The Evolution of My x19 Engine Conversion and Options
In spring of 2013, I decided it was time to up the power and move away from dual carbs and into a more modern engine/FI setup. Many options out there, one of which would have been to convert to the x19 1.5 litre FI motor Which is a great option if I wanted to just plain reliability. A Bosch FI system is the stock setup for the late model Fiat X/19s and is very solid and reliable.
Another option was to go with a larger crank. “Stroker” kits are out there, as a matter of fact, I ran a PBS stroke’d 1.3 carb’d engine (1.585 “1600” litre) in the X19 right up until I started the engine conversion.
Stroker kits that could take the displacement up to 1.9 are out there. You could easily run them with a FI setup as well by introducing a programmable ECU system like a Megasquirt. This is NOT an easy job and likely about 95% of the work would end up getting farmed out to a pro to do the engine build. It is also debatable whether the engine is still reliable at this point. I think for the most part yes; it just depends on how far you want to take the engine beyond the short block and minor head work, FI intake manifold, etc.
The other possible option was to go with a Fiat/Lancia DOHC 1.8 litre engine out of a Lancia Scorpion (could use a Beta for some of the bits but a Scorpion would have an almost complete setup). I have seen a few of these conversions, one of which was a phenomenal “Abarth Tribute” car restored and converted by Italian and classic car enthusiast Tom Mulhall. An incredible car with TONS of power and torque. He ran dual DCOEs on this highly modified 1.8 litre including performance cams, light flywheel and a few other bits. I don’t remember the official dyno results, but my butt-dyno registered some serious power. Great setup, but it was costly and with the dual Weber carbs, could be a little finicky. Converting to FI is definitely an option for this engine as well, but this would require a megasquirt or similar programmable ECU to get the most out of the engine.
There are a few other options out there as well, but I am not familiar enough with them to give a good idea of the pros/cons for them all. At the end of the day, I decided to go with a Honda K20 DOHC VTEC engine. The decision on this was based on a number of things. One being my first hand experience with a converted X19 track-car I was lucky to see and drive (around the block) back in 2010, the large number of other “swaps” many people have done with this engine, including many Lotus Elise or Exige conversions. The amount of online info for doing swaps with this engine and drivetrain seem endless. Add to that the programmable ECU(s) readily available, including the most popular by Hondata, the K-Pro. But the final reason was the fact that a very reputable Fiat mechanic and guru had started doing in-house conversions himself. Matt Brannon and team at Midwest-Bayless in Columbus OH, had done their first conversion I believe in 2009/2010 (confirm and edit later) and by 2012 had a conversion kits available on their storefront. It didn’t take long for me to decide to go for it.