Callaway Of the Month November / December '06
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2006 Callaway SuperNatural™ 490 Corvette
This month, we are pleased to bring you a story, that opens a new chapter in Callaway Corvette performance!
Tales of the SuperNatural – Callaway up’s the ante’ with their latest options for Greater Corvette Performance.
It has been said before, that power corrupts. If that is true, than this level of power present for our drive in Callaway Cars’ SuperNatural™ Corvette was simply arresting! While it may be difficult to explain to a judge why, “the car made me do it,” it would certainly be worth the conversation!
This past fall when the Callaway Team dropped by with their latest machines, we got the inside scoop on the new packages being planned for the new C6 Z06 (C.E. Feb 2006). It was then, they hinted what was coming soon with their SuperNatural™ offerings. While on paper, the idea of taking the cars’ power from previous SuperNatural™ levels of 461hp to 490hp seemed understandable, we were invited to visit the shop in Connecticut to see for ourselves.
Upon arrival at the Callaway Cars facility, we became acquainted with a pair of fraternal Corvette twins. Both cars were Victory red F55 (suspension) Convertibles, one featured a stick shift transmission and the other a paddle-shift automatic. While the stick shift car was being delivered to the selling dealer (see sidebar), the automatic car was in a state of conversion, from stock to SuperNatural™. During this visit, we got a chance to see some of the processes which go into building a SuperNatural 490™ Callaway Corvette – from some of the disassembly of stock workings, to the prepping of the car, right through to the fitting of the select components that make up the package.
Callaway’s SuperNatural™ concept dates back to the early 1990’s when Callaway Cars had recently wrapped up their 500th RPO B2K Twin Turbo Corvette. Chevrolet had just announced the discontinuation of the L98 engine, and, with news of the 1992 LT1 engine arriving, the twin-turbo program would have had to start over from scratch. It was with that in mind, that Callaway Cars shifted from positive manifold pressures with the turbos to their naturally aspirated super Corvettes. Using a combination of those words, the term “SuperNatural™” was coined, and has since been used on all of their naturally aspirated (G.M.) vehicles.
Just like their predecessors, the C6 SuperNatural™ makes its power by Callaway engineering the LS2 to operate with a greater degree of efficiency. Simply put, the engine flows air into it with greater ease, pumping it out, similarly as well. The key components of the package begin with a set of CNC machined cylinder heads seated beneath a Callaway-specific polymer intake manifold, fed by an O.E.M. quality Callaway Honker™ air intake system. As the car came together during assembly, we watched Production Shop Manger, Wayne McCurdy, notch out the firewall at the intake base. This slight notching of the firewall was necessary for the installation. However, the replacement insert that Callaway had designed to fit into place makes for a very clean and virtually undetectable installation when done.
Getting the air into the combustion chambers is only one part of the power equation. While the cylinder heads with severe-duty valve train components provide the mixing bowl for the burn process, Callaway machined a replacement camshaft to work in unison with high-ratio rocker arms, acting as the gatekeeper for the new levels of power. Once the mixture is in the cylinders, it is ignited with precision thanks to a recalibrated P.C.M., complimented by a set of sleeved plug wires for accurate ignition, every cycle.
Once fired, the spent gasses are expelled through a set of T-304 stainless steel shorty headers. With their compact design, Callaway engineered the pipes to be equal in length. Leaving the Catalytic converters in the factory locations ensure the new owners the ability to register their Corvettes, in an ever tightening “clean air environment.” After the factory converters sits Callaway’s signature “Double-D” exhaust. The heritage of this design, is traced back to the exhaust used on the last of the Twin Turbo AeroBody™ C4’s they produced. While the C4 AeroBody was notched out for the unique exhaust tips, Callaway utilized the existing area on the C6 to showcase their design, leaving the highly polished tips pronounced in the middle, with the exhaust canisters bifurcated in a “V” pattern for display.
Additionally, the SuperNatural™ package includes trim items such as matched injector covers, doorsill covers, rich cut embroidered floor mats, and various emblems for identification. Manual transmission cars, also receive a Callaway-specific short-throw shifter. Covered by a three-year / 36,000 mile warranty, Callaway Cars have positioned themselves ready to stand behind their engineering accolades with these Corvettes.
After watching as the cars came together, we were offered a chance to drive the recently delivered manual transmission car shortly after its delivery to Crowley Chevrolet in Hartford, CT, one of Callaway’s authorized dealers. Picking up the car, the brilliant red paint blazed in the sunshine. With a quick check over the C6, everything was in order for the afternoon, and with a push of the dash mounted ignition switch, we were off. Having just driven an hour to Hartford, rowing the gears in another Callaway model – one with the Supercharged 560 horsepower package, the difference between the shifters was extremely pronounced. While the supercharged vehicle still had its standard shifter within, the SuperNatural™ Corvette benefited from exact shifting as a result of the aforementioned short-throw shifter, part of the Callaway package. Although it took a couple minutes getting used to the changes in cars, it wasn’t long before we were down to business! Driving the SuperNatural 490™ isn’t much different from driving a standard LS2 Corvette from the standpoint of drivability. While the burble of exhaust and slight lope of the camshaft garnered wide-eyed looks and a few waves, the car behaved well and never missed a beat. With the closure of the main highway, we took advantage of some of the area’s spectacular side roads. While part of our drive time was spent in stop & go driving situations, I can report that the gauges on the dash all stayed within normal ranges.
Zipping around town was quite an event! While I am certain the cars hue had a great deal to do with this, a few drivers could be seen rolling the word “Callaway,” off their tongues as they passed by. Obviously the cars’ emblems helped with the recognition. However, there is a certain “coolness factor” inherent about this car, and knowing that you have 490hp at your disposal. Rounding the corner and heading back to the dealership, our drive seemed over just as quickly as it began. With the SuperNatural™ packages starting at $13,950, one certainly gets a lot of car for the money. Vendetto adds, that complete documentation for each individual car from Callaway is included in the price of entry – something collectors may want to take note of.
While it was suggested that the car packs about the same punch as a new C6 Z06, there is a distinct difference between the cars. The SuperNaturals™ can be ordered in coupe or convertible – both offering open roof options the Z06 cannot. Also, the Callaway can be had with an automatic. This is something, that many have taken advantage when ordering their own super Corvettes. An automatic convertible - hmmm…that might be a car I could live with every day!
The Dealer Connection - How to Get Yourself into a Callaway Corvette
Whether asked at a gas station or shouted across an intersection on the roadway, enthusiasts seemed to all want to know the same thing, “…where can I get one of those cars!”
In the past, one would simply state, “Callaway Cars,” as the place to go. However, over the past year, Commercial Manager, Mike Vendetto has been busy establishing a dealer network through which the Callaway Corvettes can be purchased. While the complete cars and Power Group components can still be bought directly through Callaway Cars’ location in Old Lyme, CT, “the dealer network offers regional support for customers before and after a vehicle is delivered,” explains Vendetto.
Our feature car for this installment was borrowed from one of Callaway’s authorized sales center, Crowley Chevrolet, located in Hartford, CT. During our visit to the dealership, we had an opportunity to discuss some of the specifics on how the dealer relationship works between Crowley and Callaway Cars. Crowley’s Internet Sales Manager, Sal Scata explained that many of his customers have heard of the Callaway name. However, they are not completely sure what the company is doing (with Corvettes) these days. In the dealership showroom, Sal has a Callaway product display positioned near the Corvettes to help illustrate some of the content of the SuperNatural™ and SuperCharged Corvette packages. While most might be content with that level of information, Sal goes a few steps further to inform his buyers about the significance of Callaway Corvettes.
Taking benefit of the close proximity Crowley Chevrolet is to Callaway Cars’ Old Lyme facility, Sal takes his prospective buyers for the hour trip to the shop to see parts of the building process for the SuperNatural™ and SuperCharged Corvettes. Those who build the actual cars are available to directly answer questions that may come up. With reportedly over 50% of Crowley Chevrolet’s current Corvette business being Callaway conversions, it looks like Sal’s enthusiastic approach has paid off. They announced they are listed as the largest volume Callaway dealer in the network.
Closing out our visit at Crowley, General Manager Jim Frageau shared his plans of taking delivery of a brand new black on black C6 SuperNatural Corvette. During our visit, Jim also sampled the new Supercharged Callaway package, prompting his question, “can we combine the two, adding even more power than the 560hp of the Callaway Supercharger package, with some of the SuperNatural™ components?” Vendetto smiled as he responded, “Sure, let’s put something together” – and with that, we were first to learn of another Callaway option that may soon be coming to market.
© 2006 Christopher Chessnoe
© 2006 Callaway Owners Group and their respective authors – all rights reserved.
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