Old Lyme, Connecticut, is a sleepy seaside community in the Southeastern part of the state populated mostly by retirees and seasonal visitors from the greater New York area who can’t quite afford their homes in the Hamptons just yet. It is just about the least likely place you would expect to find an outfit like Reeves Callaway’s which has for decades taken ordinary street cars and made them, well, go. Yesterday’s post about Alfa GTV-6s reminded me of the super-cool Callaway versions of those cars, which got me looking for Callaway cars in general, and untimately led me here, to this pristine 1987 Callaway twin-turbo Corvette available on eBay in Springfield, Missouri with a Buy-it-Now price of $34,900.
I’ve been thinking about American cars a lot lately. In all my years of buying and selling cars – more than 120 of them – I have never owned an American car. I feel sort-of unpatriotic in that respect, but to be fair most of the American cars from my formitive years were crap. That said, there were a few highlights along the way. Corvettes from throughout the years are on the list, as are the most recent Pontiac GTO and G8 with the monster V8s, the late-80s Mustang 5.0, and even stuff like the Regal Turbo and the late-60s Toronado. But I have a distinct soft spot for these ‘Vettes.
I remember when the C4 Corvette came out – I was still living overseas but a family friend had a subscription to Car and Driver magazine, and got his copy easily 6 weeks before it would it newsstands on our little island nation. It was gorgeous. I’d never been a fan of the C3 ‘Vette, and retain that position to this day. To me they are the ultimate in late’60s/early 70s excess – overdone to the point of ridiculousness. It may have been great for a Barbie Dream Car, but in the real world it just looks dumb. Especially after the sublime C2, but that’s a story for another day.
The C4 gave us, as Americans, something to be proud of. It looked every bit as exotic as the European sports cars of the time, but more modern. The clamshell hood offering a modern interpretation of the Jaguar E-type is still super cool, as are the targa roof and big wide tires. I also like the 4-speed+overdrive manual transmission, which essentially gave drivers eight ratios to choose from on the road. If I have any disappointments with the C4, it is the dash. On early cars, I never understood the monolith facing the passenger seat, and the digital gauges were a little gimmicky even for the time. On later cars, everything just seemed a little bloated, and suffering from an overabundance of light-grey plastic switchgear. Given the choice, I prefer the earlier version.
What Callaway and crew did that hadn’t been done before or since, is they managed to get Chevrolet to basically endorse them by making the Callaway twin-turbo package an option on the Corvette order sheet. Buyers would simply select option code RPO B2K thereby adding about $25 grand to the price, and next thing you knew a brand-spanking-new Corvette was on it’s way from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Old Lyme for a little tweaking. That tweaking was basically the addition of two Warner-Ishi turbochargers and related plumbing, which catapulted the standard car’s output to a hefty 345hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. This was the high-side of supercar territory in its day, and remains quite impressive even today. The resulting performance, with street gearing, was 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds (per Car and Driver) and a top speed of 161mph. With gearing modifications, top speed could approach almost 190mph. And Chevy even warranteed them.
This car looks great in what the seller describes as “Batman” black. The external cues to the car’s potential are very subtle, save for some non-factory wheels, a small “Callaway” badge, and a pair of NACA ducts on the hood to feed the intercoolers. People do expect Corvettes to be quick – even this vintage – but they won’t know what hit them, assuming this one is properly set-up. And that’s the issue with these cars: they are very sensitive to even the slightest maladjustment or loose hose, to the point that many have been bodged over the years. At just 15,000 original miles and apparent diligent care, I would hope this car to be unafflicted. Still, when looking at a car like this a thorough pre-purchase inspection is an absolute no-brainer, as is finding a local mechanic who knows his way around Corvettes.
With fewer than 500 of these factory-orderable cars produced from 1987-1991, these cars are sure to achieve serious collector status before too long. Despite the fact that there are tens of thousands available at any given time, clean, original Corvettes remain blue-chip investments. Just watch Barrett-Jackson and Mecum and see how even the most ordinary Corvettes are reaching $50, $75, $100, even $150,000 depending on specification, originality, and rarity.
Consider this: One (#87) of 154 1987s, documentation from the dealership where it was ordered, only 15K on the clock, terrific condition. I would wager that in 10 years the value of this car will double its current asking price. If I had the $35K burning a hole in my pocket, I’d be seriously considering it for myself. As it is, I’ll just write about it and see if anybody out there is looking for an interesting and fast way to outperform their 401K.