©2007 Publications International, Ltd. This is how a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle COPO 427 appeared as delivered from the factory. Unlike versions dressed up in Yenko livery, the look was low key, especially considering it was about as quick as a muscle car got. See more muscle car pictures.
At the opposite end of the COPO spectrum from the striped and badged Chevelles marketed by Don Yenko were those delivered just as Chevy built them. This muscle car -- the 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle COPO 427 -- spoke softly but carried a very big stick.
All COPO Chevelles were cut from the same basic cloth. Their reason for being was GM's ban on engines over 400 cid in midsize cars. Hot-bloods within Chevy itched to circumvent the rule. And with a handful of muscle-hungry dealers egging them on, Vince Piggins, Chevy's performance-products manager, found a way. He used the Central Office Production Order system, which normally filled special-equipment fleet orders, to factory-equip a run of Chevelles with L72 427-cid V-8s.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. There were no exterior performance badges on standard a COPO Chevelle, and nothing on the engine identified it as the formidable 427-cid L72 V-8.
As in the COPO Camaro, the solid-lifter iron-block-and-head L72 used an aluminum manifold and an 800-cfm Holley four-barrel. Chevy rated it at 425 hp, but in calculating the car's stock drag class, the NHRA claimed a truer 450 hp. Chevelle's strongest regular four-speed or the Rock Crusher manual were offered, as was a fortified Turbo Hydra-matic. The strengthened 12-bolt Positraction axle had 4.10:1 cogs and the suspension was heavy-duty. Front discs -- standard on Super Sport Chevelles -- were a mandatory $64 option on COPO cars.
In fact, none of the 323 COPO Chevelles built were Super Sports. Instead, they were base coupes with a COPO option package that cost about $860, including $533 for the L72. Yenko put his trademark dress-ups on the 99 he ordered. But the balance that went to other dealers for individual sale looked deceptively docile.
From the SS they borrowed a black grille and tail panel, hood bulges, side stripes, and chrome exhaust tips. However, there was no performance ID on the body. The emblem-free L72 could pass for an aluminum-manifold 396. And the cabin was plain Malibu, though a few SS steering wheels were fitted. Even the standard rally wheels were similar to those on the base Malibu though they were in reality 15-inch units.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The '69 Chevelle COPOs had regular Malibu bucket-seat interiors, though some got Super Sport steering wheels. This LeMans blue example is among the estimated 96 equipped with automatic transmission.
The cid-ceiling would be lifted for '70, so COPO Chevelles were built for 1969 only. But these were among the most feared muscle cars of any day. And they didn't need any badges.
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For more cool information on muscle cars, see:
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- The 1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO lit the fuse on the muscle car boom by giving the small-car, big-engine ethic a cool identity.
- Renamed in honor of its new engine, the 1967 Buick GS 400 was a well-kept muscle car secret.
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- The engine is what gives a muscle car its flamboyant personality. To learn everything you need to know about car engines, see How Car Engines Work.
- Muscle cars wouldn't have much muscle without horsepower -- but what exactly is horsepower? How Horsepower Works answers that question.
- NASCAR race cars embody the muscle car philosophy of power. Read How NASCAR Race Cars Work to find out what makes these charged-up racers go.
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