Home » Let’s All Pour Out A Quart Of 20W-50 For The Man Responsible For Those Insanely Powerful Corvettes You Remember From Your Childhood

Let’s All Pour Out A Quart Of 20W-50 For The Man Responsible For Those Insanely Powerful Corvettes You Remember From Your Childhood

Reeves Callaway 1947 2023
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The world has lost an automotive legend. Callaway Cars reports that founder Ely Reeves Callaway III has died after a fall. He was 75. A Formula Vee champion and turbocharging powerhouse, Callaway helped rewrite the rules of American performance cars and built one of the greatest American tuner cars of all time, the record-breaking Callaway Sledgehammer.

Bmw 320i Callaway Turbocharger

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In the early days, Callaway built up a reputation by building turbocharging kits, and one of Callaway’s first projects was a turbo kit for a BMW, the rather underrated E21 3-Series. A successor to the legendary 2002, the E21 was only available in America with a four-cylinder M10 engine despite Europe getting the option of an M20 inline-six. Needless to say, a replacement for displacement was found. After developing a prototype Indy engine and building some seriously spicy twin-turbocharged Alfa Romeo GTV-6 coupes, Callaway caught the eye of Corvette chief engineer Dave McLellan, setting the stage for one of the greatest RPO codes in GM history: B2K.

Callaway B2k Corvette

First, a little backstory. Whenever GM offers a distinct factory-produced option, it gains an RPO code, short for Regular Production Option. Ticking the box for B2K on a C4 Corvette got you two meaty turbochargers, 345 horsepower, and a monstrous 465 lb.-ft. of torque. It was the only time third-party Corvette modifications were ever sold under a GM RPO code, which makes it pretty special.

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Callaway Sledgehammer 1

However, one Callaway C4 Corvette was a little bit more special than the rest. I’m talking about the Callaway Sledgehammer, a legendarily powerful Corvette built to take on any road car from any country. It had a re-sculpted body by Canadian Paul Deutschmann, a built engine, and two turbos to help produce 880 horsepower.

Callaway Sledgehammer 2

In 1988, Callaway drove the Sledgehammer to the Transportation Research Center’s 7.5-mile oval in Ohio and put legendary racer John Lingenfelter behind the wheel to see just how fast this hypervette could go. When the dust settled, a new road car speed record emerged — 254.76 mph. Nearly a double nickel over 200 mph. From a modern perspective, it’s a brilliant moment in the American history of hot, nasty, badass, almost unbelievable speed. Keep in mind, this was pre-McLaren F1, and well before the Bugatti Veyron was even a twinkle in Ferdinand Piëch’s eye. Callaway turned an all-American hero car into the king of the road-legal food chain.

Callaway Tahoe Sc602

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These days, Callaway Cars still makes absurdly quick GM products with 50-state emissions compliance. It’ll sell you a 602-horsepower supercharged Tahoe, a 750-horsepower Camaro ZL1, and is working on a supercharged C8 Corvette. Although Reeves Callaway is no longer with us, he will always be an automotive legend. May his marvelous machines race on, now and forever.

(Photo credits: Callaway Cars, Mecum Auctions)

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Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
10 months ago

Bow your heads, gentlemen, for a great man has passed.

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
10 months ago

Lest we forget, Callaway made what was widely regarded as the best turbo kit available for early water-cooled Volkswagens. It was probably the next project they did after developing the 320i turbo kit. I recall looking at a (rather rusty) Callaway turbo’d 1.7L Scirocco that was for sale in Cincinnati, well over 30 years ago. It was too rotted to save…

Cerberus
Cerberus
10 months ago

Saw a Callaway C4 with the full Sledgehammer body and I was amazed at how much more exotic it looked. In photos, it looked like a C4 with a body kit, but in person, it looked proportionately wide instead of too skinny (ZR1 excepted) and had that thin-bodywork-draped-over-a-chassis look that reminded me of a 288 GTO in presence. Also got smoked by a Callaway Chevy truck in my Focus ST, which was cool.

Paul B
Paul B
10 months ago

IIRC, there was an article back in the day about the Sledgehammer that John Lingenfelter drove. John nicknamed it the Hedgeslammer.

A. Barth
A. Barth
10 months ago

I lived in Monterey in 1990 and got to work in the pits at Laguna Seca a couple of times.

Watching – and hearing – Callaway Corvettes negotiate turn 11 and then hammer down the straight was an unforgettable experience. Fare thee well, Mr. C.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
10 months ago

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Mortality is an inevitable fact of this existence. Still, some will be remembered more fondly than others.

A star has fallen…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuwEtazDUwI

Last edited 10 months ago by Doctor Nine
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
10 months ago

I fondly remember reading about various Callaway exploits in Hot Rod—but did not know (or maybe, remember) his first was a BMW. Guess I need to pour out one for another legend passed. I’ll have to rummage around the special cellar, though: I suspect the cars Ely breathed on didn’t take regular 10W-30

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
10 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Even the regular Corvettes took 15-50, IIRC.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
10 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Now that’s a comment of the day

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
10 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I got to briefly see a nice red BMW that his son drove up to college, I think it was before he started, didn’t keep it at school as far as I remember. A person I met first week of college was his buddy, I was blown away to meet even his son and see the car briefly. I had always liked the Sledgehammer, had posters of other Callaway cars from the NY auto show over the years. His friend gave me a few Callaway posters, that are hanging in my garage today. Never saw him again and the friend moved on to a different college later in the year.

RIP to a person who seemed to build a cool company and happy that he went in this direction instead of going into the golf company side of family business. Sorry to his family for the loss.

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