The Crusader Sports Racer was designed by Chuck Tatum and manufactured by Crusader cars, owned and operated by Chuck Tatum and Jerry Demele of Stockton, California. The Crusader was a joint project between Joe Vittone, owner of EMPI(Engineered Motor Products, Inc.) of Riverside, California, and Crusader Cars. At that time, EMPI was the world’s largest producer of speed and power equipment and had the reputation of having the hot ‘setup’ for making Volkswagens go fast.
In the early sixties, Crusader cars had gained an enviable reputation as builders of the Crusader Formula Vee racing cars. Crusader Formula Vees had been driven to many wins and championships by Jerry Demele and other SCCA drivers. Joe Vittone of EMPI desired a racing chassis to exhibit the possibilities of large displacement VW engines in SCCA sports car racing. Engines built by EMPI’s Dean Lowery had already gained worldwide fame for speed and endurance. Dean Lowery was EMPI’s chief engine builder and driver of the famous EMPI ‘inch pincher’ drag racing car.
It was natural that a top chassis builder and the best VW engine builders became associated with a new concept car based on the low-cost VW components to make sports racing cars available to a wider range of drivers and owners. It was hoped that when the car proved itself, the SCCA would approve the car as a new class of sports racing cars (i.e. two seated formula Vees). The class would be called ‘Volkswagen sports racers’ or ‘VSR.'
The rules, as proposed, were tailored after formula Vee rules with the addition of allowing displacement up to 1888cc, dual carburetors, Porsche transaxles, and disc brakes. Two-seat bodywork, a mid-engine layout, and a wheelbase not to exceed 88 inches were required. Also allowed was the use of any Volkswagen or Porsche front axle or transaxle. Wheels and tires were open. The prototype used EMPI’s BRM 15-inch magnesium wheels with Goodyear Blue streak racing tires.
Crusader cars driver, Jerry Demele, enjoyed several early victories with the prototype car. Based on those results Crusader cars constructed 7 additional kits and sold them to drivers across the United States. Unfortunately the SCCA did not want another sports racer class, and disapproved the development of the VRS class. Of the original cars produced, 4 are still in existence. Once was raced in Mexico and totaled. One was burned in a fire at Chuck Tatum’s shop and rebuilt. Three are vintage racing. One is in Texas and two are in Oregon.