For those of you who remember the cars of the 1980s, you’ll know that many of those cars didn’t have much more than 200 horsepower. Fox-Body Ford Mustangs had 225 horsepower, tops. Chevrolet Corvettes didn’t have much more. Buick Grand Nationals didn’t even top 275 horsepower. Nissan 300ZX’s barely made 200 horsepower. Then, Callaway came along with an 898-horsepower 1988 Corvette that went 254 mph. They called it the Sledgehammer. It gave hope to us automotive enthusiasts at the time that horsepower wasn’t a thing of the past. Sure, it wasn’t a factory vehicle, but who cares when you’re driving a Chevrolet Corvette at 254 mph? By the time you will read this, the Sledgehammer Vette will have a new owner, as it’s crossing the block at the 2014 Dana Mecum Kissimee, Florida, auction.
Some background on the car:
John Lingenfelter (the same guy who would later start Lingenfelter Performance Engineering drove the car to 254.76 mph. This was done on October 26, 1988 at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio. This was done after the car was driven – not trailered – driven! from Connecticut.
Power comes from a Chevrolet small-block V8 with aluminum Brodix heads, and a custom cam that targeted the sweet spot between heavy breathing and docile city driving. This is the kind of car where you can drive it to a standing mile event, set records, and drive it home. Since all Callaway cars are turbocharged, the Sledgehammer was no exception. It has a TO4B Turbonetics twin turbocharger kit with twin intercoolers.
The engine wasn’t the only place to receive modifications. For high-speed stability (remember, very few race cars had hit 250 mph, and only a couple of partially-stock cars had ever been above 250 mph before this point), Callaway consulted with legendary race-car builder Carroll Smith. Smith relocated the Sledgehammer’s lower control arms to reduce ride height by one inch (a lower center of gravity is the best at high speeds) and added Koni shock absorbers. Goodyear ultra-high-speed tires were paired with 17-inch Dymag aluminum wheels.
Callaway wanted the world to know that this was one special Corvette. The body is a special Callaway Aerobody. It looks pretty stock, but it has an elongated shovel nose and a high rump. Inside, it looks relatively stock, until one sees the leather-padded roll bar (every Corvette has to have some sort of luxury…), the five-point harness, and the various gauges for monitoring engine vitals.
As if that didn’t make it even more special, it’s esteem has been significantly raised because Bloomington Gold folks chose the Sledgehammer as one of the 50 Corvettes that have significantly influenced the Corvette phenomenon. Bloomington Gold doesn’t invite your neighbor Bob with his Corvette convertible to be part of the Bloomington Gold Great Hall.
It’s a very special car that is meant to be driven – hard! The Sledgehammer would be perfectly at home at a superspeedway like Talladega International Superspeedway. Congratulations to whomever owns a piece of Corvette history.