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.
It is this popularity that convinced Chevrolet to release a new version of the legendary car in 2011. 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.
Stripped of many necessities, we found and purchased this Camaro SS shell at auction.
Since a COPO was out of our grasp, we came up with a plan that would get us a car similar to a COPO, but something that would be race ready, and street legal.
We have always liked the principles of the NMCA True Street class, so building a car to fit those parameters fit the bill perfectly. The class is designed for real world cars that can drive 30-miles round trip, and 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 wanted 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
To accomplish building our project car, we located a 2014 Camaro at an auction that was unfortunately a theft-recovery. The car was within our price range because thieves stole the engine, transmission, most of the interior, and the wheels. The original owner’s unfortunate loss is our gain.
With the much of the interior already removed by thieves, there weren’t a lot of parts that we needed to remove, except for the pile of stuff someone wanted to get rid of.
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.
Our first upgrade saw the installation of a 4.5-liter Whipple supercharger. At 6,600 rpm, we saw a peak output of 1,025horsepower and 885lb-ft of torque with 24 psi of boost. Our second upgrade saw the installation of a Crane Cams PN 201HR00032 camshaft and the addition of a smaller pulley to the supercharger. This time, we realized a peak of 1,079horsepower with just 22.2 psi of boost.
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 1,025.4horsepower and 884.7lb-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 1,079horsepower at 22.2 pounds of boost, with torque dipping down to only 833.3lb-ft at redline. That gave us a gain of 53.6 horsepower.
We will be replacing the IRS with a straight-axle conversion from Moser. The engine is an LSX376-B15 crate engine with a 4.5-liter Whipple supercharger. When we tested this engine, it made an astounding 1,079 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.
The project is underway, so stay tuned for updates.
Update: 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.
Update: Project True SStreet Gets a New Flaming River Rack-And-Pinion – January 29, 2016
Update: 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.
Update: 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’s compounded by the fact that IRS systems typically add a lot of weight to the car versus a solid axle alternative, and usually aren’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.
The Moser solid axle conversion is an in depth job, but we show you everything you need to know to accomplish the task.
Update: 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.
Update: 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.
With the help of Eibach, we were able to get the correct coilover springs for our project.
Update: 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.
Update: 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.
Update: 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.
Since our plan is to build a car that can consistently run the 1/4-mile somewhere in the realm of eight to nine seconds, we definitely needed to install a cage. There are many places that can build and install a custom rollcage, but we wanted to show our readers some of the focal points of what is involved when installing one.