1968 COPO Chevrolet Nova

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.

Chevy Nova  COPO 427 Baldwin Motion 1968 (7)

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.

Chevy Nova COPO 427 Baldwin Motion  1968 (6)

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.

Chevy Nova COPO 427 Baldwin Motion 1968 (1)

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.

Chevy Nova COPO 427 Baldwin Motion 1968 (3)

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.

Chevy Nova COPO 427 Baldwin Motion 1968 (4)

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.

Chevy Nova COPO 427 Baldwin Motion 1968 (5)

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.

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15 Responses to 1968 COPO Chevrolet Nova

  1. Jake says:

    What a cool car!!! I have a 68′ L78 Nova SS. These cars are very very rare, and one of the coolest muscle cars Chevrolet built!

  2. rc says:

    this is a great car owned by a great guy who happens to be my neighbor….. lucky me i get to see it all the time…..

  3. Bill says:

    In March ’69 I purchased from the local GM dealer a ’69 2 door bare assed Nova with 307 & 3 speed auto for $3600.00 Cdn. If I had only known at the time that I could have had one of these for similar price……………….’nuff said

  4. martin cloud says:

    I have 69 ss 396 nova it has the m22 with a 12 in clutch 12 bolt posi, the windshield has a sticker that says NOS exempt. no build sheet could this be a copo car. it was sold new in Nampa Idaho

  5. d lawson says:

    looking for info 1968 nova 11 vin # 114278w237184

    cowl tag 11a e
    st 68-11427 wrn 12518
    tr 733 paint HH
    sold new whitter chev whitter ca 11/68 to herman biggs raced so ca strips
    was this an orginal copo maybe a courtsy chev m-21 4 s

  6. Chris says:

    No COPOs went through Motion Performance from Baldwin Chevrolet, the mixed facts in this story are almost too numerous to correct. Most BM cars were started life as 396 cars then had 427s transplanted at Motion, no COPOs were used, as Yenko did en mass.

    • I got my facts from the owner of the car as evidenced from the display board shown with the car. Please be specific where you disagree with the owner and offer any references you have to back it up. Thanks for any clarifications.
      Steve McKelvie

      • chris says:

        The errors are so numerous the entire story should be deleted. The COPO program was NOT started in Baldwin.
        There were no Phase II versions built at Motion. What the man has is a Nova, that is true. It also has some nice bolt on items that were similar to pieces used at Motion. That’s all. Unless he has some documents this car is someone’s nice creation.
        (Anyboby can make a display board story)

      • Hi Chris,
        Where did I day that the COPO program came from Baldwin? Take another look at what I wrote!

        I suggest that you read Martyn Schorr’s book “Motion Performance:Tales Of A Muscle Car Builder”. The Motion cars were hand built based on customer orders, so many modifications could have been made while the cars were being built depending on the actual order.. Are you saying that this car is not a 1968 Chevy II Baldwin Motion car? In Schhorr’s book you will find a picture of the Baldwin shop in 1968 where they list the “Fantasy Five”; one of which is the 427 Chevey II. Or are your saying that this must be a Phase III car instead of a Phase II car? If so, how do you explain the single four-barrel carb? Also check out a forum on http://www.detroithorsepower.com where as far back as 2004, they mention a Baldwin Nova in Rhode Island. What is your basis for you saying there are numerous errors?
        I agree that anybody can make a display board.
        Steve McKelvie

      • Capt. C. E. Stone says:

        Steve, Motion did not use COPOs to make their cars,  most were SS 396 cars.There was no Phase I or Phase II cars, only phase III. I am not saying this car is anything but a Nova. Claiming to be a COPO and a BM car just throws suspicion that it is anything but someone’s own creative dream car.As for Martys book, you’ll find my name on the first page in acknowledgements.

        Sent via the Samsung GALAXY S®4, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

      • Capt. C. E. Stone says:

        Sorry if I took this out of context “The copo program began in Baldwin”Either way Baldwin was not a prominent COPO dealer, only a handful of known COPOs came through there and none of them passed through Motion Performance. Yenko on the other hand used almost entirely COPOs after the 67 68 conversions that they did themselves.  I am sure you are just reporting what one car owner told you about his ride. I’m sorry if I was harsh but the made up cars purporting to be something else is bad for the hobby and market. sung GALAXY S®4, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

      • Thanks to you all of you. I have become convinced I what I was looking at was not what I thought and understood it to be. I am tempted to delete it but I might lose your comments. I think that I should re-write it or delete much of it so as to retained your comments.
        I truly appreciate your input.
        Steve McKelvie

      • chris says:

        Steve I’m sure if this car is local to you the owner would be interested in the facts. If he has documents to dispute this, that would be even better as rare one off cars are always exciting to find. He may have bought it this way and was sold a can of fish and lost his shirt. That’s all I would like to prevent, the next guy buying this thinking it’s something other than what it really is, a story board and a Nova.

  7. Mike says:

    Theres no such thing as a Phase II Motion Car. We just discussed this on a Chevelle facebook page and Martyn Schorr Co founder and co creator of the Baldwin Motion and Motion brand very blatantly said “There were NEVER ANY PHASE I OR PHASE II cars from Baldwin Motion or Motion. This is completely false.
    Furthermore Baldwin Motion used very few Copo’s if any at all. They were not a Copo dealer. Most of the Motion cars were 396 cars or small blocks that they converted to big block and carried a GMAC warranty. Reason Baldwin Motion didn’t use Copos was they were expensive. The cost of a Phase III car built off a COPO 427 would have been astronomical.
    Just because a big block Motion car had a single 4barrel doesn’t qualify it as a Phase I or Phase II(there never were any such thing). Joel like and used the single Holley 3 barrel carb quite a bit. I can think of 4 Motion Phase III cars that have a single carb on them.
    Also Baldwin Motion/ Motion Performance was a diehard “SuperTuner” putting them in a catagory with Yenko isn’t quite fair. While Yenkos deserve respect for what they are they weren’t quite as nasty as a Baldwin Motion/Motion Perf.car. All Motion cars were built,tuned,accessorized,Painted by Motion or contracted out to some shop that Joel Rosen chose. Unfortunately Yenkos were more of a “COPO with a stripe kit and Atlas Mag wheels”.
    Motion cars came with an 11.5 second guarantee or your money back. Joel never had to pay out a dime.
    There’s alot of Motion info out there. I prefer to go straight to the source. You could call Joel at his business Motion Models or contact Martyn Schorr on facebook. Both are very nice stand up guys and will clear up any misconceptions one may have about the Baldwin Motion/ Motion Performance brand.
    The Nova in the pic is very nice. Although the valve cover emblem is a cheap EBAY knock off pair. The valve cover emblem does not refer to “Baldwin Motion” as much as it does Motion Performance which existed before and after Baldwin teamed with Motion and closed its doors. Its a very nicely written article just has some misconceptions the 2 biggest are the”Phase I and Phase II”suggested packages and the fact that NO COPO Ever went through MOTION from Baldwin Chev.

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