The Bow Tie brigade is never one to rest on its track success, and when it comes to the NHRA Factory Showdown class, the company is playing for keeps. Chevrolet's "old" 2015 COPO claimed "World's Fastest Stocker" title by running a jaw-dropping 8.54 e.t. at 157.01 mph in October 2015 with David Barton at the wheel. The engineers at Chevrolet Performance know their crosstown rivals will be looking for blood when their 2016 Cobra Jets and Drag Paks start attacking the dragstrip. Both the Mustang and Challenger drag-package cars have been improved significantly this year, especially with new supercharged engine combinations.
All three OEMs want to offer their customers the most competitive package for the money. If anything, the NHRA Factory Stock class has seen its share of "defectors" among racers. Brand loyalty is one thing, but if your competition has a better piece that's faster, requires less thrashing between rounds, and costs less to operate, it's only a matter time until defection among Stock or Super Stock racers becomes rampant. Nothing is more satisfying to a company when they make a conquest and capture a competing brand's customer.
Knowing this, the team at Chevrolet Performance set out to make major improvements on the 2016 COPO. When the Gen 6 Camaro came out, one of the biggest improvements was a much-needed weight reduction over the prior model. But borrowing the Corvette's 6.2L LT1 and making it standard on the 2016 Camaro SS made major headlines. So how does that relate to COPO? Hang tight, we're going to tell you in a few.
Modern History Lesson
It's hard to believe the modern COPO program is only four years old. When it was announced at the 2011 SEMA Show, thunderous applause emanated from the Chevrolet Performance booth in the main hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Since then, Chevy has produced more than 270 COPO Camaros in a variety of naturally aspirated and supercharged engine packages that have produced winning combinations for their owners in NHRA Stock Eliminator, Super Stock, and Factory Stock Shootout classes. The driving force behind the program is a group of knowledgeable individuals, including racers, who know what it takes to build a better COPO year after year.
"Chevrolet Performance is more than just parts and crate engines. We are continuing a legacy. The 2016 COPO Camaro is no exception. A small facility north of Detroit hand-builds 69 modern interpretations of the original icon with a NHRA certified cage, slicks, and everything a racer needs to make consistent 8-second passes the day they take delivery," said Adrienne Peters, Chevrolet Performance Marketing Manager. "This car is truly crafted for our most passionate performance fanatics. It is an absolute honor to continue the historic work of my performance-minded predecessors at Chevrolet."
Once Chevrolet Performance announced the 2016 COPO was a go in late 2015, we couldn't wait to see the finished product. Since the production Gen 6 Camaro is all-new for 2016, the COPO would also have the same sexy sheetmetal and profile. It's also leaner and meaner, with new technology and lessons learned from the Gen 5 COPO program. Just like the prior years, an online application on the Chevrolet Performance website and a third-party lottery system were used to contact the 69 lucky individuals that had been approved to purchase a COPO.
Kids in a Candy Store
When Chevrolet Performance offered to provide us a tour of the COPO Build Center, we were all over that. The COPO team also gave us behind-the-scene access into the care and passion that goes into hand-crafting this 8-second, turnkey machine. Since this was the birthplace of the Gen 5 COPO, a lot of history and horsepower rolled out of this facility, and for us, it was like hallowed grounds. So here are some exclusive behind-the-scenes images on how the 2016 COPO Camaros are built.
The COPO begins life as V6 painted body (minus hood), delivered directly from GM's Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant. Three bodies per week, mounted on the assembly rack, arrive at the COPO Build Center on a soft-side roll-back truck. Colors available this year are Hyper Blue Metallic, Summit White, Red Hot, Silver Ice Metallic, and Black. There's also the new Collector Series graphics package for 2016.
Before the first wrench is turned, the "swing metal" (fenders, doors, and decklid) are removed and stored until final assembly and the fixed body panels are taped for protection. This allows the technicians to work on the car without inflicting any scratches and dings to the paint. A unique COPO VIN is also assigned at this point.
First order of business is the installation of the NHRA Certified 8.50 cage, rear suspension mounting points, and other chassis modification to strengthen the frame.
Since the cars begin life as the V6, the COPO Build Center modifies the front framerails with a new mounting point for the V8 cradle. This will ensure everything properly lines up when the engine and trans get installed later in the assembly process.
After the front and rear chassis modifications, low-gloss black paint is applied to the engine compartment, cage, and trunk area.
Here's were the interior begins to come together with the installation of numerous components like a headliner, a dash frame, wiring, master cylinder, brake, and accelerator pedal.
The doors are now hung and more interior content is installed, such as lightweight carpeting, a Hurst Quarter Stick shifter, seats, window net, and harness.
Here's a shot of the finished "office" of the COPO. The dash may resemble that of a production Camaro's interior, but it's all business when you climb inside, hit the ignition switch, and peer over that carbon-fiber cowl hood. And, no, there's no airbag in that factory steering wheel.
The 2016 COPO is available with three powertrain options: a naturally aspirated 427, a 350 with 2.9L Whipple supercharger, and a new 6.2L based off the new LT1. All COPO engines are assembled at GM's new state-of-the-art Global Propulsion Systems facility in Pontiac, Michigan. Each engine is pre-dyno'd at the plant before shipping to the COPO Build Center.
The engine and transmission are assembled together on a fixture and are serialized to the COPO chassis. The 2016 COPO uses a TH400 automatic built by ATI. Just like in the assembly plant, the engine and trans are installed in the car as one unit.
Up front, all COPO Camaros come with Strange double-adjustable front struts and Strange disc brakes with slotted rotors. For the speeds these cars will run in the quarter-mile, especially the supercharged machines, they'll need all the stopping power they can muster.
An "S9" Strange rear axle with their double-adjustable coilover shocks handles all the power the COPO can dish out. Ratios are 4.57:1 on the 427 and 6.2L engines, and 4.11:1 on the 350 supercharged beast.
Once the rear suspension gets hung, the rear fascia gets attached to the body. Note the hole for the parachute-mounting bracket.
A redesigned carbon-fiber hood is new this year. It was developed using Computation Fluid Dynamics, and we really dig the looks of it and would love to put it on a production Camaro SS.
Now, the COPO goes on a four-post lift to set the front-end alignment, ride height, pinion angle, and rear suspension pre-load. There's also a final underbody audit that includes double-checking fluid connections, fastener torque specs, paint marks, and proper color-coding of fuel lines.
All supercharged COPOs come standard with a parachute. There's also an optional "Racer's Package" available. On NA cars, it includes a weight box, dual batteries, a parachute, and a carbon-fiber intake (for installation during race runs). For the supercharged cars, it gives you cool things like a weight box, dual batteries, an intercooler quick connect, and a carbon-fiber intake.
Would you prefer to build your own COPO? No problem, Chevrolet Performance will still offer its CRC (Certified Rolling Chassis) for 2016. Just plug in your engine and trans and go racing. Just remember kids, they're not street-legal.
Here's a fresh batch of 2016 COPO Camaros waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners to wreak havoc on the Ford and Mopar guys. No announcement has been made yet if a 2017 COPO is planned—that's what the SEMA Show is for.
Longtime Chevy racer and engine builder Todd Patterson piloted the 2016 COPO Camaro's national event debut at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois, last month. The Gen 6 COPO looks badass and is the culmination of hard work from the Chevrolet Performance team.