This past November the world was introduced to the new COPO Camaro as the Chevy Performance division unveiled the concept car at the 2011 SEMA Show. The white prototype race car is designed to carry on the legend of one of Chevy’s most sought-after muscle cars from the late ’60s. The intent is to go toe-to-toe with the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet and Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in the grassroots drag racing ranks of NHRA Stock Eliminator. The handcrafted Camaro will be a race car to its core, with a drivetrain that has little resemblance to its street car brethren outside of being an LS-based engine. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, and Dr. Jamie Meyer, Chevy Performance Marketing and Motorsport manager, says the car is still considered a prototype.

“The concept of a Camaro in NHRA Stock Eliminator existed well before the Camaro ever hit the streets as a production car,” Meyer says. He went on to tell us that the COPO concept was built in order to gauge reaction from the community. He said the response and acceptance by the Stock Eliminator community as well as enthusiasts from all corners of the hobby has been a resounding success. We can only hope that the brass at Chevy hears us and gives the COPO Camaro program the green light. Reviving the name COPO certainly conjures up winning emotions as the original cars still hold records in NHRA’s historic category. For those new to the world of go-fast Bow Tie cars, COPO stands for central office production order and was a loophole that dealers took advantage of in order to get production Camaros with one of two 427 Corvette engines.

The final fate of COPO has yet to be decided but the concept car looks to be really close to what an actual production vehicle will offer. Instantly the car is all drag race, as evident by the big ’n’ little wheels from Bogart and massive cowl- induction hood. The only COPO Camaro in existence is white with blue graphics. We, however, instantly think of the awesome color potential Chevy has with these cars—orange with white graphics, blue with white graphics, black with white graphics, and we couldn’t leave red with white graphics off the list. Gray could also substitute the white graphics on the red and black body colors, and we wouldn’t complain. We’ve played out the color combinations in our mind and each combo could be fantastic. Kudos to the design team for leaving ample room on the doors for car names, sponsors, and/or contingency stickers.

Engine

The first sensory perception that Chevy tickled us with during the unveiling was our hearing as the LS small-block was fired to life before emerging from the giant crate in the SEMA parking lot. The crackle of open headers began playing a symphony to the tune of a 1,000-rpm idle and a few free-revs showed the COPO means serious business. This prototype model is equipped with one of the two proposed engine packages. It is a supercharged 327ci powerplant that has been based inside an LSX engine block and utilizes a pair of LS7 cylinder heads. An intercooled Whipple 2.9L supercharger sits on top of the 327ci bullet and the camshaft checks in at 0.650-inch lift and is a hydraulic roller. The other option is a 427ci naturally aspirated engine that sounds like a pumped-up Z06 engine with a snazzy Holley tunnel-ram intake manifold as its induction.

Meyer says, “we can’t discuss power levels at this time, as the final shipping weight and horsepower factor have not been determined.” We have our own opinions on power levels but will keep them to ourselves. Information that is known shows the 427ci combination has been slated for A Stock while the supercharged bullet will push the COPO into the AA Stock category. “The NHRA has been fully aware of this program from day one. They have been great to work with and have been extremely supportive. The COPO Concept was reviewed with NHRA leadership and their technical staff at several points during the build,” Meyer says, regarding our inquiry to NHRA’s awareness of the project. Chevy’s discussions with Stock Eliminator’s sanctioning body shows how serious the team is to putting this product in national competition.

Feeding the hungry LS engines is a job for Aeromotive, which designed a complete fuel system specifically for this application. A trunk-mounted fuel cell is home to its A1000 fuel pump. The pump is submerged in the cell for noise control and cooling effects. Our inside man at Aeromotive also informed us that if the COPO is a go then expect to see an Eliminator pump in the cell instead of the A1000. The Aeromotive kit is one of many forthcoming products that could hit the consumer market through the GM Performance Parts catalog if COPO makes it to dealer floors.

Proposed Engines for NHRA Stock Eliminator

427 327/2.9
Suggested class A Stock AA Stock
Cubic inches 427 (7.0L) 327 (5.3L)
Block LS7 LS9
Block material aluminum aluminum
Crank forged steel forged steel
Rods H-beam H-beam
Pistons forged dome forged dome
Compression ratio TBD 10.2:1
Head LS7 LS7
Rocker arms LS7 1.8-ratio LS7 1.8-ratio
Induction natural aspiration boosted
Intake Holley supercharger
Camshaft type hydraulic roller hydraulic roller
Cam duration (deg.) 233/276 at 0.050-inch 244/255 at 0.050-inch
Cam lift (inch) 0.595 0.650

Interior

Moving past the subtle—but strong—graphics reveals that Chevy went right to a serious race car builder for this unit, Mike Pustelny Racing. The Michigan-based shop, affectionately known as MPR Race Cars, is a fixture in the Stock and Super Stock ranks, making it the obvious choice due to location and veteran experience in those ranks. A full ’cage that is SFI certified to 8.50 times resides in the interior as do lightweight seats and a full complement of Chevy-branded Auto Meter gauges. The rear seat has been deleted and finished off in a clean manner. The car is all business and if the production COPO is like the “other guy’s” then there is no need for fine comfort amenities as it won’t be legal to register for street use. The COPO will be a 100 percent purebred race car and this concept doesn’t make a secret of that fact.

Drivetrain

One of the cool aspects of a program like COPO is the trickle-down effect for the average street enthusiasts. Meyer confirms, “nothing from this program has been designed for street use, but the average enthusiast will be able to look forward to an entire new engine program, a straight-axle conversion, a fuel system, front and rear drag racing suspensions, and dozens of other small parts that will help turn the Camaro into a capable drag racing platform.” The suspension system on the Camaro was sourced through Strange Engineering and the live-axle replaces the breakage-prone IRS. Strange provided the shocks, both sets are double adjustable for optimum performance. The company also manufactures the S9 solid rear axle that is filled with an aluminum centersection, 35-spline axles and spool, and a 4.10:1 gearset.

As of press time the COPO concept proposes three transmission choices—two-speed Powerglide, three-speed automatic of unknown origins, or a five-speed manual. The concept car that we drooled over was equipped with 29x9 racing radials in the rear and 28x4.5 front runners. A manual steering setup was added due to the car’s drag race–only status. Four Strange Engineering lightweight disc brakes will bring the modern Camaro to a stop from its high-speed jaunts.

Final Say

A minimum of 50 vehicles have been produced in order to qualify it for NHRA competition. The limited production will certainly make these cars a rarity but that doesn’t mean you can’t build your own version. NHRA does allow clone cars to compete and the components will fit 2010-to-present Camaros. The trickle-down effect of the COPO-spec parts will undoubtedly help the street market step up its game too. The affects of COPO will be seen far and wide—if Chevy hits the go button.

Meyer concludes, “The core team at Chevrolet Performance is very excited about the possibility of this product coming to market. It represents the pinnacle of performance for the Camaro, and we know that our customers will get a lot of enjoyment out of representing Chevrolet against the best teams that currently run in NHRA Stock Eliminator. We do feel that the concept COPO Camaro that was shown at SEMA could live up to the legacy of the COPO Camaros of the past. With the support of our loyal fans, we look forward to hopefully bringing the COPO Camaro back to a dragstrip near you.” CHP

For more information, Meyer asked readers to visit www.gmperformanceparts.com and sign up for COPO Camaro concept updates.

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