Chris Fiester says he has loved Camaros all his life.
He recently took that love to a whole new level by investing in a $93,350 rare Camaro.
The journey to buying the 2013 Chevrolet COPO Camaro began in 2011 while Fiester, who lives at Gillette, Wyo. and is a member of the Black Hills Camaro Club, attended the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show at Las Vegas.
"Chevorlet debuted the COPO to see if the public would have any interest in GM building one," he said.
Chevrolet announced later that more than 2,000 people expressed interest in such a vehicle at that time even though the starting price for the COPO Camaro is $86,000 and cannot be used on public roads. It's a specialty drag-racing car.
"All I could think was 'I will probably never get draw,'" he said.
Fiester received an email from Chevrolet in late April of this year telling him that they had narrowed the list of COPO hopefuls to 300 and he was among them. Chevrolet wanted to know if he was still interested.
"I replied back that 'yes' I was still interested," he said.
COPO stands for Central Office Production Order and was originally used by dealers in the 1960s to build Camaro models not otherwise available.
Days passed and Fiester, who works for Interstate Power Systems in Gillette, was awaiting the arrival of someone from the company's corporate headquarters in Detroit. So, when he a number came up on his cell phone with a 313 area code (Detroit) he answered "Hey Scott," thinking it was a colleague.
"It was a guy from GM performance congratulating me on being chosen as one of the customers to buy the COPO. It took me about five minutes after I hung up to realize it wasn't a prank and it was real," he said.
Fiester had only 24 hours to decide if he would indeed buy the COPO. If he did, he only had 10 days in which to find the financing.
"I couldn't afford the car by myself," he said. He turned to friends, Randy and Rebecca Blakeman of Pine Haven, Wyo., and offered them the opportunity to invest in the Camaro.
"After I committed and told them how I wanted it built, I had 10 days to gather the cash and pick a dealership to purchase from," he said.
Fiester turned to Queen City Motors of Spearfish.
Only 69 of the 2013 COPO Camaros were built. GM said the 69-car production was selected to commemorate the original number of ZL-1 COPO Camaros made in 1969.
“The COPO Camaro program is growing into its second year to support our customers, who have continually expressed their interest for these specialized race cars,” Jim Campbell, General Motors U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, said in a news release. “The 2013 production run builds on the success of our inaugural year with new powertrain choices and enhancements that will make the cars even more competitive.”
Although the base price is $86,000, there are endless add-ons. The car built for Fiester and the Blakemans cost $93,500. GM representatives then worked with them to pick the powertrain, exterior color and graphics and other options.
The new owners could choose from five exterior colors offered for 2013 -- Black, Summit white, Victory red, Silver Ice Metallic and Ashen Gray Metallic. Fiester chose white with black pinstriping.
All COPO Camaros are assembled by hand starting with hardware from the Oshawa, Mich., assembly plant that manufactures regular-production Camaros. Each is fitted with an NHRA-approved roll cage and other safety equipment, along with racing chassis and suspension components – including a solid rear axle system in place of a regular-production Camaro’s independent rear axle. Production equipment also includes lightweight Bogart racing wheels and Hoosier racing tires.
"You could buy the other two engines for $42,000 and magnum transmission for $11,000," Fiester said.
Fiester and his dad made the 1,500-mile trip to pick up the COPO Camaro and arrived on May 24 at Oxford, Mich.
"You have to go there to take ownership," he said. "They give you the rundown on it and then you load it up."
Fiester hasn't run the car on a race track yet. It's debut will be Saturday at the Sturgis Dragway during the annual Sturgis Camaro Rally.
"We have no idea yet what it will do," he said. "They don't give you the horsepower."
Fiester said his dad has always owned Camaros and believes seeing those vehicles in the driveway just grew on him.
"Since I was a kid, Camaros have been in my blood," he said.
In addition to the COPO, Fiester owns four other Camaros, a 1968, a 1987, a 1998 and a 2001. He plans to bring the '87, '01 and COPO to the Sturgis Camaro Rally this week. The COPO will be on display Thursday night and Friday morning in the parking lot at The Knuckle Saloon.
Depending on how the COPO performs Saturday at Sturgis Dragway, Fiester is considering taking it to Pierre, Douglas, Wyo., Denver and possibly Indianapolis.
"From there, we don't know," he said. "We want to have fun with it, enjoy it and see what happens."