The car with Paul Newman’s name on it is up for auction

“No. I know his type. Race car. He’s the last thing this town needs.”

You may recall those as the words of Doc Hudson, Radiator Springs’ do-everything patriarch: judge, doctor, drift racing OG … a former three-time Piston Cup champion who can spot a kindred spirit and restless soul from miles and miles away.

Doc was brought to life by legendary actor, philanthropist — and race car driver — Paul Newman in Disney Pixar’s 2006 movie “Cars.”

The movie borrowed heavily from 1991’s “Doc Hollywood,” featuring a cocksure big city kid waylaid in a small town, mashed up with director John Lasseter’s sepia-hued memories of a cross-country road trip he took with his wife and five children in 2000 .

The Hudson Hornet during the premiere of Disney Pixar’s “Cars” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC This car goes up for auction in Pebble Beach this weekend as part of Monterey’s annual car.

E. Charbonneau/WireImage for Disney Pictures

Now the real car that inspired the Newman-voiced classic whip in the beloved Pixar franchise is for sale. And there’s only one place in the world you can get it: The Gooding & Company car auction at Pebble Beach this Friday and Saturday.

The auction will feature the Fabulous Hudson Hornet — along with 157 other rare, collectible, one-of-a-kind and, in some cases, multimillion-dollar cars. It’s part of Monterey Car Week, which caps off Sunday with Pebble Beach’s Concours D’ Elegance, a showcase of elegant vintage cars held every August since 1950, where car enthusiasts from around the world show up to celebrate some of the world’s most rare autos.

Thousands of spectators look at vintage cars on display at the 2002 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Aug.  18, 2002, in Pebble Beach, Calif.
Thousands of spectators look at vintage cars on display at the 2002 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Aug. 18, 2002, in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Culminating on the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links on Sunday, where one lucky car and owner will be crowned “Best in Show,” the event continues to draw crowds who love to gaze upon the beloved hunks of metal on one of the most rarefied perches on the continent.

And, in a time where used and classic car sales have skyrocketed to new price heights since the early pandemic, this weekend’s auctions are expected to set new records. Classic car sellers have already raked in $2.16 billion this year — up from $1.28 billion during the first half of 2021 — with certain models seeing an 80% or 90% increase in value year-over-year.

Paul Newman in a Disney Pixar “Cars” themed race car.

E. Charbonneau

“Pebble Beach is the world’s foremost Concours,” Gooding & Company spokesperson Pauline Pechakjian told SFGATE. “It’s the most notable collection and grouping of cars at any one location and any one time. The auctions that go on during the week that lead up to Concours are a quality that’s in a league of its own — and the market has certainly been really strong. We’ll see how things unfold.”

Those who are interested in picking up the Hudson Hornet to cap off the weekend should get ready to rev up their checkbooks, with a pre-auction estimate of $90,000 to $120,000.

Potential buyers should note there is precedent for Paul Newman-related items going well over their estimated value at auction. In 2017, Newman’s famous 1968 Rolex Daytona watch, gifted to him by wife Joanne Woodward, with the now-famous inscription on the back, “Drive Carefully Me,” shattered expectations and records for a single timepiece at Phillips auction headquarters in New York. The winning bid was $15.5 million, after 12 minutes of back-and-forth.

Paul Newman, Disney’s Bob Iger and Richard Petty during the premiere of Disney Pixar’s “Cars” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC

Kevin Kane/WireImage for Disney Pictures

Will the little blue 1951 coupe with a whole lot of history behind it, which will roll up on the block with no set reserve (minimum) bid, create a similar stir this weekend? It certainly has a worthy pedigree.

For starters, the current owner is Dave Bonbright, a Hudson Hornet expert who served as the automotive historian on “Cars.”

If you want to know anything about the Hornet, from how the stylish little coupe made by the long-defunct Detroit automaker came to capture the first few NASCAR titles, to why its low-slung “step-down” chasis became a fixture in car design that is now ubiquitous in stock cars today, Bonbright is your person.

Paul Newman and Richard Petty during preparations for the world premiere of Disney Pixar’s animated film “Cars.” This exact Fabulous Hudson Hornet will be up for auction this weekend at Pebble Beach.

E. Charbonneau

Former late-night host and car enthusiast Jay Leno even dedicated an entire episode of his Emmy-winning series “Jay Leno’s Garage” to Bonbright’s Hudson Hornet. It’s clear from the onset that Leno is taken with the car that would come to be known simply as “Doc” — and its restorer. “Thanks to you, Hudsons have become hot again,” he tells Bonbright.

“Paul Newman even signed the car’s sun visor, which was really kind of cool because Paul Newman did not sign anything,” Leno said in the episode. “I knew Paul Newman. He was a great guy — he just didn’t like to sign stuff. That wasn’t his thing.”

Of the Newman signature, Bonbright admitted he took a chance asking the actor for his autograph during the production of “Cars,” but it paid off: “The movie makers and a few of us went down to San Jose when [Newman] was running the last IndyCar race, which he won by the way,” Bonbright told Leno. “We were having lunch with him, so I thought, well let’s bring the visor down to see if he’ll autograph it — because he wasn’t known to autograph anything.”

Bonbright was so enamored with Newman, he pledged a portion of proceeds to Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network, a network of 30 camps for children battling serious illnesses.

Newman himself was bemused about his turn in “Cars” toward the end of his career. “I started my career giving a clinic in bad acting in the film, ‘The Silver Chalice,’ and now I’m playing a crusty old man who’s an animated automobile. That’s a creative arc for you, isn’t it,” he said when the first “Cars” film was released.

American actor and racing driver Paul Newman attends the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans.
American actor and racing driver Paul Newman attends the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans.

James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images

Newman died in September 2008. The Doc Hudson character was referred to in the past tense in 2011’s “Cars 2,” but he made a comeback in the series’ most recent entry, 2017’s “Cars 3.” Lasseter, as executive producer, helped sift through more than 28 hours of archival recordings from the first film to bring Doc (and ostensibly Newman) back to life. “Paul would sit and talk with you about racing as long as you wanted to talk, but when it came to movies or acting, he wasn’t interested,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press.

“I grew to really love Paul and we had such great times,” he said. “Listening to us converse, it was very nostalgic and very emotional for me.”

But that’s the thing about cars (and “Cars”), especially one like the Fabulous Hudson Hornet: They have a way of living in your memory and transporting you to not only the place you need to go, but a time perhaps not lived, but remembered.

“When I drive mine down the street [the kids] all go, ‘Doc! Doc!’ after Doc Hudson,” Leno said. “… You feel like you’re seven years old driving in your dad’s lap in this thing.”