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Killer COPO

Chevy's Camaro Drag Racer in the 8's
by Hib Halverson, Content Director

Lingenfelter Performance Engineering is one of the COPO's "early adopters" and the first in the 8.60s. Image: LPE.

It didn't take long for Ken Lingenfelter's bunch of horsepower geeks to put down a fearsome pass in one of Chevrolet Racing's COPO Camaros. A week or so ago, at the company's own event at Summit Motorsports Park, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering's brand new COPO Camaro went 8.64.

Chevrolet's COPO Camaro program is going to build 69 fifth-gen, drag race cars and sell 68 of them. About 30 have been sold to date and none are street legal. A COPO is race-only. It is sold for off-highway, drag racing use only. It cannot be registered, titled, licensed, or driven on public roads. They are sportsman class drag racers, mainly intended for NHRA Super Stock racing. Each one is a turnkey racecar. You can pick it up, trailer it to the nearest drag strip and have at it.

When the COPO Camaro concept was shown at SEMA in 2011, the response from more than 2,000 racers drove Chevy's decision to do a limited production run. To ensure fair access, an independent third party chose the individuals who would be offered the opportunity to buy a COPO. They received confirmation early in 2012 with instructions on how to fulfill the purchase contract, choose the engine option for their class, and take delivery.

To make a COPO race cars, Chevy Performance modifies the 5G Camaro structure to accept a drag racing live axle which rides on an adjustable five-bar rear suspension with coil-over-shocks. The upper links and the coil-overs are adjustable. The structure also has subframe connectors, a front cradle modified for a deeper oil pan, a roll cage and a coil-over-shock front suspension. The car is also stripped of all insulation, most trim, convenience options and accessories. The cars have lightweight, drag racing, four-wheel disc brakes.

The Whipple supercharged, 327, one of the available engines for a COPO Camaro.
Image: Chevrolet Performance.

Three engines are available. All are race-only. There is an LS7-derived, EFI 427 and two EFI 327s which have screw-type superchargers. The main difference between the two blown motors is the size of the supercharger, 2.9-liters vs. 4.0-liters. They all have Calles forged steel crank and rods along with Mahle forged aluminum pistons. The 427 uses a Chevrolet Performance cam and the two 327s use COMP cams. All three use Chevrolet Performance, "ceramic-ball", hydraulic lifters. They run an LS7-derived cylinder head which has some secret Chevrolet port work added to the normal CNC-machining. The modified LS7 head is fitted with Del West titanium intake valves, sodium-filled stainless exhaust valves and PSI valve springs. Engines were assembled in Wixom, Michigan at GM Powertrain's Performance Build Center, where the buyer could chose to participate in the engine assembly process, similar to how some Corvette buyers can opt for the "Corvette Engine Build Experience." The engines are complimented by drag racing type fuel systems, racing torque converters, highly modified two-speed automatic transmissions, aluminum driveshafts, aluminum rear axle center sections, 4.29 gears and 35-spline axles. Tires are 9-in. slicks out back and 15-in. skinnys in the front.

Summit Motorsports Park time slip from LPE's record setting run. Image: LPE.

Right now, the COPO Camaro is the big-dog in what's bound to be a on-going, contentious, three-way rivalry between the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet and the Mopar Challenger Drag Pak. No doubt, Sportsman drag racers in the Stock and Super Stock classes who race these new generation muscle cars are in for some fun.

At the inaugural "Lingenfelter Performance Nationals" on Sept. 21-23, 2012, LPE set the record for the quickest and fastest COPO Camaro. Ok…at least for now. No doubt, everyone with a COPO will be gunning to take the title away from the crew out of Decatur, Indiana. LPE driver, Jon Ebert, ran 8.64-sec. at 159.12-mph to set that record just four days after the Lingenfelter folks picked-up their COPO Camaro from General Motors. Chief Engineer, Graham Behan, told us the only changes made to the car after they took delivery were different shock settings and raising the rev limiter go 8200-rpm to keep the driver from hitting the limiter before the end of the quarter-mile. The arrest-me-red COPO ran 9.44 right off the trailer. Then, as Lingenfelter's guys tuned the shocks and the rev limiter and driver, Ebert, learned the car's starting line habits; it went, 9.26, 8.90, 9.00 and, finally the 8.64.

GM says the 327 with the four-liter blower makes 550 horsepower but that's likely just a ploy to leverage the NHRA's odd weight factoring rules. Based on the e.t. LPE's car ran and its weight–about 3400-lbs–we think the 327 with the larger of the two superchargers makes around (holy crap!) a thousand horsepower.

"Chevrolet Performance built a great car and with a little bit of Lingenfelter magic we were able to pull extra performance out of it," said Ken Lingenfelter, LPE's owner after the event at Summit Motorsports Park. "At Lingenfelter, we're experts at doing LS engines. What we were able to do with the COPO Camaro in four short days is an extension of the experience and commitment we make to the LS package. We believe there is more left in this COPO Camaro, and we know our performance team will get it."

So, uh, Ken…does this mean you're not simply going to put that car in your collection, but you're going to continue to develop and race it? We sure hope so. There are a lot of Mustang Cobra Jet and Challenger Drag Pac dreamers out there who need to get some Bow-Tie religion.

 Image: LPE.