When the Chevrolet Camaro awoke from its eight-year slumber with the release of the 2010 model, introduced in 2009, the Camaro community welcomed the new muscle car with open arms. The fifth-gen Camaro borrowed some style elements from the first-gen while incorporating obvious modern technology under the hood and throughout the interior and driveline. For the horsepower hungry, that 426hp LS3 stuffed in the engine bay of the SS version sounded like a gift from the performance gods … at least on paper. Government safety mandates weighed heavy on the car’s appearance internally and externally, so coming in at a “svelte” 3,750 pounds, it weighed … a lot! Behind the wheel, that 426 horsepower felt more like a wounded mule than the galloping pony car we had hoped for. Still, we had V-8 power in a late-model muscle car—an absolute step in the right direction.
Driving even more in the right direction was when the stealthy gearheads behind the scenes at Chevrolet Performance introduced the COPO Camaro in 2012. They came up with a modern, factory-built drag car that carries the spirit of the original 1969 COPO, busts out of the box race-ready with power combinations ranging from supercharged and naturally aspirated 350ci mills to naturally aspirated 396 LS3 and 427ci aluminum-block LS7 engine combos. They also come with that new-car smell, doors that shut tight, a rollcage, and even wheelie bars as standard equipment! What it doesn’t come with are back seats, underbody sealant, or AM/FM or XM radio. Air conditioning? Not even a box to check. The COPO Camaro is all business.
And if you want to play, you have to act fast. In keeping with the spirit of the original ZL1 COPOs, Chevrolet builds only 69 new COPO Camaros per year. And even with a robust price tag ($106,900 for the 2017 model), all 69 per year have sold out since the program’s inception.
That means there are approximately 414 COPOs out there (some may have yet to be delivered). After a little digging around, I found that 20 percent are raced within NHRA and NMCA sanctioning bodies, while another 20 percent see local track action. That means approximately 165 see some straight-line action while another 249 have been safely tucked away in climate-controlled garages.
While attending the 2017 Holley LS Fest East at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, this past September, there were just nine cars competing in the COPO Battle at the Green drag racing class in front of a packed house of horsepower hungry Chevy drag racing fans. It was some of the best drag racing I’ve seen there in years, and it was awesome.
So with 156 COPO Camaros missing out on strutting their stuff in front of thousands of people, this is a call-out to load up your cars and roll out to the 2018 Holley LS Fest East this September or the Holley LS Fest West in Las Vegas in May.
Why am I so fired up about this, you ask? Because these are the coolest drag cars I’ve seen since NHRA Pro Stock racing of the early 1970s.
So, my question to all you late-model COPO owners is…
Daren Poole Adams launches hard in his 2013 COPO Camaro during the semi-finals of the 2017 Holley LS Fest East where he ended up losing to his teammate, Emily Stott Volkman. She took care of business, though, and went on to win the event.
Photo by Nick Licata