The utter and unequivocal success of the Mustang made Chevy enter its own muscle/sports car variant into the arena in the form of the 1966 Chevrolet Camaro. And while the Camaro could never quite catch up to the Mustang in sales, it did have its own fan following and still does. Also, unlike the Mustang, the Camaro took a break in between, ending its 1967 model run in 2002. By 2010, it was back.
While the Mustang had the GT and the Boss and more such Shelby-inspired variants, the Camaro went COPO. And it was loco. Especially because COPO, as in Central Office Production Orders was a division that handled fleet sales. But more on that later.
The big brains at Chevy used COPO to make the biggest engine Camaros ever that looked no different. But when you revved the engine and opened the throttle, the COPO Camaro could take you to the moon and back. And now, the COPO Camaro is back all-new for 2022. So let’s delve into the details of the most badass Camaro ever made.
10 COPO Was The Need Of The Decade
In the late ’60s, the competition began leaving Chevy biting the dust because the Mustang was going Cobra, whilst the Plymouths were going Hemi. Even the AMC got in 6.5-liter V8s in the AMX. At the same time, GM decided that no big racing engines were to be put into its cars.
A Chevy dealer, Fred Gibbs wanted to put in the Corvette engine, the ZL1 7.0-liter V8 into the Camaro but was turned down. So he and a few Chevy insiders turned to COPO, as in the Central Office Production Order, where dealers would place orders for fleet vehicles. But before that…
9 The First COPO Was A Yenko
Don Yenko was a Chevy dealer and one so good at selling Chevies, Chevrolet couldn’t ever really say much to him. So when in 1967 he began to dealer-install ZL1 engines into the SS 396 Camaros and sold them as Yenko Camaros, Chevy kept mum.
It translated to better sales and while this better-powered Camaro did not come via Chevy’s COPO, it may have given Fred Gibbs the idea. Of course, along with Yenko Camaros, there was also the Yenko Novas.
8th Then came the COPO Camaro
Sounds like such an unassuming title. The COPO 9560. But this is the order number that ended up creating what is now called the COPO Camaro. Gibbs was himself a drag racer, and eager to enter his Camaro into NHRA races. But eligibility demanded 50 such cars to be made, and so Gibbs placed an order for 50 Camaros, with the ZL1 7.0-liter V8 engines.
Tall order and Gibbs could only sell 13. Another 37 went to other dealers, and more were ordered. This ended up with 69 COPO Camaro models in total.
7 Finally, Meet The Yenko COPO Camaros
The second order for another 201 such COPO Camaros came via Don himself, and this was COPO 9561. The only difference between the Gibbs’ order and this one was that the COPO 9561 used 427-cubic inch iron-block engines. They also came bearing a different ignition system and front springs.
Why? Well because even these COPO 9561 Camaros were further tuned by the man himself, and were sold as Yenko Camaros. Think of Don Yenko as what Carroll Shelby was to the Mustang.
6 A Very Innovative Use of COPO
The COPO division at Chevy was basically used by dealers who wanted to order a custom specified set of Camaro cars for customers or fleet sales like taxis or police cars. It was not meant to turn into an unofficial performance division.
Along with Yenko and Gibbs, it was the idea of Chevy insiders Pete Estes and Vince Piggins to do this, considering Chevrolet Performance was being choked by GM. It was simply a loophole that worked out very well in the end.
5 The COPO Was Just In Time
The COPO Camaros, both the 9560 and 9561 models came just at the right time in 1969, for the start of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) seasons. A total of 1,000 9561 models finally came to be, with demand skyrocketing in its niche after the Yenko models. The Gibbs order, the 9560 stood at 69 only.
Speaking in a broader sense, sales were tough, mostly because the price of these Camaros was nearly double than the normal Camaro. But today, these are highly-priced collector’s items.
4 The 2012 COPO Revival
The legend of the COPO Camaro was such that in 2012, Chevy decided to revive the nameplates albeit in different avatars. The new COPO Camaro for 2012 was first limited to only 69 units but later more were made on popular demand.
The Camaro ZL1 for that time jet 580 horses in its supercharged avatar, although there were two more V8 engines as well. In the 2017 version of the COPO Camaro, power was upped to 650. Clearly, muscle is still muscle, and COPO is alive and thriving.
3 The Half-Century Anniversary Special COPO
In 2019, the COPO Camaro came in a special 50th Anniversary Edition and replicated the look of the 1969 cars. Done in blue metallic paint, it emulated the Blue Laguna paint of 1969 and there were other graphics on the car as well.
Even the engine got dressier for the edition, with an orange engine block and chrome valve covers. Of course, to pay true homage to the 1969 COPO Camaros 9560, only 69 of these were made and sold.
2 The 2022 COPO Camaro Has A Massive V8
In fact, it’s the largest V8 of any factory Chevy ever. The 9.4-liter big-block V8 engine in the 2022 COPO Camaro proves one thing. There is still no replacement for displacement, even today. Clearly, this COPO Camaro is going to take racing to a whole new level.
There are other engine options available, including a 5.7-liter V8. Remember, the 9.4-liter V8 COPO Camaro comes rated at only 430 horses, mostly because the NHRA dictates certain specifications. But despite that, the question remains. Can you street race it?
1 The 9.4-liter V8 COPO Is Not Street Legal
If you want to drive the 2022 COPO Camaro on the road, go for the smaller engines for the 9.4-liter V8 is not a street-legal option. It does qualify for NHRA Stock and Super Stock racing, and this is probably the reason for its very existence.
Along with this monster and a 5.7-liter V8, the COPO Camaro will also offer a 7.0-liter naturally aspirated engine and all come mated to a racing three-speed automatic transmission. The price is also steep, beginning at $105,500 and going up to $130,000. No everyone’s Camaro, but then again, the COPO Camaro remains a niche beast.
Sources: CarandDriver, MotorAuthority