“The COPO Camaro is a proof of concept for what a Chevrolet Stock Eliminator entry could look like,” said Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “And it is a clear indication that Chevrolet intends to homologate the Camaro for sportsman drag racing.”
The COPO concept vehicle is designed to accommodate more than one engine option, including a naturally aspirated 427 engine (7.0L) – the same displacement as the original COPO Camaros from 1969 – and a supercharged 327 (5.3L) engine. Among the many racing-specific features and equipment is a conversion from the Camaro’s standard independent rear axle to a solid axle, as well as a full chrome moly roll cage.
The basic content for the COPO Camaro Concept includes:
Provisions for two engine configurations (see below for details)
Provisions for a Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission, a three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual
High-rise cowl-induction hood
Custom Aeromotive fuel system, with a fuel cell and integral high-pressure fuel pump
Full, chrome moly roll cage
Coil-over front suspension with Strange Engineering adjustable struts
Custom rear suspension, based on NHRA requirements, with Strange Engineering shocks, Panhard bar and stabilizer bar
Strange Engineering S-9 solid rear axle with aluminum third member, 35-spline spool, 35-spline axles and 4.10 gear set
Lightweight, COPO-specific racing wheels
29×9-inch rear radial racing slicks and 4.5x28x15-inch front tires
Manual steering system
Strange Engineering lightweight racing brakes system with standard line lock.
The interior is all business, with most sound deadening and power accessories deleted. Instead, there is pair of racing bucket seats (and no rear seat), a safety harness for the driver, a competition floor shifter and Chevrolet Performance gauges by Auto Meter.
Intended for NHRA’s various Stock Eliminator classes, the COPO Camaro concept has provisions for two distinct engine packages – each built to conform to class guidelines. The details below outline the core specifications of each engine and their intended classes.
The concept vehicle is powered by a prototype version of the supercharged 327 engine, featuring an LSX cylinder block.
The COPO legacy
Since 1955, NHRA Stock Eliminator has been a straight-line proving ground for the quickest cars to come out of Detroit. Within Stock Eliminator, there are many classes, all defined by the ratio of vehicle shipping weight and the assigned horsepower factor. Because of this tightly monitored set of rules and historically brutal competition, Stock Eliminator is the ultimate test for factory muscle cars.
From the “Fuelie” ’57 Bel Air to the ’62 409 Impala and countless muscle cars that came later, Chevrolet has enjoyed a long, dominant position in this sportsman drag racing category. None of the cars, however, have dominated both the track and muscle car folklore like the legendary COPO Camaros produced in 1969.
In the Sixties, COPO was the acronym for Central Office Production Order, within Chevrolet’s vehicle special-order program. Although normally used for fleet orders of trucks and company-owned cars, it was manipulated by a few performance-minded dealers to order vehicles with larger engines than were available in regular-production models – mostly with the intent of getting them to Stock Eliminator racers.
By pushing Chevrolet’s Central Office Production Order special-order program to its limit, a number of dealers were able to get 427-cubic-inch big-block engines installed in a handful of Camaros, when the largest official engine available was a 396. Two versions of the 427 engine were wrangled out of the factory: COPO 9561 was the Corvette-based L-72 edition with an iron cylinder block and COPO 9560 was the racing-designed ZL1 engine with a lighter aluminum cylinder block.
The COPO Camaros opened up the NHRA rulebook to some exciting combinations for Camaro, helping keep Chevrolet at the top of the ultra-competitive form of motorsports. In fact, they were not only competitive in NHRA Stock Eliminator when new, but still hold the national ET and MPH records in several classes.
Racing enthusiasts who are interested in more information can go to http://www.gmperformanceparts.com to sign up for COPO Camaro concept updates.
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