Written By Steve Baur
Photography by the FSC Staff and TheBlock.com
The golden anniversary of the COPO Camaro began with a special-edition model of Camaro from Chevrolet Performance, which debuted at the 2018 SEMA Show and it concluded at the 2019 NMCA All-American Nationals presented by Whipple Superchargers with the 50th Anniversary COPO Camaro Shootout presented by COPO Parts Direct.
Over 80 COPO Camaros were in attendance representing the largest gathering of the specialty machines anywhere. The Shootout saw 59 COPO Camaros take their shot at qualifying on the Summit Motorsports Park racing surface, with many COPO drivers also competing in many of the NMCA’s other categories.
Taking center stage was the Chevrolet Performance 50th Anniversary COPO Shootout presented by COPO Parts Direct, and the lanes were full of prime contenders. COPO owners were also able to compete in other NMCA categories that they fit in, so racers could get in plenty of laps.
In addition to the many COPO owners and racers in attendance, the event hosted guests from Chevrolet Performance, COPO Parts Direct, and Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center.
“The one thing that I realized is the camaraderie that exists between the COPO owners,” said Marketing Manager, Chevrolet Performance & GM Propulsion Steve Walczak. “The passion that these guys have for the sport; these guys are living it and getting their hands greasy. There were 81 COPOs competing, the largest gathering of COPO Camaro in any form anywhere. It was great to see the turnout at that venue.”
The event brought many racers to the NMCA for the first time, including Nick Mitsos and his Mountain View Tire COPO Camaro piloted by Ryan Priddy. The NHRA Pro Stock team parked their tube chassis car to go Factory Showdown racing and were competing in the Holley EFI Factory Super Cars class this weekend.
Rich Rinke and Mike Lawrence from COPO Parts Direct were also in attendance and were not just spectating, but working, and racing as well.
“It was a fantastic event,” said operations manager Mike Lawrence. “ It was awesome to see the turnout. We saw some 50th Anniversary COPOs and we even did a delivery at the event.”
Rich Rinke of COPO Parts Direct, while sponsoring the event, was also racing this weekend with two of his COPOs. The 427-powered one is a 2019 model and the older white car is a direct-injected, LT1-based 302ci combination. This event was the only time the NMCA has seen the LT-powered COPO in competition, with Rinke and Daren Poole-Adams racing two of the very few cars in existence.
The delivery was to first-time COPO customer Steve Clough of Maine, who purchased a 2019 50th Anniversary COPO Camaro equipped with the 427ci engine and the racers package, which includes a weight box, auxiliary battery kit, carbon air inlet, and a parachute.
“He was really excited and he’s a pretty calm guy,” Lawrence said. “We did it during one of the happy hours and had all of the existing COPO customers there to talk with him and that was a neat way to introduce him to that.”
The COPO program originated as a dealer option on new vehicles, and Eric (at left) and Owen (at right) Simpson have continued their father’s dream of owning and driving COPO-powered Camaros. The Canadian-based brothers were here this weekend competing with the Factory Appearing Stock Tire Racers and their Factory Stock class. Simpson’s father restored the orange COPO first, which is a Canadian-built car, while the white car was bought as a rusted hulk in the ‘States and brought home for restoration. Eric started racing the white one quite regularly with the FAST group, and this year he and his brother put that car’s old drivetrain into the orange car and brought it back out for this event.
COPO guests were treated to luncheons on Friday and Saturday courtesy of Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center and there was a Friday evening happy hour and free parts raffle presented by Gold Rush Trailers and Overkill Motorsports where attendees not only got to mix it up with fellow COPO owners and racers, but also benefitted from a parts raffle with well over $10,000 in prizes given away. Ryan Korish of LaCrosse, Wisconsin won a $5,000 scholarship bonus from Sam Tech, and Roger Rosebush of Rosebush Racing presented $500 to the top qualifiers in the COPO 50th Shootout, Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, and Coan Engineering Stock/Super Stock Combo classes.
On Thursday, COPO racers were invited to attend the Racer Appreciation Happy Hour and Ice Cream Social featuring Norwalk’s iconic 1 lb. scoops of ice cream. It’s a steal at just $1 per pound, but attendees of this special event got it for free, making it taste even sweeter still.
The 50th Anniversary COPO Camaro Shootout presented by COPO Parts Direct of course culminated in a final round of competition between Aaron Allison and Todd Patterson, and the race between the two COPO drivers did not disappoint. The event was such a success, that the NMCA plans to incorporate the COPO Shootout at the Norwalk stop as part of the regular event class schedule.
“We were extremely excited to be involved,” said COPO Parts Direct’s Mike Lawrence. “It was a very historic event and we were very happy with the racer enthusiasm and hope to try and recreate that at the next event.”
Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center was on the manufacturer’s midway to answer all sorts of questions and show of the company’s latest wares, including crate engines and even a 2019 COPO rolling chassis or CRC.
Richard Ingram brought his special 2018 Hot Wheels edition COPO Camaro to compete in the shootout. Ingram told us it’s just one of 9 naturally aspirated cars and this one has the optional 427 cubic inch engine.
Daren Poole-Adams is no stranger to the COPO family as you might have noticed from his collection he brought to the Shootout. As he can only drive one at a time, he offered up a couple of his machines to good friends Rodger Johnson and Robin Lawrence who also competed this weekend.
Friday and Saturday, COPO racers and owners were treated to a luncheon courtesy of Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center and these were a great place for them to gather and talk about all things COPO over a catered lunch. On Friday night, attendees were welcome to join the Happy Hour and free parts raffle presented by Gold Rush Trailers and Overkill Motorsports with upwards of $15,0000 in product up for grabs exclusively to COPO owners. ProMedia president and CEO Steve Wolcott (at right) hosted the event that also featured a number of guests such as Chevrolet Performance’s Steve Wolczak and Bill Martens.
One of the top engine builders in the COPO game is Ray Barton Racing Engines. Long known for its prowess with the Mopar Hemi engine platform, the company has taken up the LSX platform and builds many of the top Factory Super Car powerplants. David Barton a number of COPO Camaros to the event, including Gary Wolkwitz’s red machine that won this Holley EFI Factory Super Car class at this event two years ago.
ATI Performance Products own JC Beattie brought out two Camaros to race with this weekend. One was his Top Sportsman ride in which he entered the Xtreme Pro Mod ranks with. The other is this COPO Camaro that he uses for Ultra Street and this weekend, Edelbrock Xtreme Street, competition. Beattie drove the Whipple supercharged and LSX-powered COPO to the final round and a runner-up finish.
During one of the luncheons, Roger Rosebush of Rosebush Racing awarded the top qualifiers of the COPO 50thShootout, Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, and the Coan Engineering Stock/Super Stock Combo class with a $500 bonus.
Fast running out of drivers for his growing collection of COPO Camaros, Scott Libersher put multi-time Nostalgia Muscle Car champion Andy Warren behind the wheel of his Gas Monkey Garage Camaro.
During the Friday night parts raffle, Sam Tech awarded $5,000 towards a school scholarship and Scott Libersher surprised many folks by matching that with his own $5,000 Sam Tech scholarship bonus.
Tony Patterson purchased the 2019 number 10 COPO and the car was originally red, but wanting the car to stand out and to commemorate the 40 years of Patterson Racing horsepower, he had it painted in GM Sandalwood Beige. Tony’s brother, Allan Patterson, started the company with the ’66 Chevy Nova in the graphic, and it was painted in the vintage Chevy Monte Carlo color decades ago. Tony’s nephew Todd drove the 427-powered COPO to a runner up finish in the 50th Anniversary COPO Camaro Shootout.
The 50th Anniversary COPO Camaro Shootout was seemingly a Grand Slam for COPO Parts Direct and the company’s operations manager, Mike Lawrence. COPO Parts Direct was the presenting sponsor for the event, company owner Rich Rinke raced in the Shootout as well as the Stock/Super Stock Combo class.
There were 59 COPO Camaros at the end of qualifying for the Chevrolet Performance 50th Anniversary COPO Camaro Shootout presented by COPO Parts Direct, and after six rounds of racing, Aaron Allison of East Palestine, Ohio, drove his way to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle. He faced Todd Patterson in the final round and while Patterson was 9.213 on a 9.20 dial to Allison’s 9.474 on a 9.43, Allison was .014 on the tree to Patterson’s .076, securing the win between the pair of 427-powered COPO Camaros.
Cars in general would be nothing without the people building, owning, collecting, and racing them, and the COPO owners turned out in droves to celebrate this historic event.