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1999 Chevrolet Callaway Corvette C12 - 1 of 2 in Yellow

Garden State-based Callaway C12 is #15 of 20 ever built

Scott Ross Jun 13, 2014
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It goes from 0-60 in about 4 seconds. That's about 5 seconds longer than it took for this Pearlescent Yellow Callaway C12 to grab your attention.

Back in the late '90s, Reeves Callaway was inspired to create a car that would compete in the production-based GT2 class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the then-new fifth-generation Corvette was the ideal platform to build such a grand-touring car.

Assembled at Callaway Cars Europe's shop in Germany, the C12 build began by taking a factory-fresh C5 Corvette apart down to its bare frame and substructure, keeping the original roof and greenhouse, but little else. On went race-ready chassis hardware that made it ready to handle the Circuit de la Sarthe hour after hour, including brakes engineered to survive 24 hours' worth of heat. The chassis mods widened the car's stance by nearly five inches overall, and the car was covered with a composite body whose swoopy curves were sculpted in clay, digitized, then perfected via computer.

Just 20 were built during its 1998-2000 production run, and the one you see here is the 15th one built. Owner Dick Gundeck says that the C12's exterior design caught his eye first. “I've always liked the design,” he says. “Paul Deutschmann was the designer of the car, and I thought it was what the Corvette should look like now. Even though mine's a 1999, and we're talking about 15 years later, I think it's a spectacular, timeless design. Pictures don't do it justice.”

They also don't do justice to the 440 Supernatural Engine, the Chevrolet-based engine that powers the C12. The “440” number comes from its peak horsepower rating, the result of Callaway's R&D work on the then-new LS engine platform. In its June '98 issue previewing the C12, Motor Trend said, “The bulk of the engine alterations are aimed at moving more air into the powerplant, and more spent gases out. Intake-runner lengths have been altered, cylinder head port shapes have been changed, cam profiles redrawn, and the entire exhaust system, including dual catalytic converters, replaced. The pistons and connecting rods are upgraded for periods of high-rpm abuse.” All good not just for that quick 0-60 time, but an estimated 192-mph top speed, according to M/T.

1999 Chevrolet Callaway Corvette V 8 Engine 5/8

Not a re-labeled LS1…far from it. Callaway’s “440 Super Natural” engine is built with an LS1 block, but uses plenty of trick parts and techniques to get 440 hp from 5.7 liters. 04 - Callaway-spec 19-inch wheels and Pirelli PZeros fill the widened fenderwells at each corner. 

Nearly a decade and a half after it was built, C12 No. 15 shows no signs of age-related slowing down. “It's very exhilarating,” says Dick, whose C12 shares its garage with grand-tourers like Ruf Porsches. “It sounds great, and it attracts a lot of attention, which is always neat to get,” he says. “That's one of the reasons why we get these kinds of cars.”

Plus, it combines Callaway's high- performance upgrades with rock-ribbed Bowtie reliability. “I haven't had any major issues at all,” says Dick, who also notes that when new, the C12—like the other Corvettes their Old Lyme, Connecticut shop upgraded—carried a full GM warranty.

But there's one thing that the C12 has—like the other Callaways—that regular-production cars will never have: exclusivity. “They don't build a lot of Callaways, and I don't think any of the C12s were built ‘for spec'—they were all built for individuals, to their order,” says Dick, who's got the car's original window sticker (base price: $140,000) to attest to its equipment, and rarity. “The 440 Horsepower Super Natural Engine was a $15,000 option,” he says. “It has a Le Mans Brake Package that was $4,650 extra, a Dual Coil Suspension that was $4,500 extra, and the Pearlescent Yellow color, to match a paint sample, was $12,500.” (That color, by the way, went on only one other C12.)

Add in $8,600 for the matched-to-a-sample yellow/ black leather interior, $4,525 for Callaway Sport Seats, $2,800 for the carbon-fiber cockpit trim, as well as several other options, and the sticker's bottom-line number was $204,565 (f.o.b. Old Lyme).

1999 Chevrolet Callaway Corvette Interior Black Yellow 6/8

There’s no other C12 that has this custom two-tone leather interior, with Callaway’s sport seats and carbon-fiber trim kit included. 06 - Dick’s C12 is the 15th one made, out of a 20-car production run. 07 - When new, the sport seats added $4,500 to the C12’s sticker price—and the two-tone leather upholstery and cabin trim added nearly $9,000 more.

1999 Chevrolet Callaway Corvette Interior Seats 7/8

When new, the sport seats added $4,500 to the C12’s sticker price—and the two-tone leather upholstery and cabin trim added nearly $9,000 more.

Despite its rarity, it's a car that Dick does take out and exercise. “I drive it occasionally—it's not something up here in the Northeast that I can take out on a regular basis,” he says, as we chatted on the first day of Spring. “We have a Cars & Coffee meet this Sunday, and I'll probably take it to that.”

If the thought of a “Powerfully Engineered” Callaway strikes your fancy, be prepared to pay for the privilege. Callaway's latest creation, the C16, starts at $225,000 for the base coupe version, and can run over $360,000 for a fully-loaded Speedster. Previously-owned Callaway Corvettes, owing to their stout engineering and prior owners' fastidious maintenance, are commonly priced near and above $100,000.

But, if you've got the means, Callaway has the car for you. “It's a lot of bang for the buck,” says Dick. “You have the exclusivity with the car. Callaway builds a great, great product, and stands behind it.”

And, in the case of the C12, that exclusivity is combined with a powertrain and chassis engineered to survive the 24 Hours of Le Mans, inside an aerodynamically-stylish composite body that's guaranteed to draw a crowd wherever you take it—to the Circuit de la Sarthe, to Cars & Coffee, or any place in between!

“It's a spectacular, timeless design” —Dick Gundeck

1999 Chevrolet Callaway Corvette Rear Side View 8/8

It’s C5 Corvette from the beltline up, but all Callaway when it comes to the composite body panels—and the Le Mans ready powertrain and chassis underneath. 

Spec Sheet
Vehicle: 1999 Chevrolet Callaway Corvette C12
Owner: Richard Gundeck, Ridgewood, NJ
Builder: Callaway Cars Europe, Bad Friedrichshall, Germany
Engine: Callaway “Super Natural” overhead-valve V-8 (based on the '99 GM Powertrain GEN III LS1)
Block: GM Powertrain LS1, cast-aluminum alloy
Displacement: 347 cubic inches (5.7 liters)
Heads: GM Powertrain LS1, cast-aluminum alloy, with combustion chambers reworked by Callaway Cars
Valves: Stock LS1 2.00-inch intake, 1.55-inch exhaust
Camshaft: Callaway custom-ground hydraulic roller
Pistons: Callaway custom-forged, 10.3:1 compression
Crankshaft: Callaway custom-forged steel
Oil System: Stock Callaway C12
Fuel Injection: Stock Callaway C12, sequential electronic multipoint
Ingition: Stock Callaway C12 electronic coil-on-plug
Exhaust: Callaway-designed with high-flow catalytic converters
Transaxle: Six-speed manual
Frame: Hydroformed C5 Corvette frame
Suspension: Callaway-specific upper/lower control arms, transverse composite leaf springs, antiroll bars and coilovers, front and rear
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS, 14-inch front and 12-inch rear rotors
Wheels: Callaway-engineered/designed, cast-aluminum, 19x10 inches front, 19x12½ inches rear
Tires: Pirelli PZero, 295/35R19 front, 335/25R19 rear
Mileage: Approximately 14,000



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