The way Ely Reeves Callaway III enjoyed life was well beyond the norm. He not only had the means, but he also had the nature to live up to forging his own way through life. Whether showing up to a Callaway Cars media event in his personal helicopter or taking on the world with the various cars built through Callaway Cars’ sister company, Callaway Competition, Reeves actually lived as though the world was his oyster. That propelled Reeves when he founded the company in 1977 in his home garage in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and overflowed into those who worked alongside him as Callaway Cars, Inc. became a world sensation.
Pushing the envelope came easy for Reeves. That is what enabled him to secure, and then ramp up production for what would become the Callaway “B2K” Corvettes. When the rest of the world was struggling to meet tightening EPA regulations and retain some semblance of performance, Reeves engineered a twin-turbo system that worked within the tight confines of the C4 Corvette’s engine compartment and propelled the car to new levels of performance.
Callaway went on to create the pinnacle of C4 performance when John Lingenfelter drove the “Sledgehammer” from Callaway’s shop in Old Lyme, CT to the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio. Even after the incredulous reaction from TRC officials when they explained that their goal for the day was 250 mph, the Callaway team pushed on. On October 26, 1988, the Sledgehammer Corvette, piloted by Lingenfelter, rocketed into the production-car top-speed record books with an astonishing 254.76 mph top-speed run.
In 1994, Reeves launched the 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. Reeves’ vision, creativity, and innovation encompassed not only automotive engineering but aviation and aerospace as well with Callaway Carbon, Inc.
I have had the privilege of working with Reeves and helping him innovate for over 35 years. Reeves always strived to make the finest vehicles and products, and then improve them. – Mike Zoner, Callaway Cars
The Callaway nameplate has been endowed upon numerous GM vehicles, each one making a statement as no other manufacturer’s products. Callaway Cars’ Mike Zoner explains, “We shall carry his vision and mission forward, and continue to grow the company he founded and built into innovative future products that he would applaud as we honor his legacy.” Carrying on that legacy is exactly what Reeves would have wanted.
A press release posted on Facebook by Callaway Cars explained that Reeves passed on Tuesday, July 11, at his home in Newport Beach, California, from injuries sustained after a fall. While we mourn the loss of one of the great automotive engineers of our time, our condolences go out to the entire Callaway family. No doubt that Reeves’ friends, family, and colleagues will feel the void in his passing. May you rest in peace, Reeves.