“COPO.” It’s not an island in the Adriatic, a style of cooking or the name of a newly diagnosed disease. It’s instead an acronym that originally stood for Central Office Purchase Order, and which today is perhaps the most eagerly prized four-letter word in the world of specialty cars. It was a way for buyers – originally, they were usually fleets – to spec out vehicles with desired equipment that couldn’t be inputted on a basic dealer order form. Beginning in the late 1960s, it became a means to get wildly powerful engines into stripper cars with other mechanical goodies, usually for NHRA Stock and Super Stock competition. The famed Chevrolet performance boss Vince Piggins memorably used the COPO process to create the first Z/28 Camaro. The most fabled COPO car ever was the ZL-1 aluminum big-block Camaro ordered by Illinois dealer Fred Gibb, of which just 69 were produced. The program was revived in 2012 for the new-generation Camaro, with 69 COPO cars produced each year since. Which brings us to this week’s disclosure.
The 2022 Chevrolet Camaro COPO, like all the recent versions, is a pure turnkey drag car, legal as delivered for NHRA competition. The big news this year is the return of big-block power in the form of a newly offered 572-cu.in. GM Performance engine with four-bolt main bearing caps, aluminum cylinder heads, a forged steel crankshaft, forged steel connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons. Estimated output isn’t stated, but something approaching 600 horsepower is a reasonable expectation. Every COPO, regardless of engine, utilizes an ATI Racing Products Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 three-speed automatic. Barely 700 examples of COPO Camaros have been produced since production was revived, and General Motors uses a lottery – the order form is now online – to fill orders on a first-come, first-served basis, which will continue even with pricing for the big-block car set at $105,500.