Reeves Callaway, who started driving fast cars and then turned his attention to building them, including one that set a speed record of 254.76 miles per hour in 1988, died July 11 at his home in Newport Beach, California. He was 75 years old.

his company Callaway Carsstated that the cause was an injury from a fall.

Mr. Callaway and his company were well known in the world of high performance custom cars for discerning clients. He started by modifying cars out of his garage, then founded his company in Old Lyme, Connecticut, with the goal of taking on European manufacturers such as Porsche and Ferrari, who at the time produced the world’s fastest vehicles.

The modified cars coming out of his small shop were soon attracting attention in motoring magazines and speedway competitions. The key moment came in the mid-1980s, when Alfa Romeo, an Italian car manufacturer, sought him out.

“They came to us,” he said the Truck Show podcast in 2021, “and they said, ‘Look, could you develop an Alfa twin-turbo system for us within a year that we could use to compete with Maserati?'”

He did, produced about three dozen modified vehicles, but then Alfa Romeo lost interest in the project. Still, one of these modified Alfas found its way to the General Motors proving ground in Black Lake, Michigan, and soon GM asked if it could do the same with its Chevrolet Corvette.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to associate with Corvette,” said Mr. Callaway. “And so we saluted and said, ‘Yes, sir; immediately, sir; may I have another, sir?'”

The result was an unusual deal that made Mr. Callaway’s company an authorized “aftermarket tuner,” as the reports put it at the time—customers could order a limited-edition Callaway-modified Corvette at select Chevrolet dealers, and the car would be shipped to Old Lyme and fitted with turbos and other modifications. The first version, in 1987, added about $20,000 to the price, making the starting price that year about $51,000.

Automotive journalists were amazed.

“The amazing power of the turbo manifests itself in three ways,” Brock Yates he wrote in Playboy in 1989, “the faint squeal of the impellers as they pump drops of fuel into the combustion chambers, the whipping of the dash gauge toward maximum gain, and, most vividly, the G-force that seems to push the driver and passenger into the trunk behind the seats.”

John Hicks of The Orlando Sentinel concluded a review of the 1988 car by saying, “It’s nice to imagine standing on a street corner and telling the driver of a smoked Euro rod that Callaway drove by.”

In the podcast, Mr. Callaway said that Chevrolet estimated that worldwide demand for the Callaway Corvette would be about 25 cars. In 1988, the second year of production, article in The New York Times said production could reach 400 vehicles this year. The car, which Mr. Callaway built until 1991, was able to reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour, even though it was built to be driven on regular roads.

“The people who buy these cars don’t go that fast,” Mr. Callaway told The Times in 1988. “What they’re buying is a configuration that can do that. Why do people buy a 400 watt stereo when 99 percent of the time they listen to music at much lower levels?

In late 1988, Mr. Callaway and his engineers improved the Corvette even more, aiming for 250 mph with a version of the car they called the the Sledgehammer.

“We basically decided that 250 mph was an achievable goal,” he told McClatchy News Service. “But if it was to have any meaning, the car had to be obedient even at low speeds. She had to keep all the things that make the car streetable, like the air conditioning.”

To prove it, Mr. Callaway’s team drove the car from Connecticut to a seven-and-a-half-mile oval track in Ohio. (They said it was 16 miles per gallon.) At the track, it hit 210 mph on the first run, 223 on the second. After further tuning, it scored 254.76 on its third, a record for a car built for regular driving. In announcing his death, Mr. Callaway’s company said the record stood for more than 20 years.

Ely Reeves Callaway III was born on November 22, 1947 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. His fatherEly Reeves Callaway Jr., was a textile executive who founded the Callaway Golf Company in the 1980s, and his mother, Jeanne Delaplaine (Wiler) Callaway, was a homemaker.

He grew up in the Philadelphia and Connecticut area, graduating from New Canaan High School in 1966. He earned a fine arts degree from Amherst College in 1970; for his older project, he restored the Ferrari that won the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.

A self-taught tinkerer, Mr. Callaway began racing dune buggies and other vehicles he modified with some success including Formula Vee circuit. But it was not a lucrative profession. A 1971 article in The Gazette-Telegraph of Colorado Springs states that he spent about $2,000 to bring a buggy to compete in Pikes Peak International Hill Climb that year for the prospect of winning barely more than $2,000. (He won nothing; his vehicle broke down during the race.)

“I decided I couldn’t make a living as a driver,” he said he told The Times in 1994and instead turned to the production of reboiled vehicles.

Although Callaway Corvette was perhaps his most famous car, he and his company worked on many types of automobiles, adapted to computers and other new technologies, and opened offices in California and Germany.

“Dad’s passion for producing beautifully designed and crafted machines is evident in every project,” his son Peter, the company’s president, said in a statement.

Mr. Callaway’s Marriage to Dale Vosburgh, Sue Zesiger and Nicole Jones ended in divorce. In addition to his son Peter from his marriage to Mrs. Vosburgh, he is survived by a daughter from that marriage, Augusta Boone Callaway; two children from her marriage to Mrs. Zesiger, Sebastian and Walker Callaway; a sister, Louise Wiler Callaway; a brother, Nicholas; and two grandchildren.

In the podcast, Mr. Callaway noted that he is not an engineer, although he has worked with some good ones.

“I’m still the guy who loves construction more than anything else,” he said. His philosophy? “Just sit it down, build things, learn what’s wrong with it, fix it and move on with life.”

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