Feeling down, Bunkie? Forget Prozac, Red Bull or your favorite ginseng supplement; simply take a few passes down the quarter mile, supercharger at full 7.5-psi scream, in Callaway's C16. You're guaranteed to smile, even if you try not to. Allow me to explain.
Launch at maybe 1,500 rpm, where the big 325-section Michelin Pilots lock their silica grappling hooks in the pavement as a full 616 horsepower's worth of Roots-blown LS2 Corvette V-8 punts the car forward like a place-kicked football. Feel it? The flesh on your cheekbones ripples back toward your ears in a sort of g-induced perma-grin. Of course, this is second-nature to centrifuge-trained astronauts and rocket-sled test pilots, but this sort of acceleration is uncommon -- and hugely addictive -- in a road-going, street-licensed automobile.
Reeves Callaway's latest is based on the C6 Corvette chassis, one heck of a blank canvas. Paul Deutschman, the talented Canadian who's penned Callaway Corvette bodywork for two decades, is again responsible for the sculptural transformation, where the only original remaining Corvette pieces are the roof panel, the rearview mirrors and the rear hatch. To the Corvette's original attachment points they bolt the new gel-coated fiberglass panels, retaining all the original cutlines. Interestingly, this is the first Callaway where the panels went from CAD data directly to the molds without first producing a full-size model of the car.
In profile, this new AeroBody kit visually stretches the slightly stumpy C6, although overall length remains the same at 174.6 in. If the curvaceous nose and egg-crate grille remind one of the 1960s Ferraris, that's not entirely coincidental, while the little dive planes below the headlights seem to channel the Chaparral Can-Am cars. Toward the rear, the C16's true flying buttress C-pillars pick up where the embossed strakes on the roof panel leave off -- almost as if Chevrolet had planned it that way -- and culminate in a clean tail with big Lancia Stratos-style round lamps and a well integrated lip spoiler. Functional mesh-screen vents aft of each wheel well provide an escape for brake and engine heat. Last, the hood has a prominent bulge for the supercharger, set off in silver to contrast with the metallic orange paint. As Reeves notes coyly, "And who doesn't want a better bulge?"
Tip up the front-hinged hood and it's obvious what makes the C16's Z06-level performance possible. Nestled neatly in the 6.0-liter V-8's vee is an Eaton/Magnuson Roots-type supercharger whose 3-lobe helical rotors pack that 7.5 psi of boost into the combustion chambers, but not before passing through a water-to-air aftercooler for a denser charge. Notice the straight shot from Callaway's "Honker" air inlet through the throttle body into the nose of the supercharger; it's made possible by driving the blower from the rear through a jackshaft that runs alongside the supercharger's housing.
Base C16s produce 560 bhp, but our C16 (the original car, and one of two at this writing) came with every conceivable option, including the 616 HP Performance Package ($10,560) with CNC-reworked cylinder ports and combustion chambers, a more aggressive roller cam, larger stainless valves and many expensive valvetrain bits such as proprietary springs, ratio rockers, chrome-moly pushrods and titanium retainers. Either engine package can be ordered alone to upgrade a C5 or C6 Corvette to these rarefied levels ... and we're talking a 3.8-second blast to 60 mph and a stonking 11.7 through the quarter, provided you've checked that priciest option box. Doubly impressive is that Callaway covers these engines with a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty.
And there are other options that improve on the Vette's already impressive handling and braking. Seriously good Eibach aluminum-body shocks, separately adjustable for both jounce and rebound control, probably make the biggest difference. Each shock has a small helper spring on an adjustable perch, which allows precise corner-weighting and ride-height/rake adjustment for track work, but the Corvette's stock transverse composite leaf springs are retained. Brakes? Our test car has the Le Mans Package ($7,620), with Callaway/Alcon 6-piston front/4-piston rear calipers that clamp aggressive-compound pads around 14.0-in. floating rotors, each with C-shaped cutouts (for Callaway, naturally) in the friction surface for gas expansion.
Brake hard -- repeatedly -- and you get carrier-landing deceleration accompanied by whiff of pad, but not one iota of fade or pedal softness. The suspension gives the C16 a positively planted, though not overly firm, ride, and the shocks keep the contact patches stuck to the pavement even through mid-corner bumps that would momentarily unsettle a stock Corvette. And that extra wheel control is appreciated when powering out of corners, where traction and rear breakaway characteristics are noticeably more linear and easier to modulate than a stock Z06's.
We haven't touched on the wheels themselves, which are featherweight works of art. Manufactured by U.K.-based Dymag with Callaway's input, they utilize forged center sections of magnesium alloy, bolted to carbon-fiber rims. The 20 x 12-in. rears, for example, weigh in at just 18.2 lb. apiece, and no doubt contribute to the C16's remora-like 0.95g on the skidpad. They will add another $8,640 to the tab, which includes Yokohama Advan Sport tires, custom-tailored for the C16, that weren't ready at press time.
A supercar should make you feel special at leisurely cruise as well as triple-digit speeds, and our C16 dazzles with its optional Deutschleder Interior Package. On opening the door (there's no exterior handle; hit Unlock on the key fob and the door swings out an inch or so), our Photo Services Manager Brian Blades remarked, "The smell alone is worth about $30,000!" Close; the package costs $24,300, and wraps every visible inch of non-carpeted interior surface with stitched, formed and expertly stretched leather and Alcantara, finished to the standard one expects in a Ferrari or high-end Audi. As a matter of fact, Callaway's facility in Leingarten, Germany, is quite close to Audi's works and employs Audi-trained craftsmen.
Living day-to-day with the C16 is only slightly more challenging than cohabitating with a C6. At cruise, a walnut-size bypass valve effectively takes the supercharger off-line, so highway noise levels are, let's say, sporty rather than deafening. (It's interesting that, with the valve open, parasitic drag to spin the supercharger amounts to just 0.33 bhp at 60 mph.) The sports seats -- fixed Recaro shells mounted on 6-way electric bases, and lavishly upholstered -- trade rock-solid lateral support for ease of entry. And those flying buttresses will have you checking the mirrors more to work around the newly created blind spots.
But bury your right foot, the supercharger's air-raid siren howls and the C16 rockets off into the middle of next week. Flesh-distorting amounts of thrust have a way of making you forget the nuisances. The C16 is a pricey piece, as the base version is $116,675 and our tester is just over $192,000. But we have no doubt there's a market for this highly individualized, sharp-handling, meticulously outfitted supercar, one that tops out at a claimed 206 mph in anger but will still return 28 mpg when driven gently.