There has probably never been a supercar about which someone hasn’t said, “That’d look better as a shooting brake.” A shooting brake is in the same family as the station wagon, what hot-rodders would call a “long roof;” some purists argue a true shooting brake has to have a wagon back but only two side doors. Either way, it’s usually used to refer to a truly special car.
There have been shooting-brake versions of everything from the Sultan of Brunei’s Ferrari 456 and the famous Bizzarrini-built Breadvan Ferrari 250 GT SWB to various Bentleys and Astons Martin. Why do owners do this? Some no doubt really do want the added utility of a wagon in a car that can perform with the best in the world. Others? Maybe it’s like the old joke about the dog –- they do it because they can.
Aerowagen is the German spelling because Callaway also sells cars in Europe through its German shop.
Back in ancient times, the idea with this body configuration was that you could load your shotguns and your hunting dogs in the back and go out on the estate and hunt for quail and pheasant (all the while hoping the dogs didn’t get ahold of the guns and demand better chew treats). Shooting brakes were utilitarian versions of their owners’ favorite sports cars, and now there is a shooting-brake version of one of the greatest sports cars ever to grace a racetrack: the Callaway Corvette.
How did this happen? So there we were …
“Our designer, Paul Deutschman, and Pete (Callaway, son of Reeves) and Mike Zoner (managing director of Callaway Cars) and I were all sitting around saying, ‘What can we do for the C7,” recalls company founder Reeves Callaway. “Because the design of that car is very elegant as it is, we said, ‘We don’t need to rebody this car like some of the ones of the past. So what could we do that nobody else has done?”
A shooting brake, naturally.
“Paul came up with the idea of entering into the shooting brake realm by extending the back of the car,” said Reeves. “We loved the drawings. And we said, ‘Gee, that’s probably just the right thing. We preserve the integrity of the whole design, just augment it with this optional station wagonish kind of back.”
Room to burn! But not enough for a back seat.
That was way back in 2013. They released some drawings, some mild internet-commenter controversy ensued, but no new brake arrived, shooting or otherwise. They were busy with other tasks. This item would be carbon fiber, and Callaway makes carbon-fiber pieces for all kinds of applications, from cars to spacecraft. So when they finally got a little caught up on the carbon work, they started building their own shooting brake. What you see here is, at long last, the first one.
Not only is it made of carbon fiber, it has many advantages over the back half of the stock Z06.
“There’s no downside,” said Reeves. “It’s an aerodynamic improvement, it’s a slight weight-neutral (within a pound of the stock ZO6) and it’s a volume improvement. And it’s plug-and-play: It bolts right on the same hardware, the same latch point, the same gasket, everything.”
Exactly how much more volume there is over the 15 cubic feet of cargo volume found under the stock C7’s rear hatch isn’t on the spec sheet. Reeves says it “adds a third golf bag.” You can still carry only two golfers, however — even an AeroWagen doesn’t give you enough room for rudimentary back seats. But a glance over your shoulder from the driver’s seat suggests a “significant” volume increase.
Another claimed improvement that doesn’t show up as a quantified item on the spec sheet is aerodynamic.
“Not downforce. It’s a drag reduction,” said Reeves. “You know about the Kamm effect? Any car that ends in a more vertical, squared-off back end benefits from what’s called the Kamm effect. And this does that. The airflow stays attached rather than (behaving the way it does with) the (stock) back window, which sort of lets it depart.”
So in theory, the top speed should be higher, but again, that figure is not on the spec sheet, either.
The AeroWagen kit attaches to any Corvette C7 except the convertible, and we could have gotten any kind of C7 out there to drive. While just about any C7 would have been good, we hit the jackpot and got the mighty and all-conquering Z06. Out of the factory, the Z06 makes 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. That is admirable enough, but Callaway has never settled for admirable enough. The Z06 to which this first AeroWagen was bolted also came with the Callaway SC757 kit, which includes an Eaton 2300-cc TVS supercharger on top of the block, Callaway’s three-stage intercooler and low-restriction air-inlet system. That means the Z06 we drove made 757 hp and 777 lb-ft of torque, numbers that are downright Boeing in their impressive performance.
Callaway lists 0-60 in 2.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in 10.5 at 131. That’s almost 2/10ths quicker to 60 than the stock Z06 and almost a half-second quicker in the quarter. How would it feel behind the wheel? We’d know soon enough.
We picked the car up from no less a luminary than Jay Leno, famous Autoweek columnist, who had it on hand for an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage.” When the TV crew was through, we got the car, got in it and … immediately scraped the front air dam. Yikes. Not too badly, but you do need to pay attention with this ride. When we eased through traffic, the SC757 hinted at its massive power and torque. You could feel it with every stab of the gas — hit the pedal just a little too hard and the rear tires broke loose. Hit it too hard accelerating around a corner and the back end drifts around. The burbling gurgle of Callaway’s singe acoustic chamber design wasn’t just rambling on, it had something to say.
The AeroWagen component is certainly stylish. We’d guess most buyers aren’t looking for more luggage space — they want something to distinguish their Corvette from the hundreds of others. Distinction, you know. From the outside, the look isn’t as radical as some great historical shooting-brake conversions you see when you Google “shooting brakes.” This one is incorporated well into the Z06 silhouette. While we grew to appreciate the small window that allows you to see out the right rear, the view straight out the back is best viewed from atop a torso shorter than ours. Our freakish dimensions meant we saw the lower half of all the grilles behind us and nothing more. Slouch down and your rear vision improves exponentially.
The Callaway AeroWagen gets a Callaway supercharged engine good for 757 hp.
When we got up the freeway on-ramp, the SC757 portion of this car really showed itself. Our car had the eight-speed automatic, a quicker and faster setup than the seven-speed manual, and an easier one to drive in LA traffic. Just stomp on the throttle and go.
For the most part, you don’t notice the AeroWagen (until you look out the back), but there were times you could hear it. On certain stretches of crummy pavement, we heard buzzes, creaks and rattles from back there. This was the very first unit, we were told. Later, Pete Callaway said he “screwed the rubber overstrike bumpers all the way in” and applied a plastic conduit to the wiring for the rear glass, in addition to adjusting the striker plate where the rear hatch grabs the carbon-fiber wagon roof. That will fix any unwanted noises, we were assured.
The noises you do want are in abundance, including a glorious exhaust tone under full throttle. We took the car up one of our favorite mountain roads not just one day but on two consecutive days, overdue book review column be damned. By muscle-car standards, the Z06 was exemplary. By sports-car standards, it was also a solid performer, with a power-to-weight ratio (4.6 pounds per hp) that puts it in supercar territory. But as a supercar, the whole rig lacked some of the tightness, torsional rigidity and refinement of supercar competitors costing much more. Life’s full of tradeoffs. The steering, in any of the three modes the big mode dial offered, was too fast and imprecise, for instance, at least by those supercar standards. But it was far above most muscle-car steering racks. The automatic shifter was quick and smooth. And the power? You can’t complain about 757 hp on anything.
There will no doubt be some controversy about whether you should add a roof like this to a beautiful Z06. There might even be some comments down below saying yay or nay.
“We’re happy that there are way more yays than there are nays,” said Reeves. “And I think the nays are only from people who haven’t seen it yet.”
So go see it. Your authorized Callaway dealer will have them soon, and then you can decide if you want to add the $15,000 price of the Corvette to make yours truly unique.
Callaway AeroWagen gets to 60 in 2.8 seconds.