1969 C.O.P.O. Camaro Project

1969 Camaro - side view.

In case you are wondering, these are the BEFORE photographs. As nice as this 69 SS looks sitting in front of the shop... looks can be deceiving. The project at hand is to turn this run-of-the-mill 69 SS into a clone of a 1969 C.O.P.O Camaro with a fire-breathing 427 big-block motor.

1969 Camaro - front view, low. 1969 Camaro - left rear fender.

C.O.P.O. stands for "Central Office Production Order", and in 1969 that was the only way to get a Camaro with a 427 cubic-inch Vette motor under the hood. Chevrolet did not advertise this option and not all dealerships even new they could order 427 Camaros, but if you knew the right dealer you could get your hands on one of those tire-scorching torque machines. To read more about the COPO Camaro, CLICK HERE.

1969 Camaro - hood. 1969 Camaro - rear view.

Unfortunately, lack of advertising and a limited number of orders meant that few COPO's survive today, and even fewer survive in showroom condition. To get your hands on an original will cost you big bucks, provided you can someone willing to part with it. The alternative is to build your own.

1969 Camaro - engine, front view. 1969 Camaro -  engine, side view.

COPO Camaros came down the assembly line just like any other 1969 model year. When they got to that point in the line where the engine would go in, they were pulled off and the 427 would be installed in place of the standard motor package. Therefore, a standard 1969 Camaro body is the starting point for our conversion, which will duplicate a COPO right down to the decals and stampings.

1969 Camaro - dashboard. 1969 Camaro - 4-speed shifter.

You might ask yourself why someone would go through all this trouble. But as any true car nut knows, there is no explaining why a particular make and model of vehicle captures a persons imagination. In this case will let Frank Graceffa explain his reasoning in his own words:

Back in the Day

"Getting my license in 1974, at the age of 16, I was smack in the middle of the muscle car era. You might say, wait a minute the muscle car era ended in 1971 at the end of high compression engines and leaded fuel. You're right, but the cars that were built from 1963 to 1971 were used cars at that time and very affordable for the average working teenager.

"After driving a $400 1964 Impala for a year I started looking for a sportier ride and spotted a 'For Sale' sign on a blue 1969 Camaro with the word Yenko on the white striped quarter panels. The owner wanted $4000 (which was a lot of money for a used 69 Camaro at the time). I test drove it, fell in love and called my insurance company only to find out they would not insure a 17 year old male in a Camaro with a 427 CI engine. Heartbreak! I never forgot about that car. I ended up buying an SS 454 El Camino. The Insurance Company considered it a pickup truck.

"I've wanted that Camaro ever since that day in 1975 and now it was my turn to own one. One small problem, that same car is $200,000 plus now! So I decided to build one with the help of the guys at Hot Rods and Custom Stuff. After touring the shop and seeing the quality workmanship it was obvious this was the right place for my project.

"The Yenko cars were actually 427 COPO Camaros that Don Yenko Chevrolet in Pennsylvania modified for drag racers with stripes and engine tuning (as much as you're wallet could handle). COPO was an abbreviation for Central Office Production Order. It was a well kept secret that Don Yenko negotiated with Chevy Execs to drop the 425 horsepower L72 Corvette motor in a Camaro by ordering Production number 9561 on the order sheet. The secret soon leaked out to other performance dealers and Chevrolet ended up building around 1000 COPO Camaros. A few hundred exist today.

"I found an original SS 396 4speed car and brought it to Randy Clark and said 'let's build a COPO Camaro!' After all, COPO cars started their life on the assembly line as Big Block SS 396 cars. Randy and the guys at HRCS looked over the car and put together a game plan while I was out looking for a 1969 427 engine block, heads, intake, carb, radiator etc….etc… to reproduce that car I drove in 1975 as accurately as possible.

"The project started by totally disassembling the car, media blasting the body to bare metal, making appropriate repairs and then sending it to the body shop for proper alignment of all sheet metal and a fresh coat of Hugger Orange paint (a little different from the blue Yenko!).

"It's been great working with Randy, Sean and all of the talented guys and girls at Hot Rods and Custom Stuff. The car turned out beyond my expectations and I finally have that 1969 427 Camaro I always wanted!" ~ Frank Graceffa.

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(Note: "Vineyard Ave." has been changed to "Auto Park Way." Our address has changed, but not our physical location.)

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