Featured Vehicles / From the Summit Racing Catalog / Motorsports

Family Car: Dave and Karen Leisinger’s Autocross 1970 Camaro

(Image/Summit Racing)

Choosing a new family vehicle is an exercise in compromise for most car guys. The list of must-haves handed down from the front office often includes heated leather seats, satellite radio, and A/C.

When it’s all said and done, you might get a little horsepower and some sweet alloys thrown in.

Back in 2007 Dave and Karen witnessed their first Goodguys autocross competition. “I was hooked,” explains Dave. “I’m not the type of guy that likes to sit around, so autocross racing is a perfect fit for me and my family.” It’s easy to see the attraction-autocross gives hot rod enthusiasts a whole new way to participate in their hobby.

The Crusher gets over 780 hp from this Warren Johnson-built aluminum LS engine. But where’s the fuel injection? “We run a modified Quick Fuel circle track carburetor because it’s easy to tune at the track and it produces a lot of torque,” says Dave. The potent LS also sits behind (not over) the front axle. “The engine was moved back 10″ so the car has a perfect 50/50 front to rear weight balance, and that helps it turn,” says Dave. (Image/Summit Racing)

When Dave and Karen Leisinger drew up the wish list for their new family ride, they tossed the standard creature comforts out of the window-heck, they even jettisoned the windows and the back seat, too! “The car has to be as light as possible, and still hold together,” says Dave with a smile. That’s because this is no ordinary grocery getter. This 1970 Camaro is called Crusher and it has one serious aspiration-to reign supreme on the autocross course at just about every Goodguys Rod & Custom Association show in the country.

Autocross is a solo competition that emphasizes handling characteristics and driver skill rather than all-out top speed. The driver navigates a closed course outlined with traffic cones, in the shortest time possible. A time penalty is assessed for each cone hit during the run. Cars are classified by level of performance and modification-from stock to fully prepared race cars. Scroll down to learn more about autocross racing.

You can look, but you won’t find much stock equipment underneath the Crusher’s fiberglass hood. To reduce parasitic horsepower loss, the LS engine is equipped with a Meziere electric water pump and a tiny Denso 8188 alternator. “The alternator doesn’t produce a lot of power and it doesn’t even kick in until we hit 2,100 rpm,” says Dave. “That means we have to charge the battery after every run.” (Image/Summit Racing)

Years ago, Dave honed his hot rod skills at the dragstrip and then moved on to truck pulling. Now he spends his weekends as the Crusher’s crew chief while his talented quartet of drivers (Karen, sons Josh and Jared, and family friend Roger Burman) tear up the autocross course. “Cars are meant to be driven and racing brings our family together. We travel together, we work on the car together, and I always know where my boys are,” says Dave with pride.

And what a car Crusher is. Built by DK Camaros and Lakeside Rods & Rides to deliver blistering performance on the track, the thoroughbred racer has a lightweight fiberglass and steel body, track-hugging Ridetech coil-over/Detroit Speed 4-link suspension setup, full roll cage, a 780 hp Warren Johnson LS engine, and more than one go-fast trick up its sleeve.

The F-body wears the same size rollers on all four corners. “Some guys like the way bigger rear wheels look, but they carry more inertia and that can upset the car’s handling,” says Dave. The Crusher gets plenty of grip from a sticky set of Falken Azenis RT-615K tires, while massive Baer disc brakes and Hawk pads rein in all of that Warren Johnson horsepower. (Image/Summit Racing)

Just about the only thing that can out-pace the Crusher is the phenomenal growth of the Goodguys autocross program. It’s easy to see why. For spectators, autocross competition is a party for the senses, serving up custom vehicles, earthshaking sound, and the aroma of spent fuel, burning rubber, and hot brake lining. For competitors, it’s a chance for driver and machine to come together in pursuit of that ultimate run.

Things can heat up in a hurry on the autocross course. The Crusher has four brake ducts built into its ground-effects valance to cool the binders and prevent brake fade. (Image/Summit Racing)

“It’s addicting. Once you try it, you’ll come back for more, and you’ll want to go faster and faster,” says Dave. He offers this pro tip for those ready to make their first run: “Cut the fat and make your car as light as you can.” That means the junk in your trunk-cleaning and detailing supplies, tools, spare tire, and camp chairs-should be left in your pit space.

“Brake with your left foot. You’ll also want to adjust your driving position so you’ll get a clear view of the cones,” says Karen. “On my first run, I held my head out of the window just so I could see better,” she adds with a big laugh. Eldest son Josh and younger brother Jared (who ran his first autocross at age 14) are both fans of maximizing seat time. “The more you drive, the faster you’ll get,” says Josh. “You’ll start to feel more connected to your car. I can even feel it when I hit a cone,” chimes in Jared.

What, no cup holders? Nope, this home office is all business! A Stack ST8100 Dash Display System keeps the Leisingers well informed and an MSD Programmer/Monitor mounted on the transmission hump controls the MSD ignition box located under the hood. (Image/Summit Racing)

As your on-track skills improve, you’ll no doubt demand more from your ride. There are plenty of simple, bolt-on mods you can perform to improve traction and handling, key ingredients to reducing run times. Look around the pits and you’ll see cars equipped with large, aftermarket brakes and racing-compound pads. Plus, suspension upgrades like adjustable coil-over shockstubular control arms, and larger sway bars, will keep your ride planted in those tight, hairpin corners.

Of course there’s more than one vehicle in the Leisingers’ garage these days. Karen also logs plenty of seat time in their ’67 Grumpy Jenkins tribute Camaro, while Josh splits his driving duties between the Crusher and a fully-prepared 1970 Chevy truck. (Image/Summit Racing)

Make sure you check out the action on the autocross course next time you’re at a Goodguys show. You won’t be disappointed. For an even closer look, ask one of the competitors if you can ride along. They love the company and you’ll get an experience you won’t soon forget. Better yet, register your own hot rod and test your skill between the orange cones. It’s a good bet you’ll become a hardcore autocross enthusiast just like the Leisingers.

The Crusher is an exceptional family car and the Leisingers are one exceptional family. They spend their weekends together turning wrenches in the pits and turning in hot lap times on the autocross course. Who could argue with family values like these? Not us, not by a long shot!

(Image/Summit Racing)

Crusher 1970 Camaro Fast Specs

Body

  • 1970 Camaro fiberglass front clip, doors, and trunk lid
  • Lexan windshield and rear window
  • PPG Flat Silver paint with Charcoal highlights
  • Graphics by Eric Brockmeyer Design

Chassis

Wheels & Tires

Engine & Induction

Transmission

Interior

Special Thanks To Warren Johnson Racing and Lakeside Rods & Rides

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