By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
If speed is what you need, you can find it built in Oxford, just off M-24. Chevrolet’s handmade race-ready COPO Camaro is back for 2022.
“It is a drag-race only Camaro race car,” Mike Lawrence, Operations Director at the COPO Build Center, said. “It is not street legal and it is intended strictly for drag racing purposes.”
After taking the 2021 model year off, the 2022 COPO Camaro returns with a new high-displacement engine to choose from alongside two LS-based options.
“There is a 572 cubic inch big block Chevrolet (engine) offering,” Lawrence said. “It is the biggest engine we have produced for this program.”
The COPO Camaro concept began in 1969 when LaHarpe, Illinois Chevy dealer Fred Gibb made use of a bureaucratic loophole. By using the central office production order (COPO) process — originally used to create specialty fleet vehicles like police cars and taxis — Gibb managed to have road racing engines squeezed into Camaro bodies. Gibb made 69 COPO Camaros through this process.
The COPO concept was revived in 2012 as a special order dragstrip-ready vehicle. 69 cars were available each model year from 2012 to 2020, and potential owners entered a lottery to determine who would get their own modern COPO. The car has been assembled in Oxford ever since its revival.
2022 sees the COPO program going back to its made-to-order roots as the 69 car limit is gone. Interested parties can fill out a form with a Chevy dealer specifying which color, engine and other equipment they would like with their COPO. Once plans are finalized the form is sent to Oxford where Lawrence and Co. hand-build each car.
“We start with a ‘body-in-white,’ which is the body, the fenders, the doors [and] the decklid,” Lawrence said. “We start with that right out of the assembly plant in Lansing Grand River that comes to the COPO Build Center.”
Once the Camaro body makes it to Oxford, the team begins installing specialty COPO parts.
“We put in a COPO unique rear suspension, COPO unique front suspension, COPO roll cage,” Lawrence said. “Basically everything manufactured for this vehicle is unique to the COPO from the brake system to the electrical system to the cooling to the fuel. It is all specific to COPO, it’s specific to drag racing.”
Anyone interested in their own COPO can fill out a form found at https://www.chevrolet.com/performance-parts/copo-camaro. The 572 big-block model starts at $105,500 and the parachute-equipped 350 supercharged model starts at $130,000.
By Dean Vaglia