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GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/25/22 4:41 p.m.

OK... hear me out...

First, an introduction that may or may not be brief:

Yes, I'm the same guy who started the Chevy Astro V8 swap thread.  The engine is at the machine shop.  I'll get to that later.  In that thread, I mentioned something about fatherhood requiring that I need to streamline my project life.  I said that.  But this is different, somehow...

I worked at Midwest-Bayless for three years.  In that time, I was the "K20 swap and restoration lead."  Most of my time there was spent building K20 swap X1/9s (five total including a supercharged one,) but I also built and took part in building a few different non-K20 projects, including a Uno Turbo swapped Dallara widebody X and a nifty stroker X that went to some dude in Dubai.  I also developed the K20 swap kit and built, if memory serves, eleven of those.  The "Fabricator 1.0" tag is a joke on me from my time at MWB.  When I left, Matt  referred to me and my decisions as "Fabricator 1.0."  

Each time I built one of the K20 conversions, I refined the process and the design of the parts.  I wanted to refine more, but at a point, the company owner put the kibosh on future refinements in the interest of uniformity among customer cars.  That's a fair point, and it was his company, but it cut me off from the creative process of refinement that I enjoyed.  I made mental notes each time I had an idea as to how to build a better K20 swapped X.  I really wanted to build the in-house cars differently from the kits I sold, but the owner wanted to use the kits as a basis in part to expedite the process and in part for product placement of the kits.  Also fair points.  Those were Matt's decisions to make, which he made as a businessman (a pretty good one at that.)

The subframe and mounts that I designed did the job great and allowed many X owners who were not experienced fabricators and who also lacked the funds to pay MWB to build a car for them ($40k-70k,) but it was large and needlessly complicated for those capable (and willing) of positioning the engine correctly and building one-off mounts for it.  My subframe reached out to all four mounting points for FIAT's engine saddle plus all four control arm mounts.  The design was promoted as doubling as a suspension brace, but I don't see the need for cross bracing there.  Plus, because of excessive variation in the X suspension pickup points, I built each subframe as two pieces that had to be joined together by the installer.  I never liked that, but it was the way it had to be.  

Here I am going to build the K20 conversion *I* want (and wanted) to build. There will be no big subframe like in the kits.  In fact, if I can get away with it, there will be no subframe at all.  I have the pieces on hand already to build a shifter box.  I am also going to implement some product ideas on this car that I will attempt to bring to market.  I have no illusions about taking over the X1/9 US market, but I will develop a couple of products that do not yet exist.  If there is interest in them, I will produce them.  

I will get some pics up tormorrow.  

wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
4/25/22 6:40 p.m.

Do Tell...

 

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/25/22 6:54 p.m.

This should be really interesting. It's one thing to see someone doing something for the first time, something else to see someone with experience build it the way they've always wanted to without constraints.

jimbob_racing
jimbob_racing SuperDork
4/25/22 7:03 p.m.

I'm very interested in following along.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
4/25/22 7:13 p.m.

I think it's just cool to see an X 1/9 still on the road that hasn't rusted away into oblivion yet. An engine swapped one takes this to an even higher level. I like it. yes

MrJoshua
MrJoshua UltimaDork
4/25/22 7:31 p.m.

I'm definitely watching (and nagging) Post post post!

Hasbro (Forum Supporter)
Hasbro (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
4/25/22 8:44 p.m.

Slippery
Slippery GRM+ Memberand UberDork
4/25/22 9:47 p.m.

In

Mezzanine
Mezzanine Dork
4/25/22 11:11 p.m.

Yep, here for it and glad to see your thread get started. The compromises in a production setting versus a one-off product are especially interesting; Matt's business choices compared against what and how you would have liked to continue the development of the product is a fun topic. I've always struggled with accepting a "good enough" point, so it's fun to see that Matt was able to double down on one. Eager to see how you'd solve this problem from a fabricator's perspective. 

dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/26/22 7:36 a.m.

As promised, subscribed and excited to watch the progress! I am definitely interested in what products you end up offering as I round up the pieces for my X

classicJackets (FS)
classicJackets (FS) SuperDork
4/26/22 7:56 a.m.

Can't wait to see this in "real time!"

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:09 a.m.
Mezzanine said:

Yep, here for it and glad to see your thread get started. The compromises in a production setting versus a one-off product are especially interesting; Matt's business choices compared against what and how you would have liked to continue the development of the product is a fun topic. I've always struggled with accepting a "good enough" point, so it's fun to see that Matt was able to double down on one. Eager to see how you'd solve this problem from a fabricator's perspective. 

At the time, I felt stifled by his locking down my design and practices at a certain point, but I was seeing the issue through the eyes of the artisan/craftsman/designer rather than those of a businessman.  Toward the end of my time there, Matt accused me of "change for the sake of change."  Even from a production standpoint, you have to keep refining your process, right?  Big companies hire Six Sigma teams for this purpose, and I was just doing the work as part of my job.  If every iteration can be better and/or less expensive to produce in terms of materials and labor, why not refine?  But for the business, I can understand better now what Matt was thinking.  Making the product a little better each time is awesome, but maybe owners of previous iterations might have doubts about how good their swap was compared to the next generation.  And I definitely understand the product placement angle of using the kit for in-house builds.  Anyway, Matt is obviously a better businessman than I am. 

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:19 a.m.
dherr (Forum Supporter) said:

As promised, subscribed and excited to watch the progress! I am definitely interested in what products you end up offering as I round up the pieces for my X

My highest priorities are a permanent street-friendly fix for the aging rubber and plastic bushings for the radius rods and a brake upgrade that doesn't involve Wilwood calipers and solid stock or solid Lancia Beta rotors.  Since I am already building shifter boxes, I will offer them to X owners as well as other mid engine swappers (MR2, Fiero, etc.) who want an off-the-shelf reverse action shifter.   I don't know how well those will sell.  Mine are fabricated, i.e. made of stock materials that are cut into pieces and welded together.  There are places like K-Tuned that offer pretty machined aluminum products that can do the same job.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:26 a.m.

Please note that the following pictures are not taken from my garage, but from the seller's.  This roomy garage is not mine.  I work in a two-car. 

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:34 a.m.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:35 a.m.

That driver's door is nasty, but he's giving me a better one with the car.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:42 a.m.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 8:52 a.m.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 9:01 a.m.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 9:05 a.m.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 9:21 a.m.

Those are all the pics I have.  I am under no illusion that this is a perfect car, but the most troublesome spots seem to be solid.  The paint is obviously a respray, and not a very good one.  The car will eventually be repainted, but the higher priority is to get it swapped and running. 

I don't yet know how much I am going to do with the body.  There might be box flares.  My vision (not to say that I'm going to do it) is Compomotive Renault R5 wheels and box flares to cover them.  But I could also leave the body stock and possibly even keep the CD16 wheels that are currently on it.  

MiniDave
MiniDave New Reader
4/26/22 3:46 p.m.

Following.......my son is doing a K24 swap using one of your (?) kits into his x right now.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 4:07 p.m.

Additional thoughts/plans, noted here for future reference:

 

REAR TRUNK: I go back and forth on taking the rear trunk space for engine bay and exhaust use.  

Justification: the rear trunk (I think X1/9 owners say "runk") is not very useful, and the front trunk ("frunk") is capacious.  Even with the targa top stowed, the frunk could hold a week of groceries or luggage for a light-traveling couple on a road trip.  The rear trunk, on the other hand, is small and gets pretty warm with the engine running.  X owners typically use the "runk" for storing replacement fluids for the pretty leaky castings.

I don't know how much I would actually need the extra volume for the engine bay components, but cutting the runk floor out would make reinforcing the rear crossmember easier.

 

COOLING SYSTEM REDESIGN:

One of the difficulties of making a mid engine car with a front mount radiator is making a self-purging cooling system.  FIAT's answer to that challenge was NOT TO DO IT.  By self-purging, I mean a system that clears out its own air bubbles without any help from the driver.  FIAT installed an awkwardly placed bleeder screw with a phenolic washer/seal on the left side tank of the radiator.  The idea behind this is that you elevate the nose of the car and run the engine until it is good and hot (i.e. fully up to operating temperature) with plenty of pressure in the system, then crack that bleeder screw open in the same way that you would with a brake bleeder screw.  Alternate between open and closed, all the time ensuring that system pressure is adequate to push air out when the screw is opened.  Once what comes out is coolant only, the system is bled...repeat as necessary when you find out that it isn't.  I hate it.  I always hated it.  Now I'm going to do something about it.  

When I installed the K20 engines, I always used a VW MKIII-style spherical expansion tank to replace the either rusted steel one or cracked-up plastic one that the car rolled into the shop with.  Stainless tanks (1979 model year only as I recall) were removed to be sold.  The VW tank is intended to be in a self-purging cooling system.  My plan is to connect the small top line of the expansion tank to the top of the left side tank of the radiator as it should be.  This will be done in one of two ways: 1) route the small top line from the expansion tank all the way through the car to the radiator; or 2) relocate the tank to the frunk and route the tank's larger bottom line all the way back to the engine.  I think the better solution is to keep the tank in the engine bay and route the little purging hose to the rad.  I am reluctant to put engine things in the frunk because the frunk is so nice and useful as it is.  I am not positive that this idea will work, but it should.  And if it doesn't, I can figure out why and fix it or just return it to the goofy albeit functional original design.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
4/26/22 4:09 p.m.
MiniDave said:

Following.......my son is doing a K24 swap using one of your (?) kits into his x right now.

Nice!  The kit certainly does the job for people who can do the light (although it might not always seem light) fab work but not the big stuff.  Is your son on XWeb?  I am there also.  He can always ask me questions about procedures.  

clownkiller
clownkiller HalfDork
4/26/22 7:03 p.m.

Looks like a great start. 

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