Last summer, while attending the All Chevy Show in nearby Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island, I saw a 1968 COPO Chevrolet Nova on display. These were very special cars that were built especially for drag racing, either on a track or frequently on the street. These special built “COPO” cars came about because at that time, General Motors had forbidden Chevrolet from building non-Corvette or non-full size Chevrolet cars with engines larger than 400-cubic-inch engines. Now you know why during the mid-late 1960s, that the Chevrolet Chevelle’s, Camaro’s and Nova’s biggest engine was the 396 cubic inch V8 engine. However, some specially built Chevy products made it out of the factory using a Central Office Production Order or COPO process at General Motors with engines larger than 400 cubic inches.
A 1968 COPO Chevy Nova
Not every Chevrolet dealer was involved in the COPO process. The four most prominent dealers who specialized in COPO cars were as follows:
Yenko Chevrolet, (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania)
- Fred Gibb Chevrolet (LaHarpe, Illinois)
- Hickey (Chicago, Illinois)
- Baldwin Chevrolet (Long Island, New York)
The 1968 COPO Chevrolet Nova shown in this post was sold by Baldwin Chevrolet on Long Island, New York.
Some Of The COPO Chevrolet Novas Were Very Plain Looking Cars
The COPO Chevrolet Novas were very visually basic cars. It was all about the engine. The engine was either a Phase II or Phase III 427 cubic inch V8 engine. The Phase II 427 cubic inch V8 engine produced 425 horsepower, while the Phase III version, with three two-barrel carburetors, produced over 500 horsepower. The V8 engine in the 1968 Chevrolet Nova shown below appears to have a four-barrel carburetor, which suggests that this is a Phase II car.
The “Motion” On The Valve Covers Refers to Baldwin Motion, The Performance Arm Of Baldwin Chevrolet
The Phase III cars were guaranteed by Baldwin to be able to do a quarter-mile in 11.50 seconds or less with a speed of 120 miles per hour. Refunds were available if this performance could not be achieved on a track with a qualified driver. Apparently, no refunds were ever required.
Note The “Dog Dish” Wheel Covers And The Red Line Tires
While the 1968 COPO Nova shown below is a rather plain car, Baldwin could also provide the Phase II or Phase III engines in the more highly trimmed SS396 models.
Today, The COPO Cars Are Highly Sought After
As you would expect, the COPO cars were not inexpensive cars. In 1968, a Chevrolet Nova SS396 sold for about $2,900. A Baldwin Phase II COPO Chevrolet Nova sold for about $3,700, while the ultimate performance Phase III COPO Chevrolet Nova sold for about $4,900 at Baldwin. Of course, it would seem that one could have recovered much of the Phase III cost from street racing income.
The Interior Is Consistent With The Plain Exterior
The COPO Chevrolet Novas came with four-speed transmissions and limited-slip rear differentials, as the hot drag racing set-up of that era.
The COPO program began at Baldwin in 1967 and extended through 1974, when Baldwin-Motion offered Phase II (425-hp) and Phase III (500-hp plus) big-block Camaros, Novas, Chevelles, Corvettes and Chevrolet Biscayne Street Racer Specials. These cars were sold at Baldwin Chevrolet or Motion Performance, converted by Motion and financed and delivered by Baldwin. The original Baldwin Chevrolet ended with the end of the muscle car era, but their COPO cars left quite a legacy.