Actor, producer and director Paul Newman was a true American classic. His choice of car was also a classic, albeit a British one: the Triumph TR6. Here’s a closer look at the life of this legendary Hollywood star, known for having “the bluest eye in the business” as well as one of the best racing car collections around.
Born on January 26th, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, Paul Newman only followed his calling into acting after a twist of fate: He needed something to do after getting kicked off his college football team. This, of course, was a happy accident — not only for Newman and millions of his fans, but also for the many beneficiaries of his extraordinary generosity. According to the obituary published by The Guardian, Newman gave away more money in proportion to his personal wealth than any other 20th century American.
Which begs the question: How did Newman get so wealthy? After making his Broadway debut in 1953, he transitioned to television and film.
A major breakthrough moment in Newman’s career? His turn as Brick in the 1958 film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This was the first time Newman proved himself to the American public as more than just another gorgeous face. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his work on the film. That same year also marked another memorable occasion for the star: He appeared in his first movie with his actress wife, Joanne Woodward: The Long Hot Summer.
In 1968, Newman tried his hand at being on the other end of the camera while directing Woodward in the film, Rachel, Rachel. Their collaboration was hugely successful, and the movie earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
Newman spent the subsequent decades further establishing himself as a serious Hollywood presence with roles in Exodus, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Absence of Malice, and The Verdict. But despite having been nominated for multiple Academy Awards over the years, a win had managed to elude him. In 1985, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences remedied the situation by giving Newman an honorary award for his contributions to film. In accepting the award Newman joked, “I am especially grateful that this did not come wrapped in a gift certificate to [famous cemetery] Forest Lawn.” A year later, Newman finally won the award in his own right for The Color of Money, in which he reprised the role he’d originated decades earlier in The Hustler.
In his older years, Newman worked less, but found ongoing success. He received yet another Academy Award nomination in 2002 for the film, Road to Perdition, while also adding an Emmy Award to his collection for his work in 2005’s television miniseries Empire Falls.
Not content with having conquered Hollywood, Newman took on the food industry with the launch of his own company, Newman’s Own, in the early 1980s. The product line soon expanded to encompass everything from sauces to snacks with proceeds benefiting educational and charitable causes. Since its founding, Newman’s Own has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities all over the world.
Newman’s other philanthropic endeavors included the Scott Newman Center, which offers drug education programming, as well as the Hole in the Wall Camps for kids with life-threatening illnesses.
Newman officially retired from acting in 2007 telling Good Morning America, “I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to. You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.” He died a year later.
Despite his profound success as an actor and philanthropist, Newman’s happy place was not in front of the camera, but behind the wheel of a racing car.
It was while working on the lesser-known Winning in the late 1960s, however, that Newman would discover what would turn out to be one of his life’s greatest passions: race car driving. In 1976 he won a national Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) title, which spurred him to go pro.
One of the highlights of Newman’s racing career? Being part of 1995’s Rolex 24 winning team in Daytona. The race also earned him the distinction of being the oldest driver to attain victory in the grueling race.
Ten years later, Newman got to express his love of race cars in another way: as the voice of Doc Hudson in the 2006 Disney movie Cars.
Given Newman’s love of race car driving, it’s not a surprise that he amassed an impressive collection of road cars over his 20 years of driving, including everything from a Trans-Am Oldsmobile to a Porsche 935. Perhaps nearest and dearest to his heart, however? The convertible 1971 Triumph TR6 with which he’d captured that first SCCA National Championship.
Built by Triumph Motor Company between the years of 1968 and 1976, the 2.5-liter six-cylinder Triumph TR6 was the TR range’s bestseller until it was surpassed by its replacement the TR7. Today, it remains one of the company’s most celebrated creations as well as a sought-after collectible due to its unique combination of powerful performance and distinctive looks. Thanks to the Triumph TR6’s reliable mechanics, meanwhile, many original models are still on the roads.
Paul Newman may be gone, but he left behind an inimitable legacy as an actor, director, philanthropist and activist. He also left behind an amazing race car collection. It was so remarkable, in fact, that even a decade after his death, people are still clamoring to see it: In 2018, the collection — anchored by the Triump TR6 — was featured at the San Marino Motor Classic.