November 6, 2013
For Immediate Release
REEVES CALLAWAY SHARES HIS THOUGHTS WITH CAR AND DRIVER IN: "what i'd do differently . . . "
The following is a text of John Phillips' interview recently conducted with Reeves Callaway, published in the December 2013 issue of Car and Driver.
Founder of Callaway Cars in 1977, Reeves Callaway, 66, has blanketed America with 1800 modified Corvettes and more than a few peculiar engines.
C/D:Wasn't it odd for an Ivy League art major to become an engine builder?
Reeves: I convinced the professor that he needed me to put a 327 in his Jeep Wagoneer. That's how I passed art class.
C/D:In 1973, you became an instructor for Bob Bondurant.
Reeves: Me and Sam Posey, David Hobbs, Nick Craw, and Jim Busby. Bondurant demanded two skills: Control the car from the right seat and speak after dinner. We took car dealers around the track. Oh, many nearly killed me. We evaluated the danger as too high. We all quit. Bob never forgave us.
C/D:When you quit, you "appropriated" one of the school's cars to turbocharge it.
Reeves: Yes, BMW gave me a 320i. I loaned it to [C/D's] Don Sherman, and he wrote a two-page piece about it in 1977. Don made it sound as if I could supply the world with BMW turbo kits. In fact, I didn't even own a drill press. The car worked only because there was Sunoco 260 [high-octane fuel] at the pumps. Don's article launched Callaway Turbo Systems.
C/D:You recently won the right to build all of the FIA's GT3 C7's.
Reeves: We did go to GM and lobby. It felt good to be chosen. We had the same deal with the C6, and we've sold 23 that are campaigning now. It used to be that a specialty company could homologate a car without manufacturer permission. Now, the FIA says you need a statement from the OEM that it's behind a single builder. We should have the C7 race car in a year or so.
C/D:Will Chevy dealers again sell twin-turbo C7s?
Reeves: Yes. We decided 25 years ago that the only way to sell our cars was through Chevy dealers, with a warranty and dealer service. So we cherry-picked 30 stores. GM usually won't support something it didn't engineer, so we're proud of that.
C/D:Did the Callaway Sledgehammer really make 898 horses?
Reeves: More than that, originally. In 1988, the car went 254.76 mph at TRC [Ohio's Transportation Research Center] on minimum boost! Those one-off top-speed cars, with development, could cost us $1 million. Fortunately, Goodyear gave us what looked like Gatorbacks, but they were capable of 300 mph. Tires that's what should prevent people from doing these top-speed contests.
C/D:You've turbocharged Alfas, Holdens, and Land Rovers. Is there a marque that proved to be a big mistake?
Reeves: Oh, sure, the turbo system we made for the VW Vanagon. Never turbocharge something that will be driven all daylong at wide-open throttle. Never.
C/D:You discouraged your dad from marketing his Callaway Big Bertha golf clubs?
Reeves: He was 65, didn't need money, selling clubs out of the trunk of his car. Here's me, with Callaway Cars doing $20 million per year, while Ely's doing $100,000 with those damn clubs. I said, "I just don't think it's gonna go anywhere, Pop."
C/D:Do you still have your "HH" Indy-car engine and the 80-valve V-16 you built out of four Yamaha motorcycle engines?
Reeves: The HH was gonna be real easy to repair, and it was tiny. I have an HH on display in Connecticut. And the Cyclone V-16 is just a little longer than a small-block Chevy. It's for a future Callaway road car that will require 640 horsepower.
C/D:You've had dozens of celebrity customers. Any tales?
Reeves: Michael Jordan did not fit in his car. He wanted to. He got all scrunched down to make it look like he wasn't uncomfortable. But he was. Really.
C/D:You're working on a C7 wagon?
Reeves: The AeroWagon. It's a $15,000 replacement hatch. Different lines but with the same attachment points, same gaskets. People now call to ask if they can put their children back there. I tell 'em, "No, but you could put them behind the car in a good 200-mph trailer and scare them shitless."
C/D:Do you have a car collection?
Reeves: No. Builders are separate from collectors. I call old cars "the snow of yesterday."
C/D:What's your daily driver?
Reeves: An Aprilia Dorsoduro with chicken strips on the rear tire. Also, a Chevy Volt.
C/D:If you could have done something differently in your career, what would it be?
Reeves: Adrian Reynard said, "Regrets are just the building blocks of a learning process." I like that. I'm not sure I would have been able to do anything differently, but perhaps the same things, better.