Volume III, Issue 3, Page 1

In the COPO, COPO cabana...

Though not quite street legal, the Camaro is a little less radical than when it was winning class crowns at Indy. Clint Richmond gives the secondaries a quick squirt in a parking lot.

Camaros, especially those of the first-generation, were always popular on the racetrack. By the middle of 1967, guys like Bill Jenkins had dialed them in, and both the Grump and Michigan’s Ben Wentzel (in a Z/28) took home the respective Super Stock and Stock Eliminator crowns that year. As street muscle exploded during the next 18 months, Chevrolet dealers began to clamor for something that could take on the 440 Mopar A-bodies and the new 428 Mustangs, as even the L78 solid-lifter 396 was no longer getting it done.

With fresh paint and lettering, this real COPO drag car has returned to its heritage. Raced since the day it was bought, it has never been registered for street use.

Joel Rosen, Don Yenko, and a handful of others solved that dilemma by doing 427 installations in-house. However, several other factors helped convince Vince Piggins and the people at corporate to consider doing this on their own for 1969. One was the purchase of 50 special Novas by Fred Gibb in 1968 for the purpose of homologating the 396/Turbo 400 combination for NHRA (which, incidentally, was campaigned by Jenkins for part of that season), because dealer swaps were not legal for NHRA class racing. Moreover, Yenko was pestering Piggins for assembly-line installs to cut back on the time it was taking his shop to do the conversions.

Gibb wanted to do another batch of cars, this time 50 Camaros with the exotic, all-aluminum Cam Am 427 between the fenders. So Piggins created two COPOs for 1969--9560 for Gibb’s ZL1s, and 9561 for a standard L72 427 installation like Yenko wanted. The COPO (Central Office Processing Order) system was normally use for fleet work like taxicabs, but Piggins saw to it that his signature on this one got the Camaros out from underneath the 400ci limit GM had imposed on all cars except for full-sized models as well as the Corvette, under the guise of being created for competition. Unlike past years when Yenko had managed to keep things like his special COPO 9737 Sports Conversion option (handling and instrumentation upgrades) quiet, lots of dealers found out about 9561 and it has been rumored as many as 1015 cars were built that year. The Yenko operation alone purchased 201 examples.

Since COPO Camaros were built as special non-SS package vehicles, they received this Bow Tie grille emblem rather than a dead giveaway SS callout. With the 427 emblems missing on the fenders, the other guy never knew what hit him.