As you close in on 200 mph, telephone poles do not rush by like picket fence posts. Objects in your peripheral vision don't blur, and there's no difficulty inhaling a breath of fresh air. All the hyperspeed myths fostered by comic book writers and Star Trek movies go poof in the wake of a real Callaway C16 racing to its terminal velocity.
Your pupils do close down to pinholes, however. Concentration filters out all but the most critical data--the tach needle's agonizingly slow sweep toward 6000 rpm, the rhythmic beat of combustion, the center line of the two-lane road ahead. With right leg locked, I wait patiently while the Vbox digital speed-ometer display ticks up one tenth at a time: 198.1, 198.2, 198.3.
Wish as I might, the digits will not budge past 198.3 mph. The 200-mph gate is locked tight. When I yank the shifter from fifth to sixth, speed and revs sag. Only a fraction of the horsepower available at 6000 rpm is on tap at 5000 rpm. For today at least, the 200-plus-mph Callaway C16 is a 198-mph automobile.
The Callaway C16 is the answer to the question, "What runs like a Porsche 911 Turbo, is priced like a Ferrari, and stirs the libido like Scarlett Johansson?" Buried deep within this glowing tangerine bolide lies a Chevrolet Corvette, but not the one that General Motors manufactures. The sixteenth project to leap from Reeves Callaway's fertile imagination is the American Idol relishing its trip to Hollywood.
Among scores of independent tuners and factory upgrade divisions, Callaway stands out as an outer-orbit upfitter. Like David Brown in the 1940s, Briggs Cunningham in the '50s, and Peter Monteverdi in the '60s, this son of a wine and golf-club magnate is a true patron of the specialty-car business, driven more by the desire to sign his name to meaningful projects than by profit motives.
In a nutshell, the C16 is a base Corvette coupe dressed in a custom-tailored suit, lined with fine interior furnishings, and loaded with comprehensive powertrain and chassis modifications. No major component has escaped Callaway's machinations. Because of his obsessive attention to detail, you must take a seat before pondering the price--the 616-hp car you see here costs $192,180. Add a five-piece set of fitted Schedoni luggage ($8800) to crest the $200,000 waterline. The 560-hp C16 package for the stripper Corvette coupe checks in at $116,675. Engineering and building 150 exotic cars annually at three different locations on two continents--Callaway's aspiration--is not a pocket-change project.