There's no denying that Chevrolet Performance Vehicles' purpose built Gen 5 COPO Camaro (20129562) has breathed new life into the aging NHRA Stock and Super Stock classes, especially with its 7.0L, LS427 normally-aspirated version. A good example of that would of course be Todd Patterson and his Husky Bed Liner-sponsored SS/CA 427 COPO Camaro, who bombed the NHRA class record down to an incredible 9.25 at 143.00 while competing at the NHRA Sunflower National Open last April. Remember now folks, we're talking about a genuine, bonafide factory-built 8-second-legal racecar that you can simply get in and—without any sophisticated pre-race preparation—drive.
Unfortunately, Chevrolet's COPO Build Center only produces 69 of these annually "for off road use only," so the likelihood of John Q. Public just strolling in off the street and buying one is quite remote.
Now for the good news; thanks to Chevrolet's Factory Engineered Gen 5 Camaro Performance Parts Program and more specifically, "COPO Parts Direct," you can actually build one of these awesome machines. And the Bow Tie brigade will even walk you through the build process with a highly informative and expertly photographed publication called the "COPO Build Book," an illustrated insider's guide to the factory COPO build processes, parts and specifications for potential builders.
Over the years, Erie, Pennsylvania GM dealer and muscle car collector George Lyons has owned a number of prime examples of original 1969 COPO Camaros. "Very early on, the concept of General Motors building a 2012 Gen 5 427 COPO Camaro really peaked my interest, and I was fortunate enough to have gotten serial no. 53, which I have been actively running on the amateur level."
To date, Lyons Victory Red LS427 has run 9.67-138.90, which is not bad for a weekend warrior, and George freely admits that he's barely into the learning curve. Nonetheless, the absolute thrill of driving one of these incredible machines left Lyons wanting for more. In January of 2012, George was at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Chevrolet was going to auction off an Inferno Orange Metallic 2012 COPO convertible drag car with 100 percent of the proceeds ($400,000) being donated to the American Heart Association. This particular car was serial number 69, and it was the final car of the 2012 production run.
"While standing in line waiting for the COPO to go up on the block, someone made the casual comment that wouldn't it be cool to be able to build a street-legal, COPO-type LS 427 Camaro that you could actually drive at events like the Hot Rod Power Tour and the like? I thought that was a tremendous idea!"
In the coming weeks, a number of telephone conversations were traded back and forth between Erie and the powers that be at GM. Since the COPO Camaro is built for track use only, has no VIN, and cannot be titled or registered for the street, the official answer to building a car of this nature online at the COPO Build Center was no. However, using key vendors to bring parts to the table as well as buying components through Chevrolet Performance Parts and COPO Parts Direct proved a viable and acceptable alternative. Ultimately Oxford, Michigan's Turnkey Research & Development was chosen by Lyons to do the job.
"Rather than starting with a body-in-white, I decided to purchase a brand new, ready built 2013 Inferno Orange Metallic Camaro SS convertible, which already had a VIN, and Turnkey would build it into an LS 427 COPO-type Camaro street car. Very early in the discussions I made it perfectly clear, and Turnkey was completely onboard with the fact that I wanted the car to be cosmetically and technically engineered to be identical to the 427 COPO drag cars, with minor exceptions being made for the sake of legality—and I mean right down to the finest detail."
Theoretically, had Lyons started out with a six-cylinder car he would have accomplished the same objective, as the builders ended up using only the bare tub or superstructure of the SS, but the sale of the car's LS3 drivetrain did afford Lyons the opportunity to recoup some of the substantial investment he had in the overall project.