Pony cars like the Chevrolet Camaro have long been the weapon of choice for devotees of the traffic-light drag race, but it's also long been the choice of professional racers across the US. The new sixth-generation COPO is the latest in a line of factory drag cars from Chevrolet, but it's not the only race-ready Camaro to be revealed at SEMA this week. The company will also showcase a test car loaded up with concept parts produced through its SS Drag Race Development Program, a scheme intended to map out the best way to modify road-going Camaros for maximum straight-line performance.
The Camaro COPO has been providing semi-professional drag racers with a race-ready factory option since 2012, taking the standard Camaro and kitting it out with a tried-and-tested set of parts tailored to racing in the NHRA Stock Eliminator class.
In the latest version, the standard car's front suspension has been swapped out for a lighter, adjustable coil-over setup, and the rear suspension is a four-link setup with two-way adjustable coil-over shocks. The rear has also been treated to a panhard and stabilizer bar, and the rear axle is fitted with a lightweight center section.
Gone are the heavily assisted brakes from the standard car, and in their place are unassisted discs at all four corners. The power steering has also been booted, and in its place is a custom unassisted unit.
When it comes to engines, there are a few choices for the Camaro COPO. The range includes a supercharged 350 V8 (5.7-liter), a naturally-aspirated 427 V8 (7.0-liter) and a direct-injected 376 V8 (6.2-liter). All three engines are mated to a three-speed automatic.
Buying a Camaro COPO isn't as simple as buying any regular muscle car. Just 69 will be built for 2017 and potential buyers will need to register online, before an independent panel then selects the eventual owners from the pool.
SS Drag Race Development Program
At the moment, the SS Drag Race Development Program concept is a testing mule for Chevrolet's engineers to work out how to extract maximum straight-line performance from a road-going Camaro. Changes start under the hood, where a raft of nitty-gritty changes like a cam-and-head package bump power up from 455 hp (339 kW) to 530 hp (395 kW).
The transmission has also been tweaked, with the fitment of a new higher-stall torque converter. With a stall speed of 4,200 rpm, the new unit allows the car to launch much harder than before, improving its overall quarter-mile time significantly.
To make sure the extra power doesn't shred the standard drivetrain, engineers have fitted the half-shafts and prop shaft from the much more powerful Camaro ZL1. The driveline upgrade from the fifth-generation Camaro ZL1 has also been added, with a 3.73-geared rear axle center section.
The final touches added to the Drag Race Development are a small brake kit and big Hoosier racing slick tires on the rear wheels, helping to put all that extra power to the ground off the start line.
Thanks to all these tweaks, the car will now cover the quarter mile in 10.685 seconds at 125.73 mph (202.34 km/h). At the moment it's not available to customers, but don't be surprised to see all the individual parts pop up in a factory performance catalogue in the coming months.
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