The auction site Bring a Trailer has just listed a 1988 Callaway Corvette, but not just any Callaway Corvette.
This C4 Vette was part of Project Sledgehammer, Callaway's program to create the fastest, most uncompromised roadgoing Corvette ever. Its predecessor was part of a Car and Driver multi-car test in 1987 called "A Gathering of Eagles."
The auction ends on May 23, and bidding has already exceeded $450,000.
Today, a very special Corvette has gone up for auction on Bring a Trailer: the 1988 Project Sledgehammer Callaway Corvette. Anyone who's followed the storied history of the Chevrolet Corvette likely knows about Callaway, a specialty vehicles company that develops performance modifications and packages for production vehicles with an emphasis on Corvettes.
Back in 1988, the Callaway team set out on Project Sledgehammer with the goal of pushing the C4 Corvette platform to its absolute limit in order to create the most uncompromised roadgoing Vette ever. It eventually resulted in a road-car speed record of 254.76 mph in 1989 that stood long past the turn of the century.
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The Sledgehammer even has a history with Car and Driver. Its predecessor, nicknamed the Top Gun Corvette, made an appearance in the story "A Gathering of Eagles" in our December 1987 issue. The story tells how it logged a speed of 231 mph at the top-speed event we held on the Transportation Research Center's 7.5-mile oval. Snippets of the event and background on the car can be found in this YouTube video:
In the years since that record-setting run, the 200-mph club has steadily grown, but none has gone quite as far to separate itself from the pack as the Sledgehammer. In order to make the leap from the 231-mph mark measured at our Eagles event to the target of 250 mph required major modifications: pieces of the frame had to be removed for packaging purposes, an entirely new body kit for improved aerodynamics had to be developed, and a new 5.7-liter twin-turbo V-8 built by John Lingenfelter with a stronger rotating assembly, new heads, a new camshaft, and larger turbochargers capable of more boost replaced the Callaway-designed mill. When all was said and done, the Sledgehammer was able to produce a massive amount of power—especially for the time—to the tune of 880 horsepower and 772 pound-feet. Perhaps best of all is that, despite all the changes it went through, the Sledge never lost its manual transmission.
The Sledgehammer's BaT listing states that it has just over 2000 miles on the odometer and has spent the majority of its time in a museum environment—and from the photos it sure looks like that's the case. It's hard to say how quick this car would've been on the street; we only had a chance to test the standard Callaway Corvette back then, but it's safe to say the Sledgehammer would better those numbers and then some. As of this writing, the bid sits at $325,000. The auction will go for another 11 days and you'll need a lot of coin—quite possibly into the seven figures—to get a chance to test it out for yourself. With its one-off rarity and rich history, it's unlikely the mighty Sledgehammer will see much more than museum-parking duty for the rest of its life, and that's probably for the best. In a world rapidly proliferating with electric vehicles it's important we don't forget the past.
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