Adam Carolla, the successful podcast host and comedian, did not plan to accumulate what is likely the most complete collection of race cars driven by actor/car aficionado Paul Newman, but a little over 10 years ago a seller from Connecticut, near Newman’s home track in Lime Rock Park, offered Carolla a 1985 Nissan GT 1.
“I just thought, ‘Paul Newman! And it’s a championship car!’ I should buy it,” recalls Carolla, who, being a jack-of-all-trades and a businessman, figured the roughly $100,000 he spent was a good investment. “I thought one day when he is gone and I have it, like an artist who’s passed away, then it’ll be worth something.”
“I got it and didn’t think much of it,” Carolla says of the Newman/Bob Sharp team car, which won the 1986 SCC-GT1 championship. “Then another car came up for sale and I got that one. So I sort of backed into becoming a Paul Newman race car collector by mistake.”
Newman died at the age of 83 in 2008, a few months after Carolla bought his first car. Fast-forward 10 years, and 10 of Newman’s cars call Carolla’s Glendale warehouse home. They make up roughly a third of his car collection, which may not be in Jay Leno territory but is impressive nonetheless.
The comedian displayed all 10 of his Newman race cars together for the first time at the eighth annual San Marino Motor Classic on Sunday, June 10. The event was a car lover's fantasy, with 350 polished and pampered vehicles descending upon picturesque Lacey Park, from the early brass-and-nickel era to American muscle cars, Japanese classics and Ferraris.
“It’s like going to a Hometown Buffet and getting a taste of everything,” said Aaron Weiss, one of three co-founders of the concourse-level event.
Although Carolla's Nissans, Oldsmobiles and his favorite shiny red championship Porsche didn’t compete in any of the car show’s 37 categories, they definitely drew a lot of attention.
Carolla, who grew up in North Hollywood, wasn’t so much a Paul Newman fan as a fan of Japanese race cars from the '80s; back then, collectors weren’t interested in these types of cars, so good deals could be had.
The podcaster says he had the cars restored and enjoys racing them, too, but their value is an added bonus.
Today, cars associated with Newman sell for more than $1 million. In 2016 Carolla paid more than $4 million — yes, $4 million! — for Newman’s 1979 Porsche 935. The “Hawaiian Tropic” Porsche won its class and came in second overall in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans race; not surprisingly, it's the crown jewel in Carolla’s collection.
“No one can say definitively what some of these cars are worth because they don’t sell, they don’t have a market,” explains the comic, who is obviously doing pretty well for himself. He says he has two more vehicles he wants to add to his collection, which at this point he views as a four-wheeled investment portfolio. Here's hoping he brings the cars out again for movie fans and car fans alike to enjoy soon.
The San Marino Motor Classic, an entirely volunteer-driven operation, collected $1.7 million for charity this year, with proceeds benefiting the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA, the San Marino Rotary Charities and the USC Marching Band.