When Chevrolet built the first COPO Camaros in 1969, they had no way of knowing that these cars would gain the notoriety they did. Heck, they weren’t supposed to last more than a few years. That is one of the reasons why they are some of the most sought after collector cars in the world. It’s not uncommon to see one cross the auction block for upwards of $500,000.
Just like the older brother that was delivered to select owners and race shops in 1969, it was no surprise this new COPO received overwhelming approval from enthusiasts. It was so successful in fact, the program was continued in 2012, 2013, 2014, and again in 2015. The total number of cars that were built each year was 69, and this was done to commemorate the original number of ZL1 COPO Camaros built during that inaugural year.
Unlike the 1969 COPO cars, the modern-day COPO is a car built solely for winning NHRA events. For that reason, it is relegated to racing use only, and cannot be registered or licensed for use on the highway. We wanted one of these marvels of muscle from the beginning, but it didn’t really fit the lifestyle of the magazine. Most of our readers drive their Camaro’s on the street, or have street/strip rides. Plus, the COPO was bank that we didn’t have.
Since a true COPO Camaro was out of our grasp, we came up with a plan that would get us a car that is similar to Cheverolet’s COPO, but something that would be race ready, and most importantly, street legal.
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Like many of you, we have always liked the principles that outline the NMCA True Street class, so building a car to fit those parameters fit our criteria perfectly. In a nutshell, the class is designed to have real world cars prove that they’re “street cars”, by proving that they can drive 30-miles round trip, and then make three back-to-back passes in the 8-second range. It sounded like a perfect plan to build a car to fit those parameters. We initially planned to call the project COPO Tribute, but decided that “True SStreet” sounded more consistent with the project goals. But, know in our hearts, we are going to build it with the aspects of a COPO in mind … supercharged, LS, and white.
The Project Begins
Before we could accomplish building our project car, we needed to first find a car. What we actually located is a 2014 Camaro that was destined to be auctioned. Unfortunately, the new-age muscle car was a theft-recovery. Fortunately, the car was within our price range because thieves stole the engine, transmission, most of the interior, and the wheels. While the original owner’s situation was unfortunate, the loss he suffered was our good fortune.
Since the plan is to compete in the NMCA True Street class, the build must be streetable, and therefore legal for highway use. We are going to take this cast-off shell of a car, and turn it into a true mid-to-high 8-second, street-driven Camaro that will not only compete at the track, but afford us the opportunity to drive it to and from the events.
Inspired by COPO styling, we will build the car with a COPO-inspired look without actually plagiarizing the real COPO build-guidelines. This True SStreet Camaro will feature drag-racing-oriented upgrades like a Rhodes Race Cars rollcage, a Moser straight-axle conversion, a Hughes Performance Superglide, and GM’s latest LSX376-B15 crate engine with a Whipple supercharger.
As mentioned, we chose to place GM’s LSX376-B15 engine under the hood, and in our article about the long-block assembly, we showed you nearly every part that Chevrolet uses to build this engine that will be the foundation for our True SStreet Camaro.
As soon as the foundation for our engine was ready, we couldn’t wait to bolt the Whipple Supercharger on top and really make some power. When the dyno stopped, the engine made a whopping 1,025.4 horsepower and 884.7 lb-ft of torque. But, do you really think we could stop there? We knew there was more in our GM crate engine, so we decided that if we swapped camshafts, we could probably make even more power. During our cam swap, we thought a pulley change on the blower might add a little, and when we finished pulling the handle on the dyno, our blown LSX delivered a peak of 1,079 horsepower at 22.2 pounds of boost, with torque dipping down to only 833.3 lb-ft at redline. That gave us a gain of 53.6 horsepower.
The actual building of the project is already underway, and there will be plenty of articles to show our progress, and how you can install many of the parts that we’re using. There are a lot of upgrades required to make sure the car accomplishes our goals, so stay tuned and follow along as we show you how we build the Camaro of the decade.
Getting Wired For Go-Time With Ron Francis – April 20, 2018
When it comes to building a project car, there are car guys that can weld-in a patch panel, others who can fabricate a custom suspension, and even those who can seemingly rebuild an engine with their eyes closed. We even know many guys that can tune a carburetor by ear. What we don’t normally run into, are those willing to take on the task of wiring a complete car from scratch. While a lot of enthusiasts feel that routing and connecting the various wires needed to complete the electrical circuits is best left to a professional, in reality, it is something that many can do themselves. We know that you are capable, but we find that most are uncomfortable working with electrical systems.
Being able to properly diagnose – or even correctly rewire a car – is something that can be accomplished by the home enthusiast. Contrary to popular belief, it is not rocket science. A little patience and a few simple hand tools are all you need. When it came time for us to wire our latest project – True SStreet – we decided that the Express 16-fuse wiring system from Ron Francis Wiring would be just the ticket.
Project True SStreet Gets An Oiling Upgrade From Canton Racing – October 25, 2017
With a new drag-tuned adjustable suspension bolted up, a Moser solid rear axle helping get the power to the pavement, and a 1,000 horsepower Chevrolet Performance LSX376-B15 race mill destined to go back into the engine bay, Project True SStreet is well on its way to becoming a terror both on the road and at the strip.
But as its performance potential moves deep into nine-second territory and well beyond what the factory had originally envisioned, it’s time to start looking at ways to bolster the robustness of this setup and make sure that key components are adequately protected from potential damage.
To that end we’re upgrading the oiling system by way of a Canton Racing oil pan and pickup tube, and relocating the oil filter with a remote mounting fit to free up some real estate under the hood and provide better access. Here we’ll look at the features of the oiling system upgrades with some insight from the experts at Canton and then go through the key points of the installation.
Here’s What’s Been Going On For The Last Several Months – September 15, 2017
It had been a while since we showed you guys what we’ve been doing with project True SStreet, but we thought we would give an update of what’s been happening in the shop.
In this installment, we outlined what was going to be done with the wiring, by upgrading to a Ron Francis system, what it was taking to mock up the engine, how the engine would be cooled by C&R Racing, and how Jegs was going to help us plant our butts to drive it.
We’re taking a slow and methodical approach to this build, but when the car is finished, you can expect to see a streetable monster tearing up the strips of SoCal.
Adding Afco Big Gun Struts To Help Promote A Gut-Wrenching Launch – August 31, 2016
After we removed the independent rear suspension and rearend in True SStreet , and replaced it with a Moser solid axle conversion, we realized that we should also make a change to the front of the car.
We needed to have a front suspension that offered adjustability so we could dial it in to optimize the performance of the car. That necessitated drag racing-specific front suspension components. The fifth-gen Camaro is relatively new, and the pickings in regards to racing suspension pieces has been limited in recent years, leaving many drag racing street/strip enthusiasts to make do with the factory struts.
Afco developed these struts to provide fifth-gen Camaro owners with better weight transfer, and the ability to lower the car up to 1-inch. These are designed for drag racing purposes, but they still afford the car owner the ability to drive on the street if they desire. Find out more right here.
Project True SStreet Gets A New Flaming River Rack-And-Pinion – January 29, 2016
If you’ve been following the build of project True SStreet, then you’ve seen us take a theft-recovered 2014 SS Camaro that we purchased at auction, and start the process of turning the car into a quick street and strip mode of transportation. So far, we’ve shown you the 1,000 horsepower LSX engine that will be used, installed the Rhode’s Race Carsrollcage and Harwood fiberglass cowl-induction hood, and then remove the independent rearend, and upgrade to a Moser Engineering straight axle for the rear. In this installment, we are going to upgrade from the factory electric-assist power steering, to a Flaming River manual steering rack-and-pinion.
Installing Aerospace Components’ Pro Street Brakes – January 21, 2016
The most obvious difference between a brake package designed for the street and one intended only for racing use, is the rotor. Drag racing brakes, by and large, use a single, solid (unvented) plate rotor; this is because, as previously mentioned, the amount of time spent under aggressive load is short.
On the other hand, a street rotor is continually being heated under normal driving conditions, and as such, must perpetually be able to cool itself. This is precisely why every car on the road features brakes with dual vented rotors. The fins in a vented rotor ‘scoop up’ air as the vehicle is moving, allowing the rotors to cool from the inside. Read more.
Installing A Moser Solid Axle Rearend – January 13, 2016
While the stock fifth-generation Camaro’s IRS is a great setup for a street car in terms of handling and ride compliance, getting an independent rear suspension to hook on hard launches can be tricky. That issue is compounded by the fact that independent rear suspension systems typically add a lot of weight to the car as opposed to a solid-axle alternative. Also, it usually isn’t designed to withstand the abuses of high-horsepower applications.
With that, it’s clear that if you’re putting together a purpose-built fifth-gen Camaro for the strip, replacing the independent system with a solid rear is the way to go. Read on as we update Project True SStreet with a Moser solid-axle conversion.
Installing A Harwood Fiberglass Hood – December 15, 2015
There was no way that we could use the factory hood on Project True SStreet, as the engine with our Whipple supercharger sits too high for the hood to close. We could have cut the factory hood and added a hood scoop, but properly bonding a fiberglass hoodscoop to a metal hood requires a lot of time and materials. For that reason, we opted to install a complete fiberglass hood from Harwood. A fiberglass hood is typically much lighter than a steel hood, and once you figure the time, and materials of adding a hood scoop to a factory hood, it usually costs more than the new hood.
Choosing The Correct Coilover Springs – December 3, 2015
A major factor when having a suspension using coilover shocks, is finding the correct spring to work with the shock. Choosing the correct spring involves knowing the weight it needs to support, and how the suspension will work. In other words, you need to know what spring-rate you actually need. Always keep in mind, the spring needs to support the weight of the car, while the shock is just to control spring movement. Read more to get insight into how Eibach helped us with spring selection.
Installing The Fuel Cell And An Intercooler Tank – October 2, 2015
In previous installments, we covered the process of installing a rollcage and parachute mount on the vehicle. As far as safety goes, these are definitely a couple of essential modifications. Welding created the attachment points for the cage, but it also paved the way for the installation of two more crucial components needed in the car: the fuel cell and an intercooler tank.
Providing the car with the aforementioned vital fluids – in this case, gasoline and water for the intercooler – the fuel cell and intercooler tank are a duo of all-metal add-ons, that will give us the durability we’re looking for. Follow along as we talk with RRC founder Josh Rhodes, and walk through the installation.
Helping Stop Project True SStreet – September 28, 2015
The plan is for the Camaro to safely and competitively participate in the NMCA’s True Street class when it is finished. When completed, we are estimating that the car will travel the ¼-mile in roughly 8.5 to 9.0-seconds, and traveling at roughly 150 mph is a distinct possibility. Therefore, a parachute, will be mandatory. We ordered our parachute mount from the same company that we called to get our rollcage, Rhodes Race Cars. So with our bracket in hand, the guys in the tech shop got started with the mounting of our parachute’s supporting brackets.
Getting Cagey – September 24, 2015
When building a race car, not only does it need to be quick, but it also needs to be safe. Our LSX376-B15 engine will have no problem making True SStreet quick, but we needed to add some safety. One way to do that, is to add a rollbar or rollcage.
We did a lot of research to find a company that could build a rollcage for our 2014 Camaro, and guarantee that we would be getting a quality component. Rhodes Race Cars have been delivering race components to winning teams for years, and since we have received great feedback from our readers about the company, we knew that they were the right choice to build our cage.
In our article Getting Cagey, we highlight the cage we installed, and gave readers some insight into what it takes to choose the correct cage for their car, and what it takes to install it.