into IMSA racing. We raced the car the first season as is and learned the weak points on the car My shop had to make our own springs, sway bars and a host of other modifications. The car was seriously over weight. We had to loose a few hundred pounds. The engine couldn’t breathe, we rectified the problems the the car we bought had that we learned about from the first season and built a second car over the winter time. The second generation car won more than 3/4’s of the races in our class for the seasons that we campaigned it. The Newman car had a novice driver and when he would first start the race and keep his head, he would run in second position in our class for several laps, on his tail. His inexperience placed him further back in the finish results. We proved that the 300Z could “WITHOUT CHEATING, commonly done by owners of older Z race cars, that we were not only competative with the older Z’s,we could take a car considered to be a pig in comparison to the older written up by a magazine who said,”300Z”s will be competative with older Z’s, when pigs fly”, and made it out perform them in corners and on the straights! BE INCREDIBLY RELIABLE AND CHEAP TO RACE! FLYING PIGS RACING Grand Prairie, Texas

  10. Pingback: Photos: Adam Carolla shows Elvis Mitchell his impressive vintage race car collection | Which Way L.A.?

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