K20 project off to a good start

Discussion in 'Workshop Forum' started by Rodger, Feb 14, 2015.

  1. Rodger

    Rodger True Classic

    Olympia, WA
    My '81 shell was already at the body shop when I decided to turn it into a K20 conversion two weeks ago. I ordered the 1 Stage kit and some Koni coil overs from Matt and it's on the way. I hadn't even started to look for an engine when I get an email last Thursday from Gerald (Roobus) that he found a wrecked 2002 RSX Type S on Craigslist right here in Olympia. Turns out it was only about 15 minutes from my house. The engine fired right up and sounded great. I bought the whole car that night for $3K and had it towed to the body shop the next day. They had dropped the engine out by end of business on Monday and were already busy cutting up the firewall and frame rails. No turning back now.

    Initial prep work 07.JPG IMG_0934.JPG IMG_0933.JPG Initial prep work 08.JPG

    Went up to Gerald's this afternoon to take pictures of his K20 and to go for a ride. Holy sh***, that thing really get's up and goes. :shock: It will take me a while to get mine together as I have to rebuild the whole car but I am really pumped. I can't thank Gerald enough for finding the engine for me and for sharing his knowledge of his K20.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  2. it_mike

    it_mike True Classic

    Eastover, SC
    Lucky find

    I look forward to following your mod...

    86 X
    Rock Hill, SC
  3. Dan Sarandrea (Phila)

    Dan Sarandrea (Phila) Waitin' On Parts...

    Philadelphia, PA
    Sausage, Laws, and K20s

    I suppose I will never get used to seeing this phase of the K20 conversion, where significant portions of the engine compartment and structure are cut out.

    I just don't have the confidence that it can ever be put back as strong as the original structure. But I'm no automotive or structural engineer, so what do I know.

    I guess for me, I have to add "K20s" to that proverbial list of something one should never see being made!:eyepop::shock::)

    Best of luck with the conversion!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2015
  4. Yes, the first cuts are squirm-inducing....

    The first cuts look like you're destroying the car.

    And to leave it like that, it would have no strength.

    Once the replacement panels are welded into place on every box section that was intruded into, you get a little more sense of security.


    Then seam-welding the pick-up point brackets and the rear transverse cross member assembly.

    If you consider that from the factory, all of these panels are just spot-welded together, the seam welding alone performs a tremendous improvement to structural rigidity and spreading the load across the chassis.


    The final result is good and strong:


  5. Joe F

    Joe F Hi Miles, Lo Maintenance

    New Hampshire
    Very Nice

    Having owned a 2002 RSX-S for 8 years, I have always wondered what my X would do with a K20.
    I will follow your conversion with envy :)
    Good luck!
  6. fiatmonkey

    fiatmonkey Tim Hoover

    Redwood City, CA
    I second what Matt says. Yes metal leaves but you add metal back and your seem welds (done right and per Matt's readme) and it's stronger than before. There are more gussets replaced here as well so no need to worry. I kept the custom subframe/engine cradle attached pretty much the whole time and while I welded metal back to minimize any flexing, etc of the body.

    Looking forward to this conversion thread as well...!
  7. AleX1/9

    AleX1/9 Has the sickness

    Bellingham, WA
    Good score on the RSX!

    That's the way to do it...hear it run before you pull!

    Does Midwest Bayless give instructions or templates on the notches required? I would love to see everything involved in prepping the engine bay.
  8. bbrown

    bbrown Bob Brown Moderator

    New Hampshire
    I took a ride in Jim McKenzie's K20...

    and it scared the hell out of me. VERY stable acceleration. Very fast. Never felt anything like it, especially in an X.
    Sets you back in your seat quite securely. Surprisingly smooth shifting between gears as well. I'd love to own one but
    that level of toy is out of my budget range, unfortunately. No twisting or instability that I could detect.
  9. maybe

    it's just that I'm a scary driver :)

    But you are correct, with Matt's design no flex or roll at all.

    Matt those pictures look vaguely familiar, am I right?
  10. Ulix

    Ulix True Classic

    Stuttgart, Germany
    From your pics...

    ...it looks like you have a nice rust-free shell.
    No rust to be seen inside the cut members. These areas can really rust, at least over her in salty Europe.
  11. Rodger

    Rodger True Classic

    Olympia, WA
    I got lucky with it

    I found it on ebay in Northern CA. It had sat outside for years and had a couple of surface rust areas but I had the seller take several pictures of the usual areas and they all looked good. Buying a car sight unseen on ebay was definitely a risk but I took a chance. I was very pleased as I stripped it, how good the body was.
  12. Rodger

    Rodger True Classic

    Olympia, WA
    Progress report

    The K20 kit arrived from Matt and it is exquisite. The quality of the fabrication and welds of the subframe and engine mounts is amazing. The shifter mechanism blew me away with how well thought out it is. And the custom axle shafts to go from the Acura inner CV's to the Fiat outer's are the icing on the cake. Kudos to Matt for a first class product. Here are some pics of the shifter.
    IMG_1014.JPG IMG_1012.JPG IMG_1013.JPG

    The shell went off to the media blaster for several days but as soon as it was back, the shop had the subframe installed and welded together, and the engine in place to check clearance on the cuts that they had started. Just need to open up a bit more on the left frame rail for the transmission and a little more on the firewall to give better access.

    After media blasting 03.JPG After media blasting 02.JPG IMG_1067.JPG IMG_1065.JPG IMG_1063.JPG IMG_1062.JPG
    Here are some pics of the shift mechanism installation. There is a frame that is welded to the tunnel and then the shift mechanism is bolted to that with small Allen head screws. The shop spent a lot of time checking the console position before welding the frame.

    I should mention the body shop that I am using. It's called Resurrection Auto Body in West Olympia. It's owned by Shawn Patrick and his love is doing restoration and custom work on older American cars. I found out about him through a friend of mine who is into the local hot rod scene. His only experience with a Fiat before mine was a paint job on a 124 Spider that he did a few years ago. The guy who is doing most of my car is Kris, and he is really loving the whole project. He seems to be really getting into the appeal of the X1/9 and I may end up selling him my '79 once I get this project done. Needless to say, he wants to do a K20 on that one. Shawn's nephew Donnie also works there and he is a total Honda nut, so he is loving this as well. He will be a great resource when it comes time to figure out the wiring.

    That's all for now.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  13. Sandgroper

    Sandgroper True Classic

    Down Under

    In spite of my blasphemy about cutting the shell to make room I have gotta say that Matt's kit just OOOOzzzes quality.


    Will be following this with interest
  14. fiatmonkey

    fiatmonkey Tim Hoover

    Redwood City, CA
    Be sure you have them check the tank outlets for clearance (around the sub frame) and the handbrake cable cover (the one that holds the pulley wheels).

    Looking great and moving along FAST!
  15. Rodger

    Rodger True Classic

    Olympia, WA
    Thanks for the tips.

    I am waiting to get my gas tank back from the radiator shop doing the cleaning and sealing. From what it looks like from underneath, it seems like there should be plenty of room, but I will definitely check. Thanks.
  16. lookforjoe

    lookforjoe True Classic

    Looking Good!!!
  17. Keep the pics and progress reports coming!

    Even though I can't imagine doing this conversion myself (I love the sound of Italian engines too much, what is that...?!?!?) I'm really enjoying this thread. :)


  18. Rodger

    Rodger True Classic

    Olympia, WA
    Progress report 2: closed up frame rails

    Dropped by the body shop on Friday. Kris had closed up all of the frame rails and enlarged the cut on the driver's side to clear the transmission. We also decided to open up the firewall opening a bit more to give better access through the "box" in the spare tire well. Matt's kit includes the frame and cover for the box, so once we got the opening finalized, Kris started making the box. Lot's of trial fitting as there are lot of angles, plus the sides taper from the frame to the firewall opening.

    Right side

    Transverse frame rail below opening in firewall

    Continuing to the left just short of the original fuel pump location

    Left side

    Final firewall opening



    Trial fitting of box in spare tire well

    View from the engine bay

    I also spent couple of hours playing with set of Euro bumpers mounted to Doug Martin's custom made mounting brackets to get the final position nailed down and to locate where to drill the side holes in the fenders to attach the blades. I definitely would not want to do this after the car was painted as there is a lot of fiddling to get them right.
    IMG_1087.JPG IMG_1092.JPG
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  19. jvandyke

    jvandyke True Classic

    West Michigan
    Looks great. I'm jealous of all that steel where mine is just open air with a rusty edge!
  20. fiatmonkey

    fiatmonkey Tim Hoover

    Redwood City, CA
    Looking good...

    I am curious why you opted to build the opening box so it slants down at the top?

    Hard to say if you are losing important room (to service the engine). Maybe the top of the alternator. IF you have to service the water pump, you will use the panel opening to get at at least 4 of the water pump bolts (there are like 8 bolts that attach the pulley cover).

    Also when you test fit the engine, be sure to have the clutch slave cylinder ATTACHED to check it's clearance against the fuel tank firewall. It is tight. I opted to switch to a banjo swivel fitting and it saves about 3/8".



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