And it did disappear for decades-literally. When it resurfaced on eBay in the late 1990s, the original replacement engine was also gone, though the body was still solid. It had not been tubbed, and had been upgraded only with a bolt-in rollbar. So, Ed Cunneen of the COPO Connection began asking the seller the right questions and, armed with his background information, decided that this was indeed a car worth buying.
Ed has been around a long time, and his own extensive research into this machine began to show that this was a pretty unique car. It was one of the 50 COPO Novas built, it sold for Gibb through Dick Harrell, and it set up with a full-tilt L88 427 while under warranty. So Cunneen began a meticulous restoration of the car, locating a date-coded L88 motor and trans, finding all the right pieces to go under the hood and in the interior, and replacing the long-gone Stinger hood with the prototype version from a batch of Stinger replicas that the COPO Connection had created several years ago. But, like in Jim's case, family responsibilities called on Ed and his wife Patricia, and when Dave Belk found out that this rare piece of Chevy history might be for sale in 2003, he jumped at the chance to buy it.
"This car is an awesome piece," he says. "Heck, a lot of people don't know who Dick Harrell was, and they are pretty excited when they begin to see just what this car is. Ed did most of the research and restoration, and I'm just happy that I'm now able to own it."
Indeed, since it was almost done when Dave brought it back to Iowa, only minor things have been changed. Using a vintage photo he got from Jim Mirowski for reference, Dave has mounted a set of cheater Casler slicks on black steel rims, and added some AHRA decals to the vent windows, as well as the plates that Dick Harrell normally added to the cars he modified. It looks like it did right after the L88 replacement motor was installed.
The year 1968 was memorable for a lot of reasons. Thanks to Ed and Dave, one of the most potent COPO cars Chevrolet unleashed that year has been brought back to ALMOST like new. We don't think Dick Harrell would have minded a bit...
Interested in Dick Harrell? His daughter Valerie and Funny Car racer Dale Pulde operate a Web site in his memory: www.dickharrell.com, complete with vintage photos, an online store, and an active forum.
1968 COPO 9738 Chevy II Super Sport
Owner: Dave & Leanne Belk
Restored by: Ed Cunneen / COPO Connection
Condition: Vintage Race Detailed
Color: Tripoli Turquoise
Painted by: Brislawn Auto Body, Marion, IA
Engine: as built 396/375-horse, warranty L88 427 replacement
Machine Work: Engine Rebuilders & Supply, Stone Park, IL
Engine Built by: Ed Cunneen
Modifications: Hooker headers,
Transmission: Experimental Turbo 400
Differential: 12-bolt type Chevrolet
Gearing: 4.10:1 PosiTraction
Interior: black vinyl,
Wheels: 14x6 factory steel, Casler cheater slicks
Use: Minor, shows
Cost new: 3,592.00 MSRP