- Extremely rare and legendary race-bred performer
- Factory M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed car with 4.10:1 Positraction
- Very well equipped with options including chambered exhaust
- Rare Fathom Green over green; legendary L72 427 show-winning restoration completed during 2004
- Verified COPO vehicle by Ed Cunneen of the COPO Connection
|1969 Chevrolet Chevelle COPO 427
|Original List Price:
|Median to date, $150,000; high sale, $357,000
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Driver’s side dashboard, driver’s side door tag
|Engine Number Location:
|On engine block in front of passenger’s side cylinder head
|1969 Ford Mustang 428 SCJ, 1969 Dodge Super Bee 440 Six Pack, 1969 Plymouth Hemi Road Runner
Prior to 1970, stuffing anything larger than a 396-ci big block in a Chevrolet A-body involved a post-sale engine swap. Or, if you were in the know, you could use a Central Office Production Order — or COPO — as a way of skirting around GM’s self-imposed cubic-inch displacement limitation on mid-size cars.
Clever use of COPO manifests, which were typically used to build taxis or fleet trucks, could create the desired big-bore engine order. COPO number 9562 delivered a 427-ci Chevelle rated at 425 hp to your selling dealer right from the factory — no engine hoist needed. But in 1969, not many inside the GM system were aware of that trick.
Vince Piggins, Chevrolet Engineering Promo Chief, helped get the COPO Chevelle in production to compete in NHRA SS/D drag racing. Don Yenko ordered 99 cars, and as other dealers got wind of it, they placed orders, too, pushing the total to approximately 358 cars.
A super deal
At $3,800 and change, the COPO Chevelle was the supercar bargain of 1969. These cars were offered in 13 variations, with specific numbers indicating special equipment. The majority of these involved manual or automatic transmissions, bench or bucket seats, special coil springs and power disc brakes.
Several things were the same for all COPOs: They all came with L72 427s sporting big-port iron heads, a solid-lifter camshaft, forged pistons and crank with four-bolt mains, and an aluminum high-rise intake manifold with a Holley 800-cfm 4-barrel carb. All COPOs also had 12-bolt rear ends with 4.10 gears, heavy-duty radiators and chambered exhaust. These weren’t SS cars, so no special trim appeared other than an SS hood. A plain blacked-out grille with the Chevrolet logo was all you got. What you paid for was under the hood and floorboards.
The COPO cars were the hottest hardware Chevrolet had available at the time. In fact, a properly set COPO Chevelle can take a later 454 LS6 in the quarter mile. The L72’s high-rise intake and open-element air cleaner let it breathe, compared to the LS6’s snorkel air cleaner and cramped low-rise intake. The only real threats to COPOs were 428 SCJ Fords, 440 Six Pack Mopars, and Hemis.
Rare then and now
The COPO Chevelle market is neatly divided into two categories: Yenko SCs and everything else. The high-profile, in-your-face attitude of a Yenko and its double COPO spec (including the COPO 9566 “Sport Car Conversion” that included special suspension) raises the price accordingly. Yenko only made 99 of his cars using the COPO system, and about 22 have been accounted for.
COPO cars weren’t promoted in brochures, so the paper trail is scant, hidden in grease-laden shop manuals. Very little was known about the COPO Chevelles until the late 1980s, when survivor cars were discovered and written about. The numbers discussed then were very low, and as it turned out, inaccurate.
Once non-Yenko L72 Chevelles started making the rounds and experts like Ed Cunneen shared the knowledge, the car made progress through the auction circuit.
Pinning value on the COPO
Yenko supercars with their stripes and special headrests sell for around $250,000 today, while high-end examples have been known to clear $275,000. In contrast, regular COPO Chevelles are slightly more affordable and represent an excellent opportunity to get a 427-powered car without the Yenko price.
Regular COPO Chevelles have been selling anywhere from $135,000 for a nice frame-off restored automatic car to $150,000 for a numbers-matching M22 4-speed car with power brakes and bucket seats. Something odd like a numbers-matching black M22 4-speed bench-seat restored car, like the one that sold at Mecum Indy 2009 (Lot S124) for $310,000, represents the ideal, high-end COPO realm.
That brings us to our subject car. This Fathom Green car is well equipped with the sport stripes, raised-letter 14-inch tires, 4-speed transmission with the hallowed “Rock Crusher” gear cluster, and a bunch of nice extras such as courtesy interior and hood lamps, console, gauges, radio, wheelwell trim and power disc brakes. It has solid documentation in the form of Ed Cunneen verification and ownership, COPO Connection verification, a partial build sheet and several awards from its time on the show circuit. But it doesn’t have its original engine or any verified race history with a big-name driver.
However, it’s important to note that 4-speed cars tended to live a hard life, so finding one with its original driveline intact is a challenge. Although a non-original engine keeps the price down, it also liberates the owner to use the car and enjoy it as intended.
Priced in the low end of COPO Chevelle sales, this buyer got a car with solid restoration needing minor refreshing underneath. Some new tires and a complete check-up of the engine should sort out this car for additional shows or weekend drag events.
The gap between Yenko and COPO Chevelle prices is unlikely to narrow anytime soon, but the demand for factory supercars like this is solid. As a numbers-matching car, this would have been a major score. As it stands, I’ll call it a good bargain.
(Introductory description courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.)