Reading the book “Winning: The Racing Life Of Paul Newman” last night, I realized that there were several connections between Paul and today’s featured Curbside Classic. Newman raced Zs successfully for the Bob Sharp team in the seventies, having started his career in a Datsun 510. And they’re both celebrating birthdays: The Z arrived in the US forty years ago, and Newman would have been 85 today, had he not passed away last year. I’ve praised the coming and eulogized the passing of the 240Z in the CC, but I’d like to give a moment’s tribute to my life hero:
Unlike a lot of Newman fans, my feelings of a connection to him initially had nothing to do with the silver screen. I was a kid and had never seen him in a movie when I read an article about his VW that sported a souped-up Porsche Super 90 engine, and some other tweaks. He bought his first VW in 1953, and drove it for eight years from his home in Connecticut to acting gigs in NYC. Wanting to speed up the trip, he told his mechanic to do something about it. Something in that story resonated deeply with me, and reinforced my love of VWs and all things Paul Newman. And he’s never let me down since.
His remarkable career as an accomplished racer didn’t really start until he was well into his forties. Given that most successful drivers start practically as children to develop the neurons and experience necessary, it’s an unlikely story. As was his marriage to Joanne Woodward. And his commitment to charitable work, having donated some $300 million from his activities. I consider it a privelage to have had a brief encounter with him on a sidewalk as he was getting into his 911 some thirty years ago. The fact we share first names and birthdays are the frosting on the cake whose ingredients are a secret, and will likely never be made again: Paul Newman was an original, authentic hero; to me anyway. A true winner in every arena of life.