For as long as there have been cars, people have been fascinated by the pursuit of outright speed. Before there was ever a Bugatti Veyron, a Koenigsegg Agera RS, or an SSC Tuatara, the Callaway Sledgehammer was the undisputed king of all street cars. This modified C4 Chevrolet Corvette may have been built in 1988, but it remained the single fastest road-legal vehicle for nearly two decades after its debut. Recently, the one-off legend of the automotive industry hit Bring a Trailer, where it was expected to bring big money. After an initial surge of interest, bidding stalled out at $500,000 however. That wasn’t enough to meet the seller’s reserve price, meaning that the Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette remains with its current owner.
The Legend Of The Callaway Sledgehammer
While half-a-million bucks is nothing to sneer at, it isn’t entirely surprising that the owner of this insanely important Chevrolet Corvette didn’t want to part with it at that price. This is the only Callaway Sledgehammer in existence, and it is a significant piece of sports car history. Back on October 26, 1988, John Lingenfelter piloted this C4 Corvette up to 254.76 mph. That figure utterly destroyed the previous 213 mph record held by the Ruf CTR Yellowbird. Even more impressive, the Callaway Sledgehammer outpaced the Bugatti Veyron’s 253.81 mph top speed set in 2005. That said, the Guinness Book of World Records refused to verify the record-setting run, as the Sledgehammer wasn’t a production vehicle. It wasn’t until SSC ran their Ultimate Aero up to 256.14 mph in 2007 that the Sledgehammer was ultimately dethroned.
One Serious Engine
Unlike the modern cars that are pushing past the 250 mph barrier, the Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette isn’t a 1,000+ horsepower machine. Instead, the twin-turbo 5.7L V8 under the hood makes a mere 880 horsepower and 772 lb-ft of torque. In order to make that power, the engine features a blueprinted block, four-bolt splay-design bearing caps, a Cosworth crankshaft, forged pistons, and a dry-sump oil system. Both an MSD Ignition and a Zytek engine management computer keep things in check, while twin-intercooled Turbonetics T04B turbochargers provide boost. The Callaway Corvette AeroBody body kit makes the car extra slippery, which is also important for top-speed attempts. This isn’t a stripped out racer either, as amenities like the stereo, A/C, power leather seats, and FX3 Selective Ride Control suspension are all intact. It’s a genuinely incredible bit of kit.
Unfortunately for all of us, Callaway Cars isn’t interested in trying to follow-up the success of the Sledgehammer in today’s world. When we asked founder Reeves Callaway about the possibility of this, he was quite frank in his response.
“The strict answer today is no,” said Callaway in an interview with MC&T. “The great problem of top speed demonstration is not building a car that will do it, but finding a place where you can do it safely.”
Callaway would go on to tell us that he largely finds these tests to be a waste of time, and that his customers don’t find the records to be important. If we’re being honest, he’s likely correct with his assumption. Regardless, the company’s modified C4 Chevrolet Corvette will always be an icon. Here’s to hoping the current owner of the Callaway Sledgehammer is able to find a buyer for the price they’re looking for.