A “for fun” drag racing story emerges from within Ontario last season….

The acquisition of an impressive CRC COPO Camaro most certainly did fuel the passion for Orillia-based, Jeff Gilbert.

For Gilbert, who uniquely owns and operates a very reputed music retail store (Gilbert Guitars), a new found venture into the world of drag racing has been a pretty fun ride so far.

During 2021 – Jeff spent most of his racing season participating within Ontario’s Canada Heads Up circuit – running a CRC COPO within the 1/8th mile 6.50 index class. That initial effort proved to be rewarding, ending with a strong second place finish in final season points (just behind champion Jay Lightheart).

“I’m pretty new to organized racing — that was my first full year running in the (CHU) series,” he affirmed. “I had done some test and tune events (only) with a 2010 Lingenfelter supercharged Camaro prior. But this year with my buddy Tim Power (who got me hooked on drag racing) we formed a 2-car team “4D Racing.”

Gilbert’s newer 2013 CRC COPO does have roots from within the multi-car and still prominent US-based “Gas Monkey Garage” Dallas TX-based operation. He did however purchase it from another interim owner – based from Edmonton.

“It was last fall when I saw this Gas Monkey COPO for sale on the internet,” Jeff revealed. “The Gas Monkey guys had auctioned the car off at Barrett Jackson and a gentleman from Edmonton bought it for his personal collection. But then, because it’s not street legal, it sat in his garage. In fact it was never raced until I bought it.”

Jeff also researched the car extensively. Although it was one of 20 CRC (Camaro Rolling Chassis) COPO’s purchased by Gas Monkey that year (!) – it did also have some “1 of 1” uniqueness.

Jeff Gilbert’s CRC COPO was a familiar runner within Ontario’s CHU Series this past season.

“This car (#13) was built at the COPO facility “Turn Key Automotive” in Michigan,” he elaborated. “Turns out that #13 left the COPO facility as a completed car (not just the normal rolling chassis) and it was the only one that left with all the Gas Monkey stickers all over it. Normally the COPO’s biggest engine available is the 427 CID — but Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins had Turn Key put a LSX 454 into car #13. From COPO Parts Direct there have been only a handful of cars ever with the 454 CID engine — it is not available as a listed option.”

But because of that — Jeff’s CRC COPO does in fact not fit into the NHRA rules for Factory Stock class car racing and thus also for legal Can-Am Stock/Super Stock series competition in Ontario.

“I talked with FJ Smith and he verified I would have to put a correct COPO sized motor in my car to be able to run with the Can-Am guys. While that kind of sucks – we will just have to race it elsewhere (for now).”

Jeff revealed that he has received a lot of input and help from Ernie “Mr. Eazy” Zambri, while getting the car set up and tuning it. While 2021 was focused on 6.50 class 1/8th racing, his season experience did also convince him that this Camaro (naturally aspirated) does have high 9-seconds 1/4 mile potential. He affirmed that there will be plans to move up to a faster class with a power adder at some point.

“I really did have a fun first year running it,” Jeff beamed. “I won a CHU race, came a 2nd in points – I went to the final round at “Smackdown” — and I always wanted to do a wheelie in a race car!”

Jeff Gilbert

“Everyone that I raced with in the CHU community was amazing,” he emphasized too. “Not just the competitors in my class — but all the classes. It was great hanging out with all the guys and gals there. We plan to be back in 2022 — hopefully we don’t get rained on as often!”
Jeff, who is married to his supportive and very understanding wife Michelle, started Gilbert Guitars 25 years ago.

You can link to his company FB page: HERE

Post and photos by Bruce Biegler