The COPO Connection

A special-order paint scheme creates a one-of-a-kind L-79 roadster—but is it a true COPO?

September 21, 2017
The COPO Connection 1
The COPO Connection 2
The COPO Connection 3
The COPO Connection 4
The COPO Connection 5
The COPO Connection 6
The COPO Connection 7

When you hear the term “COPO,” you typically think of ’69 Camaros equipped with Corvette-derived 427 engines, but there were COPO Corvettes, too. The acronym stands for “Central Office Production Order,” and it was used by Chevrolet dealers to obtain all kinds of vehicle combinations that weren’t listed on the standard order sheet. Mostly, that meant special, non-production equipment for fleet trucks or police cars, which required approval from Chevy’s manufacturing or engineering departments.

In 1967, there were a small number of COPO Corvettes built. You’ll get a different figure depending on whom you ask, with some insisting that only 10 COPO Corvettes were built, while others suggest that the total is closer to 25, or possibly more. Indeed, during our non-scientific search for known COPO cars, we came up with at least 24 claimed COPOs. They include a 427 roadster ordered by legendary GM stylist Bill Mitchell, who personally oversaw the car’s assembly (it was a gift for his wife); a customized coupe for Bob Wingate, who had been the country’s best-selling Corvette salesman for five years in a row (see our September 2006 issue); an Elkhart Blue coupe with a blue leather interior (black and teal were the only standard interior colors available with that paint shade); a 427/390 roadster painted Elkhart Blue with a Goodwood Green stinger and green interior; and five cars special-ordered by Chevrolet painted Silver Pearl with red interiors (like Elkhart Blue, Silver Pearl was only officially available with a black or teal gut).

There were also 13 Corvettes reportedly ordered as Shriner “patrol” (that is, parade) vehicles in Nebraska. So far, that unofficial COPO search rings up 22 ’67 Corvettes. The small-block roadster you see on these pages—Silver Pearl with a non-standard blue-and-white interior—makes 23, and its owner, Joe Verrillo, says he knows of another with an identical paint scheme in Iowa, but it’s a 427/435 car. That’s 24, by our count. At least, that’s 24 vehicles claimed to be COPOs.

But are they all true COPO vehicles? An order for non-standard equipment or paint didn’t need an official COPO request, which required the sign-off of Chevrolet’s engineering department. As long as the special order involved colors, trim or equipment already available on other models, it was possible to simply have the regional zone manager approve the request and the order sent on to the plant for production. It didn’t necessarily require the approval of the central office in Detroit.

Of course, verifying the provenance of these vehicles requires other forms of identification. A true COPO vehicle generated paperwork and a unique order number. Those ’69 Camaros, for example, had special order numbers: 9561 for the iron-block 427 models, and 9560 for those equipped with the all-aluminum ZL1 engine.

In the case of a special paint order, a unique code was documented on the trim tag. Verrillo’s roadster shows “001” in place of the standard paint code “986” for Silver Pearl, which is the telltale of a special-order paint job. Of course, without the regular paint code stamped on the tag, verifying the original color can be very difficult on a car that has seen a re-spray or two over the years—hardly an uncommon occurrence on Corvettes of this vintage.

“I was looking for a small-block 1967 roadster and stumbled across this interesting car,” Verrillo says. “I thought the color combination was very elegant, and it drew me…immediately. When I saw the ‘001’ paint code, which didn’t correspond with any of the standard codes [for that model year], I knew it was something special.”

Also from Issue 117

  • Grand Sport Z07 Test Drive
  • $10K Buyer's Guide
  • Restored '57 Fuelie
  • Supercharged C6 Grand Sport
  • Small-Block '68 Driver
  • History: Corvette vs. Thunderbird
  • Racing: Antonio Garcia
Buy Corvette magazine 117 cover
Like us on:   Facebook