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Reeves Callaway: On his Humble Beginnings in a Connecticut Garage and a Stroke of Good Luck

My story has one of those “invented something in the garage” beginnings, but it really starts with the fact that I'm just a guy who loves to make things, to know how things are made. But there I was in 1977, working away in the backwoods of Old Lyme, Connecticut. I started to experiment with how to get more power and I figured out how to put a turbocharger on a little BMW sedan. I gave it to my friend Don Sherman at Car and Driver, who wrote a small article that appeared in the back of the magazine. The article made it seem like I was ready to supply the world with turbochargers for BMW, but I didn't even have a drill press! I was all of a sudden in the business of making and selling turbocharger kits to anybody who had a checkbook and a pulse. We soon outgrew the house.

Along the way, you're a victim of a lot of happenstance, in terms of it being the right place, right time. You know that old phrase, you're only as good as your last movie? Our last movie was this Alfa Romeo twin turbo. We had just put it into production. We were trying desperately to catch up with the orders, then they decided to close the doors and go back to Italy. All our eggs had been in that basket. However, one of those Alfas wound up being purchased by General Motors and put into their test fleet. Out of the blue, the chief engineer of Corvette called me and said, “We have this little 2.5 liter GTV6 that performance-wise is a dead ringer for a 1986 Corvette. How did you do that?” Now, that's the call that you wait for.

I am a craftsman and that's really what drives me.

You know, if we were sitting here in 1977 and you said, “I think you’re going to eventually have a close relationship with the world’s largest car manufacturer”, I would have thought you were crazy. I cannot underemphasize how much of this process was driven by sheer luck. In German there's a phrase, it's called “the snow of yesterday”, Schnee von gestern, which means something like “water under the bridge”. As an engineer, it's not interesting what you've built in the past, it's only interesting what you’re working on at the moment. I am a craftsman and that's really what drives me, how beautifully made can something be. The palette being a car is very interesting, because there’s so many arts all rolled up into one. If I had to pick my favorite part of the palette, it would have to be the engine. That's the part of the car that really lives, that makes the noise, that provides the propulsion. You can start it and stop it. You can throttle it or not. It's where the power resides and that’s what fascinates me.

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