Only a limited number of Corvettes get to grace the pages of VETTE as feature cars. We look for the best of the best, the most striking examples of Corvette excellence that we can find. It can be a tough job. We're dealing with what is, even in its most mundane form, a pretty cool car. Sometimes, though, we don't have to look. Sometimes we're just in the right place at the right time, and there'll be a Vette that calls out, "Hey, look at me! I'm what you're looking for." In the case of this '91 Callaway Speedster, that call was more of a swift kick in the rear followed by a "How do you like me now?"
As it turns out, the staff of VETTE likes this particular Speedster quite a bit. This very machine was our Jan. '93 cover car, and while we don't usually-if ever-feature a car twice, we just couldn't help ourselves. Nearly ten years after it was built and eight after our original feature, the Callaway Speedster is still like nothing else, managing to be at once elegant and aggressive, a club-wielding brute wrapped in the most exclusive designer clothes and groomed to perfection. Each Corvette generation has its standouts, and Callaway's topless creation certainly ranks as a C4 legend.
Reeves Callaway first applied his brand of mechanical magic to America's Sports Car in 1987. All you had to do to own what was perhaps the world's ultimate production automobile was mark RPO B2K on the order form at selected Chevrolet dealers, write a big, fat check, and then wait. The Corvette you had just ordered was shipped to Callaway's facility in Connecticut, where the stock engine was pulled. To describe it briefly, a new powerplant was created starting with a four-bolt main block and forged crank. Each block was line-bored, honed, blueprinted, and balanced. Forged pistons rode on LT-1 rods, and a higher-output oil pump was installed. The stock TPI setup was utilized, but was fitted with gorilla-sized lungs in the form of twin turbochargers and intercoolers. Byproducts exited through handmade headers and a modified exhaust system.
The Callaway Twin Turbo established its credentials as an ultra-high-performance vehicle immediately and impressively. The first version pumped out 345hp and a stump-pulling 465-lb-ft of torque, good for a 13.2 quarter and top speeds in the neighborhood of 175 mph, all while being eminently streetable. Callaway improved his creation consistently during its production run, seeing 365 and then 385 hp, with torque gains to match. But...
Impressive as its performance was, the Callaway Twin Turbo looked like...a Corvette. Given that this option nearly doubled the price of a base Corvette (in 1991, the cost actually exceeded the price of a base Corvette), many thought that the Callaway Vette lacked high-profile looks to go with its stellar performance. Besides aftermarket wheels, Callaway badging, and hood ducts on the early cars, they essentially looked like any other Corvette-not a bad thing, to be sure, except for those not interested in a $50,000 "sleeper."
Callaway's answer came in 1989, when stylist Paul Deutschman designed the bodywork for the Corvette-based, 254-mph Callaway Sledgehammer. Deutschman's work became the basis for the Aerobody, available as an option on '89 Callaways and as a kit for all C4s. The new panels, with their multiple hood scoops and finned vent openings, among other features, set Callaway's creation apart from the crowd and gave it a huge injection of sex appeal.
Callaway & Co. are known for pushing the envelope, so it was no surprise when they again teamed with Deutschman to create a design concept car, based on the Aerobody, sans top.Though not originally planned for production, the car generated enough interest-and purchase orders-at the '91 Los Angeles Auto Show to persuade Callaway to put it into production. At the same time, the Twin Turbo's run was about to end, as the next generation of Callaway creations would be powered by normally aspirated LT5s. We can call the 10 Twin Turbo Speedsters that were built the model's swan song, but the tune is more of a symphony. The Speedster, stated plainly, is a feast for the senses in every way.
Though it's based on the Aerobody and shares many of styling cues, the Speedster has a look that is absolutely unique. The most striking feature is the low-cut wraparound window system, featuring extensions that curve in to meet the faired-in headrests. A small backlight fits between the sloping headrest fairings, allowing nominal use of the rearview mirror, which is molded into the windshield frame. The rear fascia sports center-mounted dual exhaust outlets to go with Callaway's distinctive taillight treatment.
It's all sprayed in a gorgeous coat of Competition Yellow Pearl Paint, and rolls on 18-inch O.Z. Racing wheels sporting Bridgestone rubber.
There was no scrimping on the interior, either. All the factory leather and plastic was changed to top-grade Connelly leather, and the stock carpet was replaced with a genuine wool rug. The choice of "My Favorite Blue" leather and Competition Yellow Pearl is a combination found only on this Speedster (customers were able to specify their color choices). It's a sports car, all right, one that also manages to be luxurious and classy at the same time.
Nevertheless, we are talking about a yellow Callaway Corvette, which by definition means that there's a high level of aggression present as well. All the good looks and creature comforts are backed up by 403hp and a pavement-shredding 600 lb-ft of torque, good for quarter-miles in the high 12s and top speeds in the neighborhood of 190 mph. And it handles. The Speedster body is structurally more akin to a C4 coupe than to a convertible, ensuring that the former retains the latter's sweet handling characteristics. In a nutshell, it's the proverbial velvet hammer, made real in four-wheeled form.
This Speedster is owned now, as it was eight years ago, by Corvette Mike Vietro. In our Jan '93 feature, Mike admitted that "Every car he owns is always for sale," but conceded that "he'd like to keep this one." He wasn't kidding, and we don't blame him. He's felt the same call we did, that voice saying, "Here I am, bad-ass hp and jet-set style, all in one package and here for the taking." Ten years after the end of Twin Turbo era, it's still a seductive and persuasive argument.