When Chevrolet decided to build the COPO Camaro for professional drags racers starting in 2012, it was done with a different spirit than the original(s) from 1969. This time COPOs were to be dedicated drag race cars for NHRA Stock Eliminator and Super Stock classes, available with several engines that were not street-legal, and were not generally available to the car-buying public. Several interesting changes were done to meet NHRA rules that distinguish COPOs from their street brethren.
One of the most notable was the rear suspension. The street car was engineered with an independent rear suspension, but racing rules dictated a solid axle, a configuration utilized by the Mustang Cobra Jet and Dodge Challenger with the Drag Pak. In this case, Chevrolet relied on Strange Engineering and the expertise of drag racing chassis builder Mike Pustelny of MPR Race Cars to make it all work in unison.
“We contracted MPR Race Cars, and Mike built the suspension along the lines of what NHRA approved,” says Chevrolet Performance’s Roger Allen. “We provided MPR with the design direction, and then MPR fabricated the parts to put everything in place. The overall geometry and pickup points had to be as specified by NHRA. They basically gave us suspension pickup points from the Strange axle and said ‘Here’s where the Dodge and Ford pickup points are – yours have to be in the same place.’”
Pustelny had done similar work for Dodge for the Drag Pak Stock Eliminator program, so his experience gave him the knowledge where to start with the Camaro, especially considering the Camaro was never designed to have a solid axle. “The suspension was developed from what we know will work, what we know the NHRA will accept, and what we know will be safe. Once NHRA looked it over and gave us approval for the design, I drove the test car for the first year. Even the first time out, the car went down the track like it was on a string. It’s no revelation that we could make some changes to make the car work better, but one of the criteria for Stock Eliminator is that you must have a fixed lower control arm, and the brackets on the chassis and rear axle housing cannot have multiple holes – there’s only one position where the bars can be located.”
LSXTV.com has a nice article explaining in detail the development of the COPO Camaro and how Chevrolet Performance relied on expert parties to help reconfigure the Camaro into a NHRA winner.