Published on 11/01/2018

50 Years of the COPO Camaro

WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

MATT BEST

In 1969, General Motors forever changed the muscle car and drag racing landscape when dealers were able to create Central Office Production Order (COPO) Camaros for the first time. They did so by using GM’s special ordering system to drop all-aluminum ZL1 engines into the car. These versions competed in the NHRA Stock Eliminator category, winning many races and championships along the way.

TAGS:
vehicles, parts, events, racing, sema
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TAGS:
Published on 11/01/2018
vehicles, parts, events, racing, sema
WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

MATT BEST

50 Years of the COPO Camaro

In 1969, General Motors forever changed the muscle car and drag racing landscape when dealers were able to create Central Office Production Order (COPO) Camaros for the first time. They did so by using GM’s special ordering system to drop all-aluminum ZL1 engines into the car. These versions competed in the NHRA Stock Eliminator category, winning many races and championships along the way.

The COPO made its return as a purpose-built drag car in 2012, and at this year’s SEMA Show, the 2019 edition of the vehicle was unveiled to celebrate the car’s 50th anniversary during a Monday night event outside the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“We’re going to celebrate it, we’re going to celebrate it big,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports.

An original numbers-matching Lemans Blue 1969 COPO owned by Davis Nelsen of Illinois first crossed the stage, followed by the 2019 50th Anniversary Edition.

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The 50th Anniversary model introduced at SEMA features an LSX-based, 427c.i. naturally aspirated engine, but the car is also available with an LT-based 302c.i. direct-injection option or 350c.i. supercharged version built on the LSX platform. The 427 editions come with a 50th Anniversary Engine Package with an orange engine block and polished aluminum valve covers.

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The COPO Camaro 50th Anniversary Edition featured at the show is painted Anniversary Blue with 50th Anniversary graphics, WELD racing wheels, 50th Anniversary badges on the front fender and front grille, and Chevrolet Accessories black bowtie emblems. COPO 50th Anniversary embroidery and blue trim adorn the seats, while a 50th Anniversary logo is also on the gauges and switch trim plate. There is no doubt this car is special.

Like all COPOs, it is purpose-built for drag racing with a TH400 three-speed automatic transmission, lightweight adjustable front struts and a multilink rear suspension. The COPO also utilizes a rear axle with an aluminum center section, 35-spline spool and axles. It is stopped with brakes using manual lightweight rotors and calipers with an integrated line lock. Manual rack-and-pinion steering, a fuel storage system with fuel cell and built-in high-pressure fuel pump, and a dedicated wiring harness are also featured.

The exterior sports a high-rise carbon-fiber hood, an outside rearview mirror delete with painted closeout and wheelie bars to keep the car on the ground. The 2019 COPO has also received the Camaro SS midcycle enhancement in the form of a new front fascia, new hood, new rear fascia and new front and rear taillamps. It also has a new body color grille bar.

Of course, the car is throaty, too.

“You’ve got to love that sound,” Campbell said as it rumbled away from the stage.

As always, only 69 of the 2019 50th Anniversary Edition COPOs will be produced. You can register for a chance to be selected to buy a 2019 COPO Camaro and become a part of automotive history. Unique to this year’s SEMA event, the 50th Anniversary Edition is for sale, meaning someone will get No. 001 which served as the car's introduction to the public.

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The SEMA Show was also the site of another historic first for the Bowtie brand this year, as it served as the introduction for the first-ever battery-powered eCOPO concept, the drag car potentially positioned to lead the COPO program into the future.

“In the auto industry we’re always looking to innovate, to improve our performance and efficiency on the track and in the showroom,” Campbell said to the gathered crowd on Monday night. “Innovative technology is the way to do just that, delivering performance and efficiency on the street and track.

“Think about the history of SEMA, the new things that have come out. SEMA’s a great place to introduce an innovative concept like this.”

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The eCOPO concept is the result of a partnership with the successful NHRA drag racing team of Hancock and Lane, who is also involved with Patrick McCue, a Seattle-area school teacher whose auto shop program helped create the world-record holding Shock and Awe electric drag race car. The auto shop program demonstrates Chevrolet and GM’s commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

The eCOPO concept is powered by an electric dual motor stack from BorgWarner making 750 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque at 9,000 rpm for 550,000 watts of power. The motor is a bolt-in replacement for the existing V8 engines in gasoline-powered COPOs and fits in an LS bellhousing. Four batteries (two in the rear seating compartment and two in the trunk) provide the voltage in an 800-volt battery pack with four 200-volt modules in series. A full battery management system, dash-mounted GUI display for battery information and safety monitor system are also included.

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According to Campbell, the car runs in the high nine-second range at approximately 140 mph and is capable of three to four runs per charge.

The car is painted Electric Blue with an eCOPO graphics package, and has a body-color grille bar with a black Chevrolet bowtie on the upper grille. WELD racing wheels, 9x30x15 Hoosier drag tires with white-painted lettering, eCOPO exterior badging, a vented hood and eCOPO embroidery on the seats provide the additional style elements. The transmission, suspension, brakes and safety features are all the same as the gasoline versions. However, while those vehicles roar, this one is quiet.

All three COPOs were prominently featured in the Chevrolet Performance display, drawing large crowds throughout the week.

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In addition, two new COPO crate engines were unveiled at SEMA. The 350 SC COPO featuring a new 2.65L Magnuson supercharger and 427 N/A Anniversary COPO Crate Engines provide legendary COPO power right out of the box for any project.

For more from the 2018 SEMA Show, visit the SEMA portal on The BLOCK,  visit @theblockdotcom on Instagram or check out ChevySEMA.com.

*eCOPO is a concept vehicle. Not available for sale.

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