The Chevrolet Camaro is the quintessential American muscle car. It has good looks and enough power to get you down the quarter mile in a hurry, all while making a lot of noise. Newer Camaros have tried to add handling to their resumes, but muscle cars have always been about going fast in a straight line. The COPO Camaro, a limited-edition designed for drag racing, brings the Camaro back to its roots.
The COPO is a dedicated racing machine, so much so that you can’t drive it on the street; none of the cars have VIN tags. It may not pass muster at the DMV, but the COPO Camaro does meet the requirements for the National Hot Rod Association’s Stock Eliminator and Super Stock classes. Under the hood will be one of three engines.
Buyers can get a 5.3-liter V8 with a small or large supercharger, or a 7.0-liter V8 derived from the Corvette Z06’s LS7. Chevy was mum on power numbers, but the LS7 makes 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque in the Corvette. All three versions will be mated with a race-spec Powerglide automatic transmission. An automatic is better suited for handling the punishment of drag launches, and it can shift smoothly and consistently all the way down the quarter mile.
The stock Camaro was much-praised for its independent rear suspension, but the COPO gets a more primitive solid rear axle; drag racers prefer this setup. The interior gets a roll cage, bucket seats, Chevrolet Performance gauges, and a racing shifter.
Only 69 COPO Camaros will be built, with an $89,000 price tag. Chevy will contract with an outside company to choose worthy buyers, who will be invited to the GM Performance Build Center to participate in their car’s construction. The whole process sounds less like buying a car and more like joining the Avengers Initiative.
It also sounds like a lot of trouble for a highly specialized car; 69 units isn’t even a blip on GM’s annual production tallies. Profits are not the goal here; the COPO Camaro is all about bragging rights. The COPO will fly the Chevy flag at drag strips across the country. It will also do battle against rival Ford’s Mustang Cobra Jet. “The COPO Camaro is going to shake up the sportsman drag racing ranks this summer and give Chevy fans a great new reason to cheer,” GM vice president of motorsports Jim Campbell said in a statement.
The concept of a drag racing Camaro is a throwback, and so is the same. In the 1960s, COPO stood for Central Office Production Order, a back-door way to get special equipment for General Motors cars. the original COPO Camaro, the ZL-1, was based on the 1969 model. It had a 427-cubic inch (roughly 7.0-liter) V8 and was intended for drag racing. Some things never change.