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2016 Chevy COPO Camaro debuts at SEMA

There are so-called race cars for the street, and then there are street cars converted to race. The Chevrolet COPO Camaro is one of the most prominent recent examples of an automaker trying to prove the mettle of a production car on the track, carrying on the Camaro’s legacy of drag-race domination.

With a new sixth-generation Camaro on the way for 2016, Chevy unveiled an updated COPO model based on the new platform at the 2015 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Just 69 examples will be built for 2016, and all are destined for racing in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Stock and Super Stock Eliminator classes.

The 2016 COPO takes advantage of the lighter sixth-generation Camaro body. Chevy says structural rigidity is up 28 percent, but weight is down by 133 pounds. There will be three engine options, including 5.7-liter and 7.0-liter LS-series small-block V8s, and a 6.2-liter V8 from the newer LT family. the only available transmission is a three-speed automatic.

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Chevy also equipped the COPO with racing suspension, an a solid rear axle in place of the stock Camaro’s independent suspension setup. The COPO also gets its own specific steering and brake hardware (all unassisted). For safety, there’s a racing fuel cell and an NHRA-certified chrome-moly roll cage. The interior is gutted to save weight, with only lightweight bucket seats and minimal instrumentation to speak of.

The COPO name is one of the most hallowed in Chevy lore. It stands for Central Office Production Order, and used to signify a back-door ordering process that allowed enterprising dealers and customers to put high-performance engines into cars Chevy didn’t normally offer them in.

The original COPO Camaros were highlights of the 1960s muscle-car era, and today they’re highly prized collectibles. Chevy revived the COPO name in 2012 for its Camaro drag racers, and has built a handful of the cars every year since. While not street legal like the original COPO cars, these new models do the name proud, competing the likes of the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in NHRA drag racing.