Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories in drag racing heading into this weekend’s NHRA US Nationals is the official arrival of the COPO Camaro from Chevrolet Performance. The fruits of nearly five years of labor, internal struggle, and engineering, the initial COPOs have been delivered to active and well known drag racers who will be putting them to good use at Indy in the coming days. We wanted to learn more now that the cars are showing up at strips and on the web, so we dialed up Dr. Jamie Meyer of Chevrolet Performance for the inside scoop on the cars, the plan this weekend, the future of the program, and all the inside info you are looking for about these blindingly fast Camaros.
To the questions!
BangShift: How many COPO Camaros have been delivered and how many can we expect to see at Indy this weekend? What are your expectations for performance?
Dr. Meyer: We have delivered seven COPO Camaros so far and we’re expecting that six of them will be at Indy this weekend. The cars that have been delivered have been testing and running well. There has been a tremendous amount of interest in these cars and it shows with the amount of coverage they have gotten all over the web. Most of the COPO racers that you’ll see at Indy are old school Stock eliminator guys. Cambria, Cagnazzi, Vasser, etc. They know how to take a great car and make it better. With respect to performance, we’re expecting a good show and we’re not about walking around pounding our chests that we’re going to going to send all the Brand X cars home on a trailer. The program is new to the world and we’re very excited about everything that is going on.
BangShift: The buzz and excitement around these cars is pretty amazing. Have you been feeling it? Every YouTube video with a COPO in it goes nuts.
Dr. Meyer: We’re definitely feeling the excitement. This program has its roots almost five years ago so there has been a lot of people working for a long time to make it happen. We’ll be at Indy with the tech and engineering people to support our racers where we can. It is just really great to see this type of excitement around an American car that is being built by racers and for racers. People have been following the progress of these cars both in development and now on the track very closely.
BangShift: What is the level of contact you maintain with buyers once they have cars? Is it a constant back and forth at this point or do people kind if just own it themselves when the rolls out of the facility?
Dr. Meyer: We started out with a list of more than 3,000 people who were serious about purchasing one of these cars. This really was a central office production order process. As we went through the list and had a third party do some ranking work for us to find the people who would really get the most out of the cars, we picked up the phone and started calling. We kept calling down the list until we had 69 committed buyers for the 2012 COPO production. Once we made contact with those buyers, they really became part of our team and it has been a very open flow of information. We’re in contact with all of the racers running the cars currently and they’re providing excellent feedback and suggestions for minor changes. For instance, we changed the routing of some wiring for the line loc, some calibration tweaks are ongoing and we also tweaked the specs of the front springs for the large supercharger cars.
BangShift: You mentioned that there was some ranking done by a third party to help you manage the number of potential buyers of these cars. Were the seven new COPO owners who have their cars the first seven on the list? What is the engine combo breakdown for the six cars that will be racing at Indy this weekend?
Dr. Meyer: Yes, we did have a third party do the ranking work for us and no the first seven owners were not specifically the first seven on the list. We did look at racers who were registered to run at Indy, competing for Wallys at the US Nationals and did our best to get them cars, even if they weren’t exactly in sequential order. We’re going to be turning out four cars per week, starting next week until mid/late November to finish the first COPO production run. At Indy, I believe we have one 4.0L blower car (Cambria we think), one 2.9L blower car (Vasser we believe), and four 427 naturally aspirated cars.
BangShift: What is your take on the shootout that will be held at Indy this year with the Cobra Jets, Drag Pack Challengers, and COPO Camaros? Was GM or any other manufacturer involved in creating this?
Dr. Meyer: I think that it is the sanctioning body giving our customers a really fun place to race their cars. We didn’t have any involvement in the set up of the event. We have worked closely with the NHRA on the tech side, making sure we were meeting the rules and regulations there so that our customers get the safest, most legal, technically transparent car we can deliver. They have been great to work with on that end and we have a strong relationship.
BangShift: What was the overall breakdown of engine selections by COPO customers?
Dr. Meyer: Of the 69 2012 COPO Camaros we are producing, I’d say that 50% of them are naturally aspirated 427 cars and more than half of the remaining cars were 4.0L supercharger cars. The 2.9L supercharger was the least selected engine option by a pretty big margin. That means we have a lot of COPO customers who are planning to go really fast.
BangShift: There is a faction out there that doesn’t like these modern factory race cars in stock or super stock. What will you say to a fan at Indy who walks up and tells you that the COPO is killing the class?
Dr. Meyer: I really think that it is up to the sanctioning body to figure out where the cars belong. We’re going to build the best possible, safest, legal product we can make within the guidelines of the sanctioning body. Our customers choose where they are going to race their cars and if someone were to compare this car to one built in 1969, I’d have to say that with more than 40 years of engineering advancements and technology it certainly should be faster.
BangShift: What’s the future of COPO Camaros? Can we expect a production run in 2013?
Dr. Meyer: Our team is dedicated to getting the existing orders filled and to build the 69 cars we’re tasked with building for the 2012 production run completed to the highest quality. You’ll have to wait for a press release regarding our future plans.