Celebrity Car: Reeves Callaway - East Valley Tribune: Business

Celebrity Car: Reeves Callaway

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Posted: Friday, May 25, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 5:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The noise alone will raise your heart rate by 50 beats. Imagine a dentist’s drill playing through the speakers at rock concert and you get some idea of the sound of Callaway’s new C16 supercar as its supercharger shrieks to 10 on the volume. It’s the soundtrack of a 616-horsepower rocket that can match just about any car on the planet: zero-to-60 m.p.h. in 3.4 seconds, the quarter-mile in a mere 11 seconds. Keep the pedal to the metal and it won’t quit pulling until 206 m.p.h.

The noise alone will raise your heart rate by 50 beats. Imagine a dentist’s drill playing through the speakers at a rock concert and you get some idea of the sound of Callaway’s new C16 supercar as its supercharger shrieks to 10 on the volume.

It’s the soundtrack of a 616-horsepower rocket that can match just about any car on the planet: zero-to-60 m.p.h. in 3.4 seconds, the quarter-mile in a mere 11 seconds. Keep the pedal to the metal and it won’t quit pulling until 206 m.p.h.

This is the latest creation from legendary Corvette tuner Reeves Callaway. For the past 22 years, this laid-back New Englander, whose father, Ely, founded the Callaway Golf Company and gave the world the Big Bertha club, enjoys a different kind of driving.

For those in the know, names like Sledgehammer and Super-Natural will send a jolt of high-volt electricity down the spine. Until Bugatti’s $1.4-million, 257-m.p.h. Veyron came along, Callaway’s 900-plus-horsepower, twin-turbocharged Sledgehammer held the title of “World’s Fastest Street Car” almost 20 years ago, with its top speed of 254.76 m.p.h.

Celebrity Car Magazine caught up Callaway at his rambling, new Laguna Beach, Calif., digs, which double as West Coast operations office for his world-renowned business, and home to him, wife Sue, youngsters Lily and Walker, and Reeves’ 24-year-old son, Pete, who is the new general manager of Callaway West.

These days, Callaway’s operations stretch from Laguna Beach to Old Lyme, Conn., and Leingarten, in Germany. The plan is for each of the facilities to build the new $118,000 C16 at the rate of one a week, with plans for total of about 150 cars a year.

In addition to the removabletop coupe version we were lucky to drive, Callaway plans to a convertible. This will be followed by a dramatic no-windshield Speedster model that will be readied for an August unveiling.

“Of all the Corvettes we’ve built, from road cars to racecars, I think the C16 is the culmination of all our great work. It has the best performance-to-value equation; it has the right level of performance and is usable as a daily driver.”

For a time, back in the early 1970s, it looked as though Reeves Callaway would be the next Mario Andretti. He regularly took the checkered flag, eventually winning a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) championship.

But when the cash ran out, he began modifying cars in his garage. One of his turbocharger conversions was to an Alfa Romeo GTV6, which attracted the attention of General Motors engineers, whom asked him to develop a turbo package for the company’s 1985 model year Corvettes. Callaway Cars suddenly moved into the fast lane.

“It has been a relationship that has lasted over 20 years. Today, we have over 900 Callaway Corvettes still out there driven by some very enthusiastic owners.”

Surprisingly, Callaway hasn’t kept any of his old cars. “I’m a carmaker not a collector. No room. No time. No interest. I guess I’m only fascinated by our latest models and any future ones.”

But his daily driver is a new Range Rover Sport, while his wife, journalist and author Sue Zesiger Callaway runs a new Bentley Continental GT along with an ’80s Callaway Speedster and a classic 1964 Jaguar E-Type coupe.

“The Bentley could well be our next project. Our designer Paul Deurschman has done some remarkable drawings for a rebodied Continental GT. When we build it, I know it is going to cause a sensation. We’re looking to do a run of maybe 40 or 50,” he says.

Most Saturday mornings, however, you’ll more than likely find Callaway astride his low-slung Gurney Alligator motorcycle, which is one of just 36 built by racing great Dan Gurney. Powered by a single-cylinder 700-c.c. Honda engine, it holds the record for the fastest zero-to-30-m.p.h. acceleration for a production bike.

“I’ve always loved bikes. I suppose it goes back to when I was a kid and my mom banned me from owning one. So I got hold of a trike and bolted a motor to it. That’s what I do best; find solutions to problems.”

Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine (celebritycarmagazine.com) and the duPont Registry (dupontregistry.com).

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