When most car enthusiasts hear the term COPO, the only thing they usually think about are the 427-powered cars built by the likes of Dick Harrell, Baldwin, and Don Yenko. While those custom-built cars are true COPO cars, there is more to it than just that. For instance, did you know that not all “COPO” cars received the big 427ci engine? To fully understand this, we need to define what COPO, or Central Office Production Order actually means.
Back in the day, when a Chevrolet dealer wanted to order a car—be it for a customer of their personal use, that didn’t necessarily fit the Regular Production Order (RPO) form, they could order that car with a specific COPO option. To do this, the dealer would contact the Central Office in Michigan to request a deviation from a regular production option that was available. If a new car buyer wanted a special color paint, the dealer could make that request for the buyer (with an upcharge of course). One caveat was that the option(s) requested had to be available in other current production models. Once the order was placed, Chevrolet management then had to approve the change or vehicle part combinations, and set the price accordingly. Because of the fact that so many options were available, it is wise to designate the COPO by its appropriate code number and description.
For example, a Chevelle that was ordered through the regular dealer process with the Regular Production Option (RPO) L78 came with a 375hp 396ci engine. But if the dealer ordered the same Chevelle with option COPO 9562, the car was then equipped with a 425hp 427ci engine. These high-performance options needed a special order process and approval before they could be built. What many people don’t remember is that there were COPO-option code numbers for a lot of different equipment used for special vehicle builds. In the grand scheme of things, most COPO options were not actually designated for high performance vehicles. In reality, most COPO cars were actually fleet orders for use as rental cars, taxis, and by police departments.
Let’s say that a local police department is ordering a fleet of new cars, we all know that police cars were/are optioned with different equipment than the standard model. The changes the police or city would make—be it electrical, lighting, or suspension, required a COPO code.
Way back in 1969, if you wanted to build a Camaro or Chevelle that could corner like a sports car. You would work with your dealer to order COPO 9737. This would get your car the “Sport’s Car Conversion”, which included a 13/16-inch front sway bar, 15×7-inch Rally wheels with E70x15 tires, and a 140 mph speedometer.
So as you can see, the COPO designation has many uses, but one thing is for sure. Any car with a COPO number has a special meaning.