The universe has a weird way of ending things on a poetic note. Richard Petty won his last NASCAR race, Ted Williams homered in his last at bat, and a pair of passionate hot rodders who run the most well-known school for young automotive machinist hopefuls handbuilt the last customer-assembled COPO LS7 engine at the COPO build center in Wixom, Michigan. Linda and Judson Massingill operate SAM, or what's better known as the School of Automotive Machinists (SAMRacing.com) in Houston, Texas. The school owns and races one COPO Camaro already, and when the opportunity came up to add another to their fleet for Linda to race in NHRA stock eliminator competition, they jumped at it. They also took the opportunity to enjoy a businessman's holiday and traveled to Michigan to assemble the actual LS7 427ci naturally aspirated engine that will power their car. What do engine builders do for fun? They build engines, of course!
When Ford launched the factory drag car Cobra Jet program in 2008 and Chrysler soon followed suit, everyone wondered when GM would jump in. The answer was 2012, and since then, COPO factory drag package Camaros have been locking horns with their late-model and classic competition primarily in stock and super stock competition along with specialty factory drag car shootouts. These cars land in the hands of racers. Racers like the crew from the School of Automotive Machinists.
When we asked Judson of SAM why they wanted to add a second COPO Camaro to their drag racing fleet his answer was stone simple: "Firstly, we had the opportunity to acquire a second car," Judson said. "But more importantly than that, we have seen what the drag racing landscape is looking like and how it is changing. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are putting lots of resources into factory style sportsman racing and that's where we want to be." Dr. Jamie Meyer of Chevrolet Performance echoed his sentiments: "Since the COPO program came online in 2012, we've seen the excitement and interest in these cars grow and grow." He continued, "We're excited to have the program continue in 2014 and get more COPO Camaros into the hands of capable sportsman teams like SAM."
The new addition to the fleet is one of the 40 percent of COPO Camaros sold with a stick shift in 2013. Meyer said that even Chevrolet Performance was surprised by that stat: "It is a significant cost to have the car equipped with the stick and it comes 100 percent race ready, not just in the car. We expected the take rate on the stick shift to be a smaller number, but we love to supply the racers with exactly what they need."
Judson tells PHR that this will be Linda's car and she will be the driver. "Years ago when this all got started I had a stick shift Camaro that she raced and was great with, so we expect her to have a lot of fun in this car." Anyone who knows this family's taste in power knows that they roll naturally aspirated and always have. This car will be no different as the power will be derived from an unboosted, unsprayed, unaided-by-anything-but-their-own-brainpower LS7 427ci engine. "We're naturally aspirated people," Judson said with a laugh. "The LS7 is an awesome engine, and we've gotten a lot of great information out of the car that we have been running which we'll apply to this car." It seems most agree, as 75 percent of COPO Camaros sold are equipped with the LS7 engine.
Lest anyone question Linda's skills behind the wheel or her ability, she's a true racer. Having gone 200 mph at the Texas Mile, made countless dragstrip laps, and been a hands-on part of the operation of the School of Automotive Machinists since it opened, Linda has the chops to get in this car and really make the LS7 sing. That is, of course, after it gets some of the touches to its engine that the first COPO on the SAM team has gotten.