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Celebrating 25 Years of Callaway Corvettes

Renaissance Man

Walt Thurn Jan 1, 2013
Vemp 1301 01 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes Reeves Callaway 2/18

Reeves Callaway (right) stands with automotive designer Paul Deutschman (center) and Callaway Cars Managing Director Mike Zoner in front of the company's Old Lyme, Connecticut, headquarters.

Reeves Callaway is a man of many talents—educated, articulate, and a lover of art, travel, fine foods, computers, and, of course, automobiles. Twenty-five years ago his company, Callaway Cars, became the first firm to be authorized by GM to modify new production Corvettes. These cars carried RPO B2K option and could be ordered at Chevrolet dealerships. After the cars were built in Bowling Green, they were shipped to Callaway's Old Lyme, Connecticut, headquarters for conversion. A total of 184 (121 coupes and 63 convertibles) were built for the 1987 model year. The modified, twin-turbo L98 produced 345 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, enough to push top speed to 177.9 mph. (The output figures later climbed to 382/562.) The B2K option continued through 1991 and generated reams of favorable press for Callaway Cars.

Early in the B2K run, Callaway and his team decided to create a rolling test bed to probe the maximum speed potential of the Corvette platform. In 1987 they participated in Car and Driver magazine's "Gathering of Eagles" speed test, taking top honors with a terminal velocity of 231 mph in a twin-turbo C4. Determined to stay ahead of the competition, the Callaway crew created "Sledgehammer," a fully streetable supercar featuring a stock interior with A/C. Automotive designer Paul Deutschman penned a new body for the C4 to reduce its aerodynamic drag.

Vemp 1301 02 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes 1987 Chevy Corvette Twin 3/18

In early October 1988, the 898hp twin-turbo Corvette was driven from Old Lyme to the Ohio Research Transportation Center in East Liberty, Ohio. On October 19 Sledgehammer set a top-speed record for a streetable production car when the late John Lingenfelter pushed it to an amazing 254.76 mph. After setting the mark, the Callaway team drove Sledgehammer back to Old Lyme. It was an amazing feat for a small engineering company.

In 1988 Reeves Callaway attended the 1988 Geneva Auto show, where his friend Dick Guldstrand introduced him to Ernst Woehr. Woehr and his partner, Giovanni Ciccone, owned a tuning and body-shop business in Leingarten, Germany, where they serviced Guldstrand's GS80 C4 Corvettes for European customers. Callaway and Woehr became friends, and Woehr's shop soon began servicing Callaway twin-turbo Vettes.

When the L98 production run ended in 1992, Callaway introduced a new Corvette, the LT1-based SuperNatural. In 1993 Woehr signed a young driver named Boris Said to drive one of these cars in the German ADAC GT series. With his rock-star hair and aggressive driving style, Said soon gained cult status with German racing fans. The SuperNatural took many top finishes and created a lot of buzz for Callaway.

Vemp 1301 03 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes Chevy Corvette Sledgehammer 4/18

In 1994 Callaway and Woehr formed Callaway Competition and set about developing the Callaway LM. This GT supercar was based on the C4 and featured a modified nose and carbon-fiber body. The LM finished Ninth overall at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans and Second in the GT class. In 1996 an LM driven by Almo Coppelli won the SCCA World Challenge Championship. Carlisle Events' Lance Miller currently owns the Coppelli car and plans to vintage race it.

After the LM platform was retired in 1996, Callaway and Woehr began developing a new Corvette-based racer for Le Mans called the C7. It was a radical front-engine GT car that saw little success because of strict rule interpretations by the Le Mans organizers. Only two cars were completed. The original is now in a private collection, while the second one resides in the Old Lyme showroom.

Vemp 1301 10 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes Callaway C12 2001 24 Hours Of Le 11/18

A new C5-based Callaway called the C12 was introduced at the Geneva Auto show in 1998. Built by Woehr and his team in Leingarten, the C12 featured advanced aerodynamics on a stunning body. Only 27 of these beautiful Callaways were sold.

When the C6 arrived in late 2004, Callaway Cars immediately began modifying one. Carlisle Events' Lance Miller commissioned the project, which would ultimately receive a heavily upgraded LS2 engine, along with a tweaked suspension and brakes. Lessons learned from this project helped in the development of a Callaway supercharger package that became available in 2006.

Meanwhile in Germany, Woehr and company were developing a new race car based on the C6 Z06. Named the Z06.R GT3, it was built to compete in the new FIA GT3 championship. The car turned out to be a huge success: To date it has won four FIA GT3 and two UAE GT Championships. Twenty-three examples have been built, and they race in series all over the world (though not in the US).

Around the same time, longtime Callaway collaborator Paul Deutschman completed the design of a new body for a C6-based supercar. Named the C16, the car first appeared at the 2006 LA Auto show. It remains available to this day.

Vemp 1301 11 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes Callaway 12/18

The supercharged-C6 program is another ongoing venture that has proved a tremendous success for Callaway Cars. The package is available on the standard C6 and Grand Sport models (in coupe and topless forms), as well as on the Z06.

To celebrate the B2K option's 25th anniversary, a new limited-edition B2K Corvette was introduced at the National Corvette Museum in April. Reeves Callaway, who was inducted into the NCM's Hall of Fame in 2008, was the keynote speaker. It was a fitting achievement for this modern Renaissance man.

Vemp 1301 13 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes 2012 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport 16/18

Callaway Corvette production began at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant in 1987. Twenty-five years later, the facility built a sequential run of '12 Cyber Gray Grand Sports bearing the same RPO designation. 

B2K Returns
Earlier this year, Reeves Callaway unveiled a 25th Anniversary Callaway Corvette at the National Corvette Museum. Only 26 of these special-edition C6s have since been constructed (one for each year, plus a pilot car), all of which will be sold through the Callaway dealer network. With the exception of the #00 pilot vehicle, the run—consisting exclusively of Cyber Gray Grand Sport coupes and convertibles—was built in sequence at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, then delivered to a Callaway facility for completion. Many had been pre-sold at press time.

In recognition of Callaway's contribution to Corvette development, Chevrolet reinstated RPO B2K for these cars. Originally assigned to the '87-'91 Callaway twin-turbo Corvettes, it's the only RPO GM has ever issued to an outside manufacturer.

Vemp 1301 16 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes Callaway Chevy Corvette 17/18

The engine in the 25th Anniversary cars develops 620 hp—a 14hp increase over the standard supercharged Callaway Corvette. An Eaton TVS2300 blower and upgraded fuel system provide the bulk of the increase, while aluminum 1.80:1 rocker arms, specific valvesprings, and pushrods increase the redline to 6,700 rpm. To support the increased manifold pressure, high-tensile-strength head studs and fasteners replace the OEM bolts. Quarter-mile acceleration is rated at a ZR1-slaying 10.9 seconds at 127 mph.

The chassis includes Nürburgring- developed dampers built to Callaway specs by Bilstein. The carbon splitter, rocker panels, and rear spoiler, meanwhile, are manufactured by Callaway. Each car's interior includes a plaque identifying it as a 25th Anniversary edition.

The result is a wolf in sheep's clothing that's equally at home cruising to the store or tearing up the racetrack. The new B2K carries a three-year/36,000-limited warranty (a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain service contract is optional) and an MSRP of $52,980 on top of the price of the car.

Vemp 1301 17 Celebrating 25 Years Of Callaway Corvettes Callaway Chevy Corvette 18/18



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