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Camaro Connoisseur: Scott Libersher’s COPO Collection

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By Ainsley Jacobs

Photography by Kevin DiOssi and the FSC Staff

Scott Libersher is the kind of guy that knows what he likes and isn’t afraid to show it. Case in point, his collection of cool COPO Camaros currently numbers seven, yes, seven—one for each day of the week—and all of them see regular use on the track.

Hailing from Joliet, Illinois, Libersher first caught the bug for performance thanks to his father, Len Libersher.

“My dad had a used car lot back in the ‘60s, and since age 5, I went to work with him,” remembered Libersher fondly of his childhood spent growing up around a wide variety of vehicles.

When he was 15, Libersher’s father helped him to purchase his first ’74 Chevy Camaro, a beautiful red specimen that he wasn’t even old enough to drive at the time.

“Once I got my license, I started making it faster,” laughed Libersher, whose teenage years parallel so many others’ who wind up involved in racing. As such, Libersher did find himself at the track not long after. He would head to US 30 Drag Strip in Merrillville, Indiana, on the weekends to run the street racing classes.

“We would save our money to try roller rockers and other parts and whatnot. Problem was, I wasn’t making much money and I needed 16 roller rockers, but I could only buy one or two with each paycheck and it took a while to get a whole set!”

Many years later, Libersher found himself working in his family’s fourth-generation real estate investment and rental housing business and was able to purchase a lot more than just a complete set of roller rockers.

His original ’74 Camaro had sparked a love affair with the Camaro, and in August of 2013, while attending Hot August Nights, the largest nostalgic car show in the world, in Nevada, Libersher purchased his first COPO.

“Richard Rawlings had a COPO he had built on his show, and I asked my wife if I could start drag racing again,” joked the lighthearted Libersher, whose wife, Kim, didn’t realize how serious he was. He wound up buying the silver, 427ci 2013 COPO from the Gas Monkey Garage owner and star of Discovery Channel’s “Fast N’ Loud,” then got to work slowly transforming it.

Over the years, though, Libersher amassed a group of Camaros that would make any collector jealous. He added six more COPOs to his fleet, including a black, 350ci naturally aspirated 2014 model, a 2015 Collector’s Package model, two supercharged two 2015 COPOs (one of which has the Collector’s package), and two black and silver 2018 units, one naturally aspirated and one supercharged. Three of his fleet are pictures here, including two of his supercharged Factory Super Car rides.

Libersher isn’t one to hog all the fun and eagerly shared the love with his own loved ones. His son, Lenny Libersher, 25, races the anniversary edition, while his son-in-law, Danny Condon, 29, takes point driving the black 2014 model. Interestingly, Libersher still owns his original ’74 Camaro, the one that started it all, and updated the car with a COPO-esque shifter and a two-step launch system for the young men to practice on.

“They race with me, but didn’t have any experience at first, so we made that their test mule and they each put about a hundred laps on it locally to get used to the tree and driving” said Libersher of how his family members are following in his footsteps.

In 2016, the NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars category debuted and attracted Libersher’s attention. As he had previously campaigned his supercharged Collector’s edition ’15 COPO in NHRA Factory Stock, it made perfect sense for him to come play in the NMCA world, too.

With a naturally aspirated 427 ci LS engine and Holley EFI system under the hood, Libersher enlisted the help of Rich Rinke and Mike Lawrence at Turn Key Automotive, LLC in Michigan to get the tuning and chassis up to par.

“Turn Key actually has the contract from Chevrolet to assemble the COPO Camaros, so we know we’re getting the best quality possible,” Libersher proudly noted. Turn Key’s sister company, COPO Parts Direct, also came on board to support Libersher’s program and keeps him hooked up with whatever parts and service he needs. “If I’m in a bind or something isn’t right, COPO Parts Direct will overnight parts to the track for me, and they’ll do the same for anyone who needs help.”

Interestingly, one of Libersher’s 2018 COPOs even wears a throwback tribute livery, representing Rinke’s uncle’s dealership, Ed Rinke Performance Parts, on its side and Libersher’s cars can often be found on display in the dealership’s showroom during the off season.

A few gearing changes and adjustments were made to the Coan transmission and Strange Engineering rear end to prepare for the season, and Libersher’s first-ever NMCA event was the 14th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem at Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park in March.

There, Libersher qualified eleventh with a 9.074 at 147.54 mph trip, but went out to Bruno Massel in the first round of Holley EFI Factory Super Cars eliminations. “With the weight limit for this combination, it really just wasn’t fast enough to be competitive,” explained Libersher, who was undeterred.

Libersher’s next outing was to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and he had switched his focus to one of his supercharged 2015 COPOs instead.

“We wanted to take it to the next step, but the that car had been getting some work done during Bradenton,” noted Libersher, who made a big move up to an 8.645 at 157.93 mph qualifying time to rank fifth, then got a round one win over Gardner Stone before Kevin Skinner returned the favor in the semi-finals.

He ran the rest of the season with his wife, Kim, by his side at every race, and the couple did their best to pick up where they could. Although he wasn’t able to score an overall event win, Libersher did finish seventh overall in championship points for the season.

“It was a learning curve for us that year. I wanted to go faster, but I was learning the tuning and the driving and the setup, and, well, I had to pay my dues,” he said casually. “Even though I was on an accelerated program, I knew I couldn’t start on top.” Libersher had pitted with the Ford Racing program, and, coupled with help from Watson Racing, had been able to make big strides in a relatively short amount of time.

A mutual friend then recommended that Libersher get a hold of Ray Barton Racing Engines, and he eagerly took the advice. During the off-season between 2016 and 2017, Libersher and Ray Barton’s son, David Barton, came up with an engine program for the supercharged cars and a goal of winning the 2017 NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars championship.

Although he was sharing driving duties with his son and son-in-law, Libersher and his family focused team often swapped cars as needed. Depending on what was in the shop, what needed work, and what best fit the rules for a specific class, the guys found that they would play “musical cars” as needed, stopping to land in the driver’s seat of whatever was available or best suited to the specific event weekend.

Libersher kicked things off in a big way at the 2017 season opener race behind the wheel of one of his supercharged ’15 COPOs.

“We had a fresh motor and David [Barton] was with us to tune it,” stated Libersher, who rocketed straight to the number-one spot in the class with an impressive 8.314 at 164.53mph pass. Unfortunately, a water pump malfunction resulted in a burned up head gasket and took him out of the race. “So, we had good results, but learned from our mistakes.”

With a new pump in place, Libersher was ready to continue when the 9th Annual NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals in Atlanta. Once again, he led the field during qualifying, this time with an 8.219 at 164.47mph blast. His performance earned him a bye run at the start of eliminations, and Libersher went on to defeat Kevin Skinner in the semi-finals and Gardner Stone in the finals to find himself in the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle for the first time.

“It was a great weekend, and it all came together,” he humbly added of his impressive achievement.

At the 16th Annual NMCA Quick Fuel Technology Bluegrass Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Libersher dropped down to second overall after the final qualifying order had been finalized, although his 8.308 at 164.23mph performance still had the potential to hurt some feelings.

“We had to add one hundred pounds of weight, and the car was running a little slow, but we had some great racing,” recalled Libersher, who wound up meeting the number-one qualifier, Chuck Watson, in the finals and was able to get around him for the hole shot win, going 8.317 at 164.81 mph over Watson’s 8.265 at 165.23 mph pass.

With two event victories under his belt, Libersher was getting the hang of Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, but decided to keep things interesting by switching to a new ride—an ’18 COPO.

“We had been scrambling to get the new car together. We got to David’s and we started on Monday morning with a bare block, and left Wednesday with the motor running,” Libersher admitted of the somewhat stressful situation.

Despite that, he was able to qualify well in Joliet, Illinois, for the 12th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing when he ran 8.342 at 162.70 mph and wound up queued in fourth. He wasn’t the quickest, but his quick reaction times on the tree allowed him to drive around his competitors (including Barton) at the starting line and Libersher once again found himself in the finals where he faced off against Chuck Watson. Seeming like déjà vu, it was a holeshot win once again for Libersher, whose 8.286 at 164.13mph pass turned on the win light in his lane even though Watson had produced a quicker 8.257 at 163.28mph effort.

“We had three good outings in a row, then everything broke in Norwalk,” laughed Libersher, who arrived with five cars in good working order and went home with four broken ones. “We lost three transmissions and a driveshaft, and we were scrambling. Joel from Joel’s On Joy picked up a transmission one afternoon and another racer brought it back to get it going; Coan helped me out with another, and so on, but we were still short on extras.” Libersher picked up the pieces and did what he could, but his dismal finish was like a punch in the gut after experience such highs previously in the season.

With just one race left in the year, which way it would go was anyone’s guess. Fortunately, the 16th Annual SDPC Raceshop NMCA World Street Finals in Indianapolis, Indiana, was kinder to Libersher, and he qualified fourth, just a touch behind his son, Lenny, who was third. The elder Libersher advanced over Clay Arnett at the start of eliminations and once again in round two over Carl Tasca, but couldn’t get past Gardner Stone in the semi-finals.

“I had some traction issues,” Libersher said simply as he casually shrugged off the uncharacteristically slow 9.397 at 133.00mph blast.

Even though he ended the season without a bang, Libersher’s performances during the previous months had been consistently strong enough to earn him the right to be called the 2017 NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Stock champion and he made good on his original goal. This being his first championship title, Libersher and his wife were on cloud nine when the results were announced.

“It’s hard to believe that the hard work paid off, and if it weren’t for the help from Dan, Lenny, and Kim, it wouldn’t have happened. We put in the time, did a lot of driving, testing, changing motors and transmissions at the track, and we got out what we put in,” said an elated Libersher, who will be chasing the feeling for the rest of his career. “We’re very proud of the championship, as it was a hard-fought battle and we squeaked by at a few of the races, but it was a good, competitive season and that made it even better.”

Throughout the year, he often found himself double-entered into the NMCA Stock/Super Stock Combo category as well.

“It’s a great class, and a brilliant thing to have started because nothing really fit for an NHRA Stock/Super Stock car to come over to NMCA before—you would have to run Open Comp or something else,” added Libersher, who was glad to have another place to race his (many) COPO Camaros.

Additionally, the NHRA Stock/Super Stock category was one that Libersher paid great attention to during his 2016 and 2017 seasons, as the NMCA and NHRA classes are practically identical.

“Running both allows us to get that much more data on our program,” said Libersher, “while also putting that much more abuse on the cars!”

 

 

Being around the same group of racers every weekend produces a family like environment which Libersher, who is extremely family oriented, definitely appreciates. In addition to his son, Lenny, and son-in-law, Dan, who both love racing and cars, Libersher’s daughters, Kayleigh, 29, and Krista, 28, are also both showing an interesting in driving.

“That’s why we have so many cars!” joked the patriarch of the family, who has been married to his loving wife, Kim, for an impressive 31 years.

With his self-built crew, it’s no surprise that the family team also maintains the cars in-house as well.

“We do all the assembly, parts changes, taking apart rearends, transmissions, motors, etc, all hands-on,” Libersher explained of the private race shop he and his team occupies. Everyone pitches in after-hours as there are no full-time members on staff. After everyone finishes up their day jobs, it’s all-hands-on-deck in the evenings to prepare for the weekends at the track. The only aspect not handled by the group themselves are the engines, as the supercharged ones are assembled by Ray Barton Racing Engines and Turn Key Automotive takes point on the naturally aspirated bullets.

Many people would balk at the idea of spending so much time surrounded by family, but Libersher not only embraces it, he thrives on it.

“We have fun and this situation works for us. Racing takes up all of my time, and it’s our everything, so to be able to combine family and racing makes it that much better,” he asserted.

For 2018, Libersher hopes to step up his program even further and has enticed several of his friends to join the NMCA family of racers as well. He’ll be bringing with him three supercharged cars to the first race of the year in Florida for himself, Dan, and Lenny to drive. Then, after the Georgia race, the group will check the numbers and focus on whoever is doing the best in the points chase. With seven beautiful COPO Camaros to chose from, and a variety of classes to run including NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, NMCA Stock/Super Stock, and NHRA, Libersher’s season is shaping up to be bigger than ever.


Ainsley Jacobs
P.TEN Marketing's Ainsley Jacobs is a freelance motorsports marketing professional with extensive experience in marketing and communications, website development, social media management, photography, journalism, and more.
http://www.PTENmarketing.com
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