Noted Corvette tuner Reeves Callaway dies at age 75

Youtube/Callaway Cars Inc

Callaway Cars has announced the passing of its founder and CEO, Ely Reeves Callaway III. He died on July 11, at his home in Newport Beach, California, from injuries sustained following a fall at home. Callaway was a car tuner and builder, founding businesses based on his love for speed.

Rather than follow in the footsteps of his father, who founded Callaway Golf and invented the Big Bertha club, and also founded Callaway Vineyards, Reeves Callaway became a legendary figure in the world of high-performance automobiles. Entirely self-taught, Reeves founded his company in 1977 from his garage in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Reeves Callaway Deutschland
Getty Images/Picture Alliance

His first product success was an aftermarket turbo kit for a BMW, which automotive journalist and Hagerty contributor Don Sherman reviewed favorably in Car and Driver. “He hung a turbo kit on a borrowed 320i,” Sherman recalls. “I ended up testing it and was impressed. At the time he had no intention of building his company. Why should he? He was rich, and having the time of his life.”

The rest was history as Callaway, a Formula Vee champion driver and instructor for Bob Bondurant’s driving school prior to becoming a constructor, moved with his customary speed to open Callaway Cars’ first headquarters in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Callaway Cars

Over the four decades since, Reeves and Callaway Cars have continued to earn accolades from media, the automotive industry, and the global motorsports world as a pioneer of “Powerfully Engineered Automobiles.” His performance and design innovations have delivered track and road-going successes for global marques, including BMW, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Land Rover, Mazda, Volkswagen, and General Motors, “who looked to Callaway’s innovation, creativity, agility, and performance to help accomplish their goals,” said his obituary.

Callaway Cars

He is best known for his work with Corvette, a deep and high-level relationship with the American sports car manufacturer that began in 1987 and culminated with two industry firsts:

• The Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette “B2K” designation, a factory code to signify the GM stamp of approval to permit sale and distribution of the Callaway Corvette via the Chevrolet dealer network.

• The second was a world record: in 1989, Callaway Cars built a Twin Turbo Corvette, dubbed “The Sledgehammer” that blew away all the competition by setting a production-car top speed record of 254.76 mph. Not until 2010, 21 years later, did Bugatti break Callaway’s record by achieving a 267.85 mph in a Veyron Super Sport.

In 1994, Reeves launched a Germany-based racing unit, Callaway Competition, with partners Ernst Wöhr and Giovanni Ciccone. International recognition was achieved by their successes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and later a European GT racing team which ultimately led to authorization by GM to construct and homologate C6- and C7-generation GT3 race cars for international competition. That same year, Motor Trend called the Callaway C8 “the world’s baddest Camaro” on its March cover.

A longtime helicopter pilot and Board Director for Kaman Corporation, Reeves was in recent years a founding adviser to a hydrogen-powered and composite-intensive, blended-wing aircraft start-up with funding from NASA and the Air Force.

Callaway Cars

“Thanks to Reeves’ visionary entrepreneurial spirit, Callaway Cars will continue to innovate and grow in the 21st century, inspired by his unique, extraordinary vision, and by his personal example of integrity, resourcefulness, and leadership as our founder,” says his son Peter Reeves Callaway, the company’s president. “Dad’s passion for making beautifully designed and crafted machines can be seen in each and every project, and we remain devoted to executing to the highest standards, in true Callaway fashion. He was rarely found doing anything other than working towards the next milestone for the company. He was a charismatic leader with a sense of humor that we will all remember through various ‘Reeves-isms.’ I feel fortunate to have grown up working with him and the company.”

“A true gentleman,” the obituary concluded, “he was the devoted father of four and grandfather of two.”

Reeves Callaway was 75. “He was a great guy,” Sherman says.




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    Sad. I drove one of his twin turbo Vettes back in the 80’s and while only the Dyna Mag wheels gave away the tune it was a very fun car to drive back when the Corvette was lacking power.

    The Sledge Hammer was sweet and I knew John Lingengfelter the driver and engine builder who drove it. He said it was just an amazing car. Reed Krider the Goodyear tire engineer on that day told me they heard the whistle of the car coming and knew they had just seen something special.

    Sad news, I met him several years ago at a Corvette show. We talked for quite a while about his color choices and design visions. You’d have thought we were old friends and he had all the time in the world to talk about cars. Good guy, a real loss.

    I spent half a day with Reeves at Old Lyme back in the day. I sat in the Sledgehammer and he took me for a ride in a recently finished Callaway Corvette on the twisty two lanes near his headquarters. It was one of the only times that I have felt fear in a car. I later visited with a Corvette engineer and he said that Reeves knew no fear. I asked him about the helicopter sitting on the lawn and he pointed at his building and said, ” That is my work” and then pointed at the helicopter and said, “that is my play”. He was a gentleman with a wry sense of humor. We lost a good one.

    As he was converting corvettes went to the factory in Old Lyme. Had an Alfa GTV in the shop. Someone came around the curve leading in understeer a curb and an expensive right front wheel proved an expensive mishap.

    Oddly, I knew Reeves because of his earlier work with his Deserter GS dune buggies. He took a dune buggy and made a road race and hillclimb car out of it.

    It was a sad day to hear of his passing, we have become very good friends in the last three years visiting with him eating sushi had so many things in common. I was texting with him two days before this. Looking forward to our next visit. He is truly missed.

    Sad news I have the pleasure to speak with him about my Alfa Romeo GTV 6 twin turbo Callaway version (only 33) he was curious about it if still existing ….truly gentleman my priers to his family He is going to remember for very long time his legacy is in history.

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