The current Z06 is a sensational car, but it is not available as a removable-roof coupe, a convertible, or with an automatic trans-mission. The lack of such features has never been a problem for dedicated performance purists who are willing to make certain sacrifices in the name of maximum speed and agility. But considering that Z06s account for only 18 percent of total Corvette sales, it's safe to assume that many Vette shoppers would prefer more of an la carte approach to the optioning process.
To address the needs of these customers, Callaway Cars began offering supercharged versions of the base C6 last year. Available in two horsepower levels and with a full range of factory options, these blown-"SuperCharged," in Callaway-speak-Vettes quickly established an enthusiastic customer base in the U.S. Its concept having proved viable, Callaway set out to gauge interest in other parts of the world.
To test the European market, Callaway Competition, in Leingarten, Germany, built a prototype closely resembling a typical SuperCharged conversion. The company began with an '06 C6 automatic coupe, purchased from Dutch auto-motive conglomerate Kroymans Corporation. As a low-mileage demonstrator, the Kroymans car was a perfect candidate for the SuperCharged treatment. (Although superchargers are referred to as "compressors" in Europe, Callaway plans to preserve the existing nomenclature if it offers the car in the European market.)
Unlike their partners in Old Lyme, the Callaway Competition crew have a large inventory of unused Z06 hardware. Most are take-offs generated when the company converted 10 Z06 production cars into GT3-spec Z06.R racers early last year. Director Ernst Woehr decided to use many of these parts during the conversion of the Kroymans car.
Woehr and company installed Z06 rear fenders and rolling stock, along with a subtly bulged hood necessitated by the roots-style supercharger. Callaway Competition even custom-molded a set of fiberglass Z06 front fenders. These were added to the stock C6 nose, reducing conversion costs and improving aerodynamic penetration at Autobahn speeds. The final and most visually startling change was the addition of a complete, custom-leather interior.
Our introduction to this uniquely modified Vette came during a trip to Europe earlier this year. Europe's Corvette Brand Manager, Koos Pettinga, asked us to deliver the Super-Charged car 185 miles north to the Nrburgring to display it at a German Corvette Club event. MTI Racing proprietor and former SPEED GT driver Reese Cox accompanied us on this trip. Cox is accustomed to driving powerful Corvettes, so we asked him to drive the Callaway to the Ring and give us his impressions.
Cox found the SuperCharged Vette easy to drive on the Autobahn, where he cruised at between 110 and 130 mph. Even at those speeds, the 560hp engine had plenty of grunt in reserve, and fuel mileage was excellent at 21 mpg.
Once at the Ring, we parked the Callaway at the Kroymans display area in the F1 paddock. The German Corvette Club hosted more than 250 Corvettes and their owners that weekend, and many of these Vette enthusiasts visited the Kroymans area to inspect the Callaway. Pettinga told us later that their comments were overwhelmingly positive
Next, we headed to a Corvette dealership in the city of Bitburg, where Kroymans was sponsoring a Corvette Driving Experience. The Driving Experience, which gives potential customers the opportunity to drive a Corvette for one hour with a qualified instructor, has been instrumental in successfully introducing the brand to European buyers.
Part of our trip was on the A60 Autobahn, a new highway used by numerous European manufacturers for high-speed testing. We were driving three Corvettes: the Callaway, a stock '07 Z06, and the MTI-modified Dream Car Garage Z06 ("Dream Match-up," July '07). The Callaway SuperCharged and the stock Z06 proved to be pretty evenly matched in top speed. The MTI Z06, however, was much quicker throughout all of the speed ranges. At one point, we touched almost 191 mph in the Callaway and 193 in the Z06; the MTI Z06, meanwhile, steadily pulled away.
We arrived safely at the Werkmeister dealership in Bitburg. Werkmeister is housed in a large, airy building filled with Corvettes, Cadillacs, and Opels. Curious customers immediately gathered around the Callaway SuperCharged and the MTI Z06 to ask questions about these two outrageous-looking Vettes. We fielded several such queries before leaving the Callaway in Bitburg and returning to the Ring to continue our European journey.
While it is always difficult to predict consumer response to an unfamiliar product, our brief exposure to Callaway Competition's SuperCharged prototype proved to us that the car is eminently capable of meeting the unique demands of the European market. The only question remaining is whether this base-model automatic coupe is capable of holding its own at the Nrburgring. Knowing Callaway, it won't be long before we find out.