• Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2016 Drew Phillips / Autoblog

History of the COPO Camaro

The Chevrolet COPO Camaro is a purpose-built muscle car that exists to do one thing - complete the quarter mile as quickly as possible. With the unveiling of the new 2017 COPO Camaro, we take a look back at the dragsters to see what makes the muscle cars highly sought after and its origins. 

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1969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

The Chevrolet COPO Camaro dates back to 1969. In the few years before the first ZL-1 COPO Camaros were made, Don Yenko, an American racecar driver, had an idea to place massive 427-cubic-inch big block engines into a Camaro for drag racing. Yenko's custom-built Camaros weren't allowed to race for Chevrolet on the strip, since, technically, the muscle cars weren't from the factory. 

Seeing that there was a market for drag-racing only muscle cars, Chevrolet introduced the Central Office Production Order program with some help from Yenko and Fred Gibb - a drag racer and Chevrolet dealership owner. COPO allowed dealerships to special-order Camaros that were outfitted with equipment to excel at the strip and compete competitively in the NHRA's Stock Eliminator and Super Stock classes right out of the box.

Chevrolet only built 69 COPO 9560 Camaros with the ZL-1 427 cubic-inch aluminum engine block. The COPO 9561 Camaros followed shortly after the 9560 and had iron-block 427 cubic-inch engines, a different ignition system, and altered front springs than the 9560.

Besides the massive engine, the COPO 9560 Camaros were fitted with front disc brakes, upgraded cooling, a sturdier rear axle. Drivers could choose between one of three four-speed manual transmissions or a TH400 automatic gearbox. Unfortunately, dealerships had trouble moving COPO Camaros, leading into a long lull before the next drag-ready muscle cars were released. 

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2012 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

Roughly 40 years after the first COPO Camaro, Chevrolet unveiled a modern take on the dragster at the 2011 SEMA trade show. The vehicle, due to the incredible amount of attention it received went into production in 2012 with 69 units being made, just like the original vehicle. 

Those lucky enough to snag a vehicle had three engine options to choose from: a 427-cubic-inch V8 for AA Stock racing, a 327-cubic-inch 3.0-liter supercharged V8 for A Stock racing, as well as a 327-cubic-inch 2.9-liter V8 with a supercharger for B Stock racing. Chevrolet even provided customers with the ability to get all three engines, with one installed in the vehicle of course, with matching numbers.

Power was put down through a Powerglide automatic transmission, while exterior colors were confined to Metallic White, Inferno Orange Metalic, Semi-Gloss Black, and Chevy Racing Blue. When new, the 2012 COPO Camaro cost $89,000.

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2012 Chevrolet COPO Camaro Convertible

Drag racing usually involves having a vehicle with an insane amount of power, low drag, and racing slicks. With the rebirth of the COPO Camaro in 2012, Chevy ticked all of those boxes. But at the 2012 SEMA Show, the automaker also revealed two COPO Camaro Convertibles

Chevrolet kept one COPO convertible for itself at a General Motors museum, while the other was auctioned off at the 2013 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction where it sold for $400,000. 

The open-top dragster was fitted with the 327 cubic-inch supercharged V8 engine that generated 550 horsepower and was finished in Inferno Orange Metallic. It was just one of 20 COPO Camaros built with the engine and the only 2012 COPO Camaro with the Turbo 400 three-speed automatic gearbox.

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2013 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

The 2013 Chevrolet COPO Camaro returned once again for 2013. But this time, the dragster came with two new engines and the option of a manual transmission. The 427-cubic-inch V8 putting out 425 horsepower returned, but the 325-horsepower, 350-cubic-inch V8 and the 396-cubic-inch V8 producing 375 horsepower were new. 

In addition to offering the track-only muscle car with the Powerglide automatic transmission, Chevrolet also offered the vehicle with a G-Force four-speed manual transmission. 

The automaker also offered customers the ability to help assemble the muscle car's engine at its Performance Build Center in Wixom, MI. 

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2014 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

Chevrolet once again took to SEMA to unveil the 2014 COPO Camaro. The race-ready muscle car benefited from the same exterior updates as the road-going vehicle with a sharper overall design, a narrower grille, slimmer headlights, and a low-profile spoiler. In addition to the new look, the COPO Camaro gained two new engine options for a total of five possible motors.

The vehicle could be fitted with five V8 engine choices, including the naturally-aspirated 427-cubic-inch 7.0-liter V8, 5.3-liter 327-cubic-inch V8 engine using a 2.9-liter Whipple twin-screw supercharger, all-new naturally-aspirated 396-cubic-inch V8, 350-cubic-inch V8 engine, and 5.3-liter supercharged 327-cubic-inch engine utilizing a 4.0-liter Whipple supercharger.

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2015 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

With SEMA becoming the go-to location to take the wraps off of the Chevrolet COPO Camaro, the automaker continued the trend for 2015. As with the previous year, the majority of available engines carried over with the addition of a new motor. A total of six engines were offered on the car, with the new engine being a 350-cubic-inch V8 with a 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger. 

The dragster on display at SEMA also featured new COPO graphics that covered the entire front end of the vehicle and part of the massive hood scoop in black. The graphics, while a bit outlandish, gave the COPO Camaro a true dragster look. 

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2016 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

With the 2016 Chevrolet COPO Camaro, the automaker let the sixth-gen Camaro's new design shine and limited the amount of available engines. The vehicle at SEMA, instead of being painted in white, light blue, or gray, was finished in a menacing shade of red with the graphics coating the rear end in black. 

The exterior design isn't the only thing that changed on the COPO Camaro for 2016, as the number of engine choices was limited to three motors. The engines included a 5.7-liter 350-cubic-inch supercharged V8, a naturally-aspirated 7.0-liter 427-cubic-inch V8, and a new 6.2-liter 376-cubic-inch V8. The engines were mated to a Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission.

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2017 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

The latest addition to the Chevrolet COPO Camaro family landed at the 2016 SEMA Show and carried the flag in a similar way to the previous dragsters. The drag-ready muscle car featured a Hyper Blue Metallic exterior color, custom Weld wheels, and a new graphic that covered the entire rear end of the vehicle. 

Three engine choices were available and all carried over unchanged from the previous year. All three engines routed power through the stout TH400 three-speed automatic transmission as the dragster is no longer offered with the G-Force four-speed manual gearbox. In keeping with tradition, Chevrolet only plans to sell 69 COPO Camaros with the first unit crossing Barrett-Jackson's auction block in Scottsdale. 

After first appearing on the scene in 1969 and then disappearing for approximately 40 years, Chevrolet has kept the COPO Camaro going for five generations. Here's to hoping that the automaker keeps the drag-ready muscle car around for the foreseeable future.

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