I was shocked today to learn that my friend, colleague and former boss Reeves Callaway (Ely Reeves Callaway III) died on Tuesday from a fall-related injury.
Following a casual encounter with Reeves at Arlan Ettinger’s Guernsey’s “Autohampton” auction in Bridgehampton, LI, he responded to telephoned questions about the cars he’d offered including Sledgehammer. I paid a brief visit to the shop in Old Lyme including test drives in a Twin Turbo Corvette and the development car for the then-new 383-powered SuperNatural Corvette. A little while later, after an Indy 500 viewing party at Reeves’ home, he called me up with an unusual inquiry.
“We’re going to build a new all-Callaway car and race it at Le Mans. Do you want to come join us in the project?”
Having suddenly been offered the chance of a lifetime to do things I’d only dreamed about, I asked, “Are you going to pay me, or do I have to pay you.”
“Oh, no, we’re going to pay you,” he chuckled, knowing he’d found a patsy who shared his vision and ambition.
“I’ll be there on Monday.” And thus began four and a half years of challenge, stimulation, excitement, frustration and unforgettable experiences.
Reeves was a visionary with infectious enthusiasm and drive. Reeves took the Callaway Corvette LM from vision to the GT2 pole at Le Mans in 1994 in just four months. He nurtured Canadian designer Paul Deutschman’s innate feel for fluidity and aerodynamics through multiple Callaway cars. He brought us into contact with imaginative, creative people like photographer Jesse Alexander, Reeves’ brother Nicholas, chef James Sly, gun maker Bill Ruger and of course his father Ely (Jr.) impresario of Callaway Wine and Callaway Golf whose Karsh photo portrait in the Callaway Golf reception area could just as well be a movie studio’s image of the Wizard of Oz.
It’s hard to accept that this was two decades ago. These are relationships that are still fresh and endless stories that don’t get old.
Like walking down the pit lane at Le Mans in 1994 with Mike Zoner at 1AM to see how others were faring and remarking on the way back, “Mike, stop a minute and think about where we are. It’s the pit lane at Le Mans. Our car is leading GT2. And we have real credentials to be here and didn’t have to sneak under the fence to get in.” An hour later our French driver missed his “Pit” signal and ran out of gas on the course, putting an end to our dream, but that’s part of the ups and downs.
How owning a Windows computer was a “CLM”, a Career-Limiting-Move, that meant the owner didn’t recognize the inherent superiority of the Apple computer operating system … despite the fact that the engine dynamometer at Callaway ran on Windows and the infuriating Macintosh one-piece desktops frequently swallowed half a day’s work.
The Fine Arts major at Amherst whose senior project was restoring the 1954 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 375 Plus Spyder, and remembered its chassis number was 0396AM?
Nor his father, Ely Jr.’s, Georgia drawl description of Callaway Cars as “a bad bidness”, often quoted in moments of financial or racing distress.
I could fill another page with them.
As this is written I’m reminded of too many more but also how Reeves could charm birds out of trees and infuse his ideas, concepts and dreams – all based logically on his beloved “first principles” – into the hopes, beliefs and intentions of anyone exposed to him and his never-ending ideas.
He was a visionary, and the world will be a lesser place without him. He also was a good friend and will be missed by all who entered or impinged upon his arc.