Eric Charbonneau/Invision for DreamWorks Pictures/AP
03/07/2014 at 12:00 PM EST
stars as a revenge-seeking underground race car driver in his latest film, Need for Speed
, but in real life his first car love was a lot less sexy and a lot more tame.
"It was the '82 Toyota Corolla. It was faded gold. Paint was peeling off. Any time it rained the trunk filled up with water, but my God, I loved that car so much," Paul, 34, told PEOPLE Thursday at the film's Hollywood premiere.
"I was 16 years old. I didn't come from a lot of money at all, but it got me from point A to point B, you know. I was on the open road and yeah, it was great," he adds.
While the former Breaking Bad star
plays daredevil and car garage owner, a character who is bent on avenging a wrongful conviction and prison rap, Paul says his fast driving has been limited to off-road adventures.
"I go-cart a lot. I used to go-cart a lot. I loved it," Paul shared as he soaked up plenty of love from his fans
who showed up to cheer him on.
Even as the Emmy Award
-winning actor turned up the driving heat
on the big screen, Paul says he's fully aware and respectful of how fast a wreck can occur.
"I've been in an accident," Paul said. "One of my best friend's wife was driving. I was in the backseat. I was in the car for about 15 or 20 second, and we got T-boned from this car. And we flipped about close to four times and i just kind of floated around in the back seat. All of us unharmed."
Reporting by SCOTT HUVER