Some of the greatest cars competed on tracks around the globe. Sadly, many are relegated today, to private collections or static museum displays – the car’s true potential hidden within a dioramic cocoon. Thanks to the team at Michigan’s M1 Concourse, many other cars still have the opportunity to breathe fuel and air, exciting fans with raucous exhaust tones and mind-bending acceleration. The annual American Speed Festival is one such event that draws some of the most iconic cars and allows them to run free over the 1.5-mile, M1 Concourse Speed Ring.
This year’s event (September 28 through October 1) had many marques for enthusiasts to ogle, but several highlighted the event, and CHC’s good friend, Chris Chessnoe, was on hand to bring you some of the highlights. All photos compliments of Chris Chessnoe unless noted.
Corvette Racing & Le Mans
Once Corvette got a solid footing in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, it hit the track running. Chevrolet, under the urging of Zora Arkus Duntov, began engineering components specifically to increase the Corvette’s performance on track. Some of the best products were engineered and track-tested during this time without Chevrolet officially knowing about their existence!
As this year’s American Speed Festival celebrated several themes, including 100 years of Americans at Le Mans, 70 years of Corvette, and 50 years of the IROC Series, many iconic Chevrolets were on hand. Corvettes began racing at Le Mans in 1960, but Zora and his speed merchants were working their magic years before. This team of enthusiasts clandestinely improved Corvette’s performance until it was a global force to be reckoned with on tracks around the globe.
C4 Corvettes, Callaway, And Performance’s Second Wind
The drop in horsepower during the ‘70s is legendary. For a variety of reasons, horsepower tanked as engineers tried to meet new EPA standards. While electronic fuel injection once seemed like performance’s Achilles Heel, it actually fostered a new era of performance. And, contrary to how it first appeared, performance enthusiasts began enjoying horsepower’s high-tech, second wind.
C4 Corvettes were at the forefront of this movement and many companies came on board to help build power. One such company was Callaway, founded by Reeves Callaway III, who began installing twin turbos onto C4 Corvettes, turning those Tuned-Port cars into torque monsters.
As horsepower numbers consistently arose from the unleaded fuel mire, Callaway continued to stay on the forefront and carried Corvette’s banner on both the local boulevard and on the world’s stage. Reeves passed away recently and the American Speed Festival acknowledged his contribution to high performance by honoring the man and his creations at this year’s event.
A Celebration Of The Cars Of Reeves Callaway
By Chris Chessnoe
Arriving Thursday in anticipation of the weekend event, the competition cars were already in the paddock. While some cars might be familiar to Callaway Competition fans, the big news was the return of “Frieda” to the track. Frieda is the 1994 Callaway LM which brought Corvette back to Le Mans after an 18-year hiatus.
Aside from the cars, the Callaway Team was there to support this event – including Callaway’s President, Pete Callaway, Managing Director, Mike Zoner, Ernst Woehr from Callaway Competition, Paul Deutschman of Deutschman Designs (who has designed every Callaway since the Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette in 1988), Matt Long who handles Callaway’s sales and distribution, and Wayne Church (former Callaway fabricator). A scramble to replace the throttle cable on Frieda meant Team Callaway thrashed in unison to source the proper part from a hot rod shop in Detroit and reassemble the car in advance of the next day.
On Friday, the Callaway street cars were given pole position for display in front of the main building of the M1 Concourse. Eight Callaway street cars were present, including a red 1987 Callaway Twin Turbo (Sold new by Cauley Chevrolet of Michigan – won in a radio contest when new, and still with the same family all these years), a Black Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette, a White 1988 35th Anniversary Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette (one of 7 built), Callaway C8 Convertible with CamAero Body, 2009 Callaway SC580 GT1 Corvette Convertible, 2012 RPO B2K 25th Anniversary Callaway Corvette #01/25. Callaway SC627 Corvette with HD Cooling option, and a Callaway SC757 Z06 coupe.
After the morning display, the Callaway competition cars took to the track and made many laps around the 1.5-mile-long road course. Afterward, the road cars lined up for parade laps, which were a sight to see. In addition to the 1994 LM race car, the Callaway C7R was brought to the venue along with the C12R, Callaway C6 GT3, and Callaway C6 GT4 (EX VIN cars built by GM for Callaway as a basis for the program – the first time something like this was done since the five Grand Sports of 1963!), and Callaway C7 GT3.
Frieda took to the track Saturday morning for the first time on a road course in decades. Fresh from dry storage, the car’s return to the track was something to behold. With Pete Callaway behind the wheel wearing his father, Reeves Callaway’s racing suit from Le Mans, Pete piloted Frieda for lap after lap to the excitement of all around.