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History in the Making - Chevy COPO Camaro

The Rebirth of the COPO Camaro

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Unfortunately, the rarity and exclusivity of the ZL-1 Camaro may have only been rivaled by its sticker price. Our research shows the cost hovered around $7,300-a fortune for a car that, in street trim, offered performance only slightly better than a well-optioned 427 Corvette. At the time, the asking price was just too steep, and Fred Gibb had a difficult time selling all 50 cars. Tragically, some were modified to make them more appealing to the average buyer by swapping out the ZL-1 engine for a lowly passenger-car 396 and adding back options that were deliberately left out of the COPO package, such as stripes, radios, and (god forbid) air conditioning. Sadly, a similar fate befell the 19 other ZL-1 COPOs ordered by other Chevy dealerships, and many of the ones that did sell were thrashed at the dragstrip. Needless to say, an original COPO Camaro may be the automotive equivalent of a windfall profit. Being that '69 Camaros have only increased in value, owning the rarest of these means you're sitting on a gold mine in your front yard and have struck oil in your backyard.

At this point, you may be wondering what's with the history lesson. No, we're not just filling pages here. We were surprised to learn that very little was written about the original COPO Camaros when they were first produced. For as legendary as they are today, there was very little fanfare back then. Imagine if Hot Rod had known in Phoenix in 1969 what a big deal these cars would become? They may have devoted more space in the magazine to it than just three sentences.

Things are much different now, and we have the opportunity to document this version-the '12 COPO Camaro. Whether or not this current iteration will develop as cultish a following as the '69 Camaro remains to be seen, but Chevrolet seems to be going about it the right way. Like its predecessor, only 69 were produced, they were purpose-built for racing, and one of the three available engines is an aluminum 427 (also laughably underrated). Unlike its predecessor, it's not a street car. It is sold with a serial number, not a VIN, and cannot be registered to drive on the street. Also, these cars were being sold directly through Chevrolet Performance-authorized dealerships. This was done to ensure all the cars would be purchased, and, in fact, all 69 cars were sold before construction began on even one of them.

We've heard there was some discussion among the group developing the car as to whether or not this version should have even been called COPO, fearing some enthusiasts would think it blasphemous. In the end, the team decided that if the car delivered in the performance department, the public would deem it worthy of the heritage implied in the name. And so far, the owners who have taken their cars to the strip haven't been disappointed, as these cars are making low- to mid-9-second passes, and looking very casual in the process. We will know more next season, as more COPOs take on cross-town rivals the Cobra Jet Mustangs and Drag Pak Challengers.

By now, the technical specs on the '12 COPO Camaro are old news, so we won't devote too much space to them here. You can find several print and electronic sources for that information, and one we highly recommend is Chevrolet Performance's own social media site, The Block (www.theblock.com). What we can provide, however, is an exclusive, insider's look at the construction of these cars. We spent one day in Wixom, where the COPO engines are hand-assembled, and the next at a smaller, "off the grid" site where the cars are built. It was thrilling to be part of the process, and we saw stuff that few people in the world get to see, and some of it we swore not to talk about to this day. When a guy from Chevrolet Performance tells you he's gonna have to take your camera away before showing you something, you know it's huge.

Build Your Own
We've just heard there will be a run of 2013 COPO Camaros. If you desperately want one, go to the Chevrolet Performance website (www.chevroletperformance.com), and get on the mailing list. Also, everything that goes into a COPO car is available for sale at your local Chevy dealer's parts department. You can even buy the build book the assembly team used at their secret facility in Michigan.

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