There are few cars more synonymous with the bygone golden age of American muscle cars than the Chevrolet COPO Camaro. These were originally dealer-built drag racing machines that featured the very best of what Chevrolet Performance had to offer, and the original COPO cars have remained the most sought-after versions of the classic pony car. While Chevrolet has revived this program in recent years to construct limited-run NHRA drag racers, the dealerships special ordering them like before is a thing of the past. Except the story of how a Michigan Chevrolet dealer requested that the COPO program produce a run of cars made for the road course.
The Rinke family is well known in Michigan for their large GM dealerships. While it is Ed Rinke’s name that bestows the dealerships, his son Rich is no stranger to automobiles. On the side, Rich Rinke runs COPO Parts Direct, which supplies parts for 5th and 6th generation Camaro owners looking to make a “COPO” dragster of their own. Back in 2017 the father-son duo planned to have the COPO team build either 100 or 200 Track Day Performance Camaros, made to dominate the road course, much like the factory-made Camaro SS 1LE. But as Motor Authority uncovered, that never happened.
Only two examples of this special Camaro were ever built. Logistical problems that involved getting all the necessary parts together at one time proved to be too much for the facility tasked with building the cars, and the project was scrapped. The two examples that were finished, dubbed the Track Day Performance Camaro, were sold through Ed Rinke Chevrolet in Center Line, Michigan.
Here’s why they’re special. The cars began the process as 2017 Camaro 1SS models at Ed Rinke Chevrolet, before being shipped to the COPO facility in Wixom, Michigan. While at COPO, a rather extensive list of parts were installed, including: a GM Performance exhaust system, a strut tower brace from the fifth-generation Camaro Z/28, Magnetic Ride Control dampers, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and a GM Performance Big Brake Kit with 6-piston calipers up front rotors and 4-piston calipers in rear covering Brembo rotors.
Other upgrades include painted ZL1 rocker panels, a rear blade spoiler with a wicker bill, 20-inch 1LE wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar rubber, smoked tail lights and a set of vinyl decals. The stock 6.2-liter LT1 V8 that produced 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque was retained in both cars, and both were fitted with a six-speed manual transmission.
Despite these orphaned track machines being constructed by the COPO team in Wixom, they did not receive a proper COPO denomination. In an interview with Motor Authority, Chevrolet spokesman Kevin Kelly stated that “this wasn’t a GM program, it wasn’t sanctioned, or a vehicle by Chevrolet. It was by (Rich) Rinke.”
There might be more inside baseball to the story than what MA was able to uncover, so we may never get to paint the entire picture. Nevertheless, the GM COPO shop built two very special Camaros – just like the glory days. And in a landscape where other dealerships are opening up in-house performance shops of their own, that makes these two muscle cars incredibly unique.
We believe that these two prototype Camaros will one day be sought after, as they mark a failed COPO experiment with a road course focus. Not only are these track day Camaros rare in that regard, but they are also the only modern COPO-built Camaros that are known to be legitimately street legal, whether they’re official COPO cars or not. Good luck trying to get your hands on one.