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Published on 02/28/2019

All Things COPO: Arthur Kohn is A Winning Racer and Dedicated Collector

WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

MATT BEST and ARTHUR KOHN

It’s hard to determine what’s most impressive about Arthur Kohn. For one, the resident of Richmond, Texas, is an ever-present part of NHRA’s popular Factory Stock Showdown -- an eight-race series pitting American muscle from The Big Three head to head. Kohn won the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte last year in a COPO Camaro. Then, later in the year, he became the first COPO driver in the seven-second range with a blistering 7.993-second pass during the Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis.

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Published on 02/28/2019
racing, vehicles
WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

MATT BEST and ARTHUR KOHN

All Things COPO: Arthur Kohn is A Winning Racer and Dedicated Collector

It’s hard to determine what’s most impressive about Arthur Kohn. For one, the resident of Richmond, Texas, is an ever-present part of NHRA’s popular Factory Stock Showdown -- an eight-race series pitting American muscle from The Big Three head to head. Kohn won the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte last year in a COPO Camaro. Then, later in the year, he became the first COPO driver in the seven-second range with a blistering 7.993-second pass during the Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis.

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He's also a diehard car guy, who happens to own No. 65 of the coveted 69 1969 COPO Camaros featuring the all-aluminum ZL1 engine. Plus, he runs a thriving business, Industrial Ventilation Systems in Stafford, Texas.

“It’s always been a hobby,” Kohn says of drag racing. “I ended up buying the [1969] ZL1 at an auction in 2015 and then just fell in love with the COPO program.”

"I just fell in love with the COPO program.”

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Although he competes at one of the highest levels of the sport now, Kohn has been involved with the drag racing crowd his whole life. A native of the Chicago area originally, he had an El Camino at the age of 14 and has been building engines and drag racing since high school when he ran Street Drags at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Always wanting to be around cars, he even worked at the large auto parts store down the street in his youth.

Kohn studied industrial engineering in college, and as his career took off, drag racing was forced to take a back seat. He returned to the sport in the early 2010s and eventually got connected with the folks at the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology (SAM Tech), who helped him get his NHRA license. Kohn picked up a 2014 COPO Camaro Rolling Chassis, and soon had his first Stock Eliminator car for 2015. It was finished by Turn Key Automotive in Oxford, Michigan, and was supported by SAM Tech.

He competed in a 2016 COPO with current year powertrains, prepared by SAM Tech students, in the SAM Tech-sponsored Factory Stock Showdown for the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. He then joined the powerhouse Stanfield Racing Engines team, who propelled Kohn to his first series win at zMAX Dragway last year in a 2018 version of the car. He also races in Stock Eliminator in the 2014 COPO and has a 2015 model for Super Stock competition.

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Kohn has high praise for both his team and the ultra-competitive, heads-up Factory Stock Showdown program as a whole.

“It’s what motivates me now to keep going,” he says. “That class is so awesome, and so cutting-edge, and so teamwork-driven, you’re not going to be good at the program alone. You have to have a team of guys that really all feed each other and take care of each other and really complement each other, from driving to car prep to engine building to all the components inside. It’s a complete team sport.”

Among the members of that team are former SAM Tech students Connor Statler and Collin Jackson, who now work for Stanfield and have been with Kohn from the beginning.

They all made history when Kohn completed his record-setting pass at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway in early fall. Yet while some teams and drivers had been working diligently to break into the seven-second range, for Kohn the number came as a surprise.

“That class is so awesome, and so cutting-edge, and so teamwork-driven, you’re not going to be good at the program alone."

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“It just kind of happened; it was the perfect storm and we pulled it off,” he explains. “We were not trying for that. That event wasn’t the race to pull it off at. It was a surprise to all of us … the sun came off the track (making it cooler and quicker), the time was perfect. We had probably had a five-minute window to pull that off and it happened. So, we were amazed by the incrementals, the car just hooked and went straight-as-an-arrow fast across the line.”

Like so many other COPO drivers, Kohn (who many know as “Archie”) speaks a lot about the family atmosphere at the track. In fact, he got to know and become friends with his current teammates Aaron Stanfield and Stephen Bell through borrowing parts. He also describes driving the COPO Camaro as “pure energy.”

“It’s addictive right away,” he says. “As soon as you’ve done it once you’re in trouble.”

“It’s addictive right away. As soon as you’ve done it once you’re in trouble."

Kohn is a longtime GM fan who has in his collection both a 1960 and a 1964 Impala, a 1965 Biscayne, a 1969 Malibu Chevelle, a low-mileage Buick Grand National and a 2012 100th anniversary Corvette ZR1, along with the COPO race cars.

It’s his 1969 COPO though that is his pride and joy.

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It is one of the rarest of the rare double COPOs, utilizing code 9560 to denote the usage of the all-aluminum, 427c.i. ZL1 engine, along with the 9737 “Sports Car Conversion Package.” The package consisted of E70-15 tires on Rally Wheels, a 140 mph speedometer and a 13/16-inch front stabilizer bar. Only three were ever produced.

Kohn explains it is the winningest ZL1 in history, competing for eight years in NHRA’s Modified Production category. It set multiple national records and claimed over 200 wins, including two prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Kohn has a great deal of literature detailing all of the history of the car, including time slips from racetracks where it competed.

When the car was new it was designed to go drag racing.

“Basically, when ZL1 No. 65 was purchased, it was just stripped down to start racing,” Kohn says.

He ultimately found the original engine and had it built and re-created as it came from the factory in 1969. He and his team also found and restored the subframe and built the whole drivetrain that was taken out of the car, all the way down to the special sway bar.

The car, painted Fathom Green, is one of the most original COPOs in existence and is really a museum piece.

“It’s all original sheet metal, it’s got the original speedometer on it, it’s got less than 39 miles on it, I mean it’s really a time capsule at this point,” he says.

“It’s all original sheet metal, it’s got the original speedometer on it, it’s got less than 39 miles on it, I mean it’s really a time capsule at this point."

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That’s not to say a COPO with that particular look won’t ever be seen on the racetrack again. Kohn was selected in the random lottery draw for the 50th anniversary of the 2019 COPO Camaro and requested No. 65. Turn Key Automotive is re-creating the look of his 1969 No. 65 COPO, down to the Fathom Green paint and bowtie graphics. Under the hood will be the naturally aspirated COPO 427 50th Anniversary engine, which features an LSX block and aluminum heads.

Kohn will kick off the Factory Stock Showdown season during the famed Gatornationals at Florida’s Gainesville Raceway in his familiar red-and-black 2018 COPO, a car which he will also use to defend his Four-Wide Nationals victory at zMAX Dragway. While he’s unsure when exactly the tribute car will hit the track, it will for sure be ready to go by the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as he hopes to create some of the original car’s Indy magic.

“I want to win the U.S. Nationals in that car,” he says. “That would be historic. I’ve got pictures of it winning, and if I could put the 50th anniversary car in position, that’d be sick.”

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For more Chevrolet Performance drag racing coverage throughout the season, be sure to keep watching The BLOCK and @theblockdotcom on Instagram.

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