Plus, in the late 60s, Chevy didn’t use engines over 400ci in midsize cars this meant COPOs were far and away the fastest Chevelles and Camaros on the road. From day one they were, and still are, offensively expensive.
Ford’s Special Vehicles Team (SVT) went to work on the 5.8-liter small block V-8 and managed to squeeze 240 horsepower out of it. A lowered suspension, new shocks, anti-roll bars and 17-inch tires put that power to the road and made the Lighting a great handling truck in addition to being a speed demon. The Lightning cranked up to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and blazed through the quarter mile in 15.6 seconds. The biggest complaint about the Lightning was that it gulped down gasoline.
Like the old COPOs of the 60s, the 2011-14 models adhered to strict NHRA guidelines. That meant super-small production numbers and a price payable only by professional race teams. It also meant the car’s engine could only make 530 horsepower. But much like the Japanese engine restrictions of the 1990s, that figure seems to have been framed in air quotes. In 2016 a (not extensively) modified 2014 COPO Camaro ran an 8.323-second quarter mile at 165.80 miles per hour. Doing the math, that car was making closer to 1200 horsepower. 1200.
The Baja had a paint scheme that matched Stroppe’s racing trucks and was fitted with Gates Commando tires, quick ratio power steering, a roll bar, as well as a padded steering wheel. A 302-cid V-8 was dropped in with a C4 automatic transmission transferring the power to wheels.
The Nite was a good-looking truck that sold well enough to convince Ford that there was indeed a market for performance pickups, leading to the Lightning, a true performance pickup.
The beauty of a crate engine is that it can go into any vehicle you want. The engine gave out in your truck? Maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Want to make a V8 Pinto? Go right ahead.
If any car was worthy of carrying the original ZR1’s torch, it was that one. The numbers are huge: 638 horsepower and 604 lb-ft, with 90% of peak torque available from 2600 to 6000 rpm. Translation: lots of power on tap, whenever you want it.
That didn’t stop this shop from stuffing the lower-compression street version into a 2012 GMC Sierra single cab truck, a vehicle which, as you may know, has almost no weight over the rear wheels. That must be a hoot to drive.