If you peek inside Johan Minaar’s Fiat X19, you’ll see things aren’t what they should be. Batty visited the “Mayor” and went along for a ride.
By Joel Batty Silva
Johan Minaar’s little Fiat X19 was originally owned by chap named Wouter who dabbled abit in gearboxes. It was red in colour, and when Wouter put it up for sale, Johan bought it. “I always thought these cars were great off the line!” says Johan. “The sideshafts kept breaking until we fitted stronger Kombi CVs and thicker custom-made sideshafts.”
His mate Eddie sprayed the car white, and the simple colour accentuates those massive Mickey Thompsons rubber and the subtle boot mounted aluminium wing. Attesting to the truth of facts that the X19 offers superior traction, going with the larger and more stickier route wasn’t all cream and tissues. After the car was sprayed – circa 2010 – Johan bent the chassis while wheeling off the startline. “Ja, flip, I was annoyed. I just had the thing sprayed and we bent the damn thing.” To remedy this, Magic Racing strenghtened the chassis by adding in square tubing attached to 5mm-thick plates on either side that runs from within the cockpit to the rear of the engine bay. “The car isn’t as light as you may think. It weighs about 1.1 ton with me in it.”
After I managed to sort out the flexing issue, someone decided to protest and pointed out the fact that the wheelbase was shorter than what the rules had stated. So they banned me from racing again until the problem was sorted out. So the car went back to the panelbeaters where the wheelbase was increased by a further 3-inches.” explains Johan. As he explained, I could hear the frustration in his voice. I really don’t blame him. So much work for 3-inches. 75 freaking millimetres!
The engine you see before you is a special H22 powerplant which was used around the track by Charl Joubert in a Lotus. It lay untouched for around five years until Charl offered the lump and gearbox to Johan. It looks proper now, especially after Junior Welding Works made things look really pretty with the addition of a fabricated turbo branch, cooling system and engine covers. A polished Golden Eagle intake is affixed to a 90mm Chevy electronic throttle body while a relatively ageing T66 Turbonetics turbo huffs and puffs aside the polished upswept screamer and exhaust piping.
After breaking the limited slip differential on numerous oocassions, the power is now directed to the rear using a Honda H22 transmission and a solid spool setup. Take a peek inside the 5-speed gearbox and you’ll find straight-cut gears from Gear and Axle. “The ratios feature a very short first gear. I kinda like it that way.” The bellhousing is a special billet piece from Liberty Gears. He admits breaking 8-10 bellhousings in the past, and accuses the X19’s aggressive launch for being the prime culprit. So much so that at a stage in his life, he simply gave up.
“I changed my mind so many times: this car gave me endless sideshaft issues, endless gearbox issues and endless bellhousing issues. The list was never-ending. I even decided to try normal street tyres but on the drag strip, they caused more breakages than ever before. Slicks are way more forgiving although they may not look like it. Hence the big slicks in the rear.” To dampen his frustration, Johan parked the X19 in the garage and bought himself a CRX to fool around with, thinking it would create less problems until he rolled the car last year. So that’s why you and I are here today. Looking at a white X19.” laughs Johan.
The current braking set-up sounds dubious: I shuddered when he told me that the original X19 stoppers are still in place. But the car’s party piece is in the launch, and that’s what makes this little X19 so special.
Johan tunes cars for a living. And does so with pride. He has gained years of experience from working alongside his 2JZ genius of brother Hannes. They’ve probably tuned more cars in Pretoria than the amount of points Derick Hougaard had kicked for the Bulls. This tuning expertise has been applied to the X19 with the addition of ECUMaster Black, an advanced and fully configurable engine management system which Johan distributes in the southern African region.
“On normal 95 pump fuel, the 2.2-litre has been tuned to make 480hp on wheels with roughly 600Nm. “Tuning it on pump fuel is difficult. The boost is set on 1.2bar, and then jumps to 1.4 when the cams kick in at 5,500rpm. All of which has given me a best ET of 10.9@220km/h.” he explains.
The ECUMaster Black is a stellar unit that features traction control, launch control and boost control, and relatively cheaper than the more known international engine management systems filtering in and around South Africa. “With the ECUMaster, I’ve wired in a fuse box, which is located behind the custom aluminium seat. I also use a BMW power management unit to monitor amperage etc.” For me though, the two best pieces of candy has to be the vibrant ECUMaster dash display and the matching CANbus switch panel that’s attached to the rollcage. I had a hard time keeping my fingers in my pockets.
So what’s next for the little car? Absolutely nothing. According to Johan, he’s super happy with driving the fully licensed street car around the Jacaranda-covered streets of Pretoria. He says “It’s a handful but RWD is lekker”. I couldn’t agree more.