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ATI Performance Testing - COPO Chronicles

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From the day Chevrolet Performance cracked open the box at the 2011 SEMA Show to reveal its turnkey racecar, the countdown begun for delivery of the COPO Camaro. Well that day has come and gone, and now the likes of gearheads and collectors have got their greasy hands on them and have begun perfecting GM's awesome creation. As the supplier of transmissions, converters, and harmonic dampers for the COPO, ATI Performance became one of the first (and lucky few) to receive its very own COPO - electing to purchase the highest horsepower variant with a 327-cube LSX and a 4.0L blower. While many companies would have stuffed the COPO into a showroom somewhere and bragged about their endeavor, ATI had much bigger plans. With JC Beattie, Jr. behind the wheel this car would be campaigned in NHRA Super Stock (SS/AA) competition.

Step one was sending David Caine to go pick up the car at the Wixom plant in Michigan, where he did a nice smoky burnout in celebration prior to loading the car up on the trailer. This was understandably a big hit with the employees at the plant. Step two was putting a parachute on the car and heading to Maryland International Raceway. As one of the first 4.0L blown cars to be built and tested, ATI soon discovered this car was not quite as turnkey as the others (or the later 4.0L cars). They reported back to GM with their issues to correct prior to producing any more 4.0L cars, and that night the crew returned to the shop for a late night thrash. The next day they headed to Cecil County for more testing. A baseline was established with an 8.83 at 157mph. At that point it was time to start tweaking. First they stepped down from the 4.30 rear gears to a set of 4.10s from Mark Williams. ATI also brought several transmissions and converters to try. First up was another Straight-Cut Pro Glide (ATI's 1,500hp capable Powerglide), but with a 1.87 First gear (instead of the factory 1.80:1) to help the car leave the line quicker. This change helped the COPO hit a new best of 8.7 at 159 thanks to a 1.29 sixty-foot. The trans changes didn't end there either, by switching to an ATI TH400 with a 2.10 First gear prior to making passes in Indianapolis, the COPO ran an 8.66 at 158 with a 1.27 sixty ( Though they have continued to revise the 9-inch Fuel & Blown converter, this seems to be the best combination so far. The next outing will be Maple Grove where they will try out a few other trans and converter changes in the hopes of running 8.50s at over 160 with lower short-times.

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At the moment, most of the attention is being paid to the chassis. Considering the car comes with a factory steering wheel and column, full ambient lighting, etc there is plenty of weight to be lost. With driver, ATI says the car comes in at 3,550-pounds, which is just above legal weight. Pretty early on the factory slicks were traded for 30x10.5-inch Hoosiers on Weld 15x10 wheels with a matching set of taller skinnies on M/T wheels (stolen off another racecar of ATI's). Santuff struts and shocks have replaced the factory-supplied pieces, and several different springs have been tested for better weight transfer. Augmented by a Ligenfelter two-step, the factory electronics are still in place. Changes are made to the MEFI 5A marine-based computer using a Racepak V300S data recorder with dual wideband O2s. The factory mill has proven a potent piece, though not without flaw. Upwards of 22psi has played havoc on the head gaskets, which have since been replaced with meatier MLS versions from GM and clamped down by head studs. ATI has had some issues with the factory radiator, which GM replaced with a thicker aluminum version that is complimented by a Katech expansion tank. ATI plans to shrink-wrap and store this motor along with the rest of the stock parts they have pulled off, replacing it with a new class legal engine from Katech. Hopes are to up the ante by 100 horsepower.

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For some of you that think that sounds like a lot of work for a "turnkey racecar," David assured us that ATI's Challenger Drag Pack required over $50,000 just to run. And also keep in mind; you'll never get ahead if you are standing still. David described the COPO as a "work in progress as any new Super Stock car should be." With 8.60s already under its belt, it is scary to envision the potential of this little 327-cube mill. Many, including ATI, are hoping this potential is great enough to allow it to be competitive in a number of series including NMCA LSX Real Street provided some exceptions were made in the rules. No doubt many organizations will be clamoring to accept the COPO into its classes, so that it can lay the smackdown on more than just Cobra Jets and Challenger DPs. I mean that is almost too easy.


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