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David Letterman’s V8 Volvo, Plus 9 Other Secret Celebrity Hot Rods

Hats off to the guys who choose quiet-fast over loud-flash.

Floyd “Money” Mayweather is an aficionado of money, and to demonstrate that, he drives a $3,498,000 black and orange Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. While we certainly appreciate the monstrously powerful Bug and its extroverted owner, our favorite car/owner combos are the celebs who hide all that mojo under more restrained skin.

10. David Spade’s 1987 Buick Grand National GNX

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Should you happen upon the diminutive yuckster in his boxy GNX, resist the urge to snicker. He can blow your doors off. Buick made just 547 of these turbocharged behemoths, and McLaren Performance Technologies upgraded the engines to push out 245 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. It’ll hit 60 in 4.7 seconds—sadly not powerful nor fast enough to help Spade escape Adam Sandler’s orbit.

9. Jason Biggs’ 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon


Get ready to forge newfound respect for a man most famous for porking an apple pie. You know someone’s legit when he opts for a race wagon as a daily driver. With a 556-horsepower supercharged LSA 6.2-liter V8, Biggs’ American metal-sled will shred off the line. And in the corners. And everywhere else it damn well pleases. Pass the pie, please.

8. Clint Eastwood’s 1992 GMC Typhoon

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It’s easy to mistake Dirty Harry’s wheels for a regular old Jimmy. However, the 4.3-liter V6 GMC wedged under the hood means this proto-SUV hauls, particularly with the addition of all-wheel drive. That combo provides Eastwood’s Typhoon with a sub-six zero to 60. Making the ride even rarer is the colorway. There are only 132 units in bright teal and grey. Lucky.

7. Dax Shepard’s 1967 Lincoln Continental

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The iconic lines, the assassination heritage, those suicide doors, that hood scoop. Hood scoop? Yes. The scoop subtracts true sleeper points, but Shepard needed one when he crammed a Lime 385-series Ford Racing big block in the bay. That’s how he converted a 5,300-lb ruminant into a 700-plus-horsepower rocket. The interior’s also a bit of a giveaway—five-point harness, race seats, and engine gauges—but so what? To see this sleeper wake up and rage, watch Shepard’s Hit & Run (a bit of a sleeper itself).

6. 50 Cent’s 2008 Pontiac G8 GT

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Sure, it’s a rebadged Holden Commodore, but the factory G8 wasn’t any slouch. The GXP edition came stock with an LS3 V8, turning out 415 hp. That wasn’t enough for Fitty, so Pontiac swapped in the LSX 427 used in the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Add a Borla exhaust and you’re left with a 500-horsepower howling demon, more powerful than 50’s Lamborghini Gallardo—and about $200,000 cheaper.

5. Ben Affleck’s 1966 Chevelle SS 396

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There were four iterations of this lumbering classic, all with eight big, beautiful cylinders. The L78 version churned out 375 horsepower, though Batfleck’s oxblood number is ratcheted up thanks to some serious engine work. We assume Affleck upgraded the handling, since getting a Chevelle to actually corner is tougher than getting busted on Air Force Fun with your kids’ nanny.  

4. Tim Allen’s 1996 LT5 Chevy Impala SS

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GM’s former chief of specialty vehicles worked directly with Allen on this one-off. They infused the wide-bodied boat with a Corvette ZR1 LT5 engine, though why stop there? Why not bore it out to 6.3 liters, instead of the standard 5.7? The 446-horsepower result is this asphalt grinder that grunts louder—and far more pleasingly—than Allen’s Home Improvement character.

3. Tony Hawk’s 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 HPE600


Unleashing Hennessey on Jeep’s SRT8 is a bit like letting a Greyhound snort meth; it’s not necessary, but look at how much faster it’ll run! Hawk’s 620-horsepower phenom takes a mere 3.4 seconds to hit 60 and completes the quarter short of 12 seconds. It’s also toured the globe, courtesy of Hawk’s stint in the 2009 Gumball 3000.

2. David Letterman’s 1995 Volvo 960 Wagon


When Paul Newman calls and offers you a custom-built Volvo estate with a Ford 302 5-liter V8 and a Kenne Bell puffer, always accept. Which explains how the retired and newly bearded Late Night host ended up with this accident-prone, 400-horsepower monster/grocery getter. The powertrain isn’t the only Ford swap; it’s also got a Mustang T5 manual tranny. Letterman famously let Jerry Seinfeld punish the tires on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

1. Paul Newman’s 1963 Volkswagen Beetle


This mid-engine sleeper is legend. Newman turned a stock V-dub over to a race school in California in the mid-Sixties. He got back a Beetle with the soul, power and suspension of an Indy car. A cast-iron 351 Ford V8 was mounted to the rear of the front seats, hidden by a leather cover. Integral components were sourced from the era’s iconic muscle; a Corvette radiator, a Mustang exhaust, a ZF transaxle with the GT40 shifter. The 300-horsepower beauty achieved such alarming speed that Newman’s handlers were relieved when he finally gifted the bomb back to the program. Last time it came to market, in 2011, it bore a $250,000 price tag. Surely it’s worth every penny.