TEMPTATION IS DANGEROUS WHEN PLAYING THE SHOWCAR GAME — KHRUNAL’S EVO X IS THE BY-PRODUCT OF GIVING IN TO THAT URGE MORE TIMES THAN HE’D LIKE TO ADMIT
Sketch out your dream car down to the very last bolt, swear through and through that you’ll stick to the plan, and even put money down on the table to ensure it — but when it comes to building a top-tier show car, nothing ever seems to go exactly to plan. Like a fresh cream doughnut conveniently perched in the window of the local bakehouse the day you start a new diet, temptations hound your soul into the early hours of the morning, and you’ll do well to learn that those ballers out there wrangling awards are the ones that repeatedly gave in to those temptations, no matter how many times they said they were done.
“At first, all I wanted to do was bag my car and put some wheels on it — back then, it had barely been done,” explains Khrunal Mahendra, as he attempts to rationalize how his Evo X has reached the point of sitting on the cover of this very issue. “Growing up around the likes of Falgoon Patel and ‘CNDYMN’, it inspired me to step up to that level and build something different, and now I want the Evo to do the same for other people.” With humble beginnings in the driver’s seat of a Mazda Atenza, before switching to a WRX and then later to a 506kW Holden GTS, Khrunal never felt at home behind the wheel of any of his cars — until purchasing his Evo X in near-stock form, wearing only a set of 18×9.5-inch Prodrive wheels, and with an HKS intake kit.
“I messaged Falgs about bagging the car, and he said to me ‘there’s no going back from here’. I thought that just meant suspension-wise, but he was right,” says Khrunal. The air system was made up of Air Lift Performance air struts and an AccuAir e-Level management system, which still remains today. Meanwhile, a set of Work Meisters was fitted to retire the Prodrive wheels from rotation. That marked the first step in the project, and, although he admits that he said, “I’m not doing any more”, the temptation to continue was far too real for Khrunal, and it wasn’t long before the next big hit took place. “Things have never gone according to plan. I’m a sucker for being tempted — ideas are just thrown at me, or I’ll see something online, and it won’t take me long to be convinced to also do something similar, or going custom.” That next step was a very serious sound install from the pros at Rapid Radio, Auckland, in 2015.
The crew dropped well over 50 hours into a massive ICE install that saw custom carbon-fibre pods whipped up to hold the all Alpine affair, consisting of two SPR-60C Type-R components up front, with another in the rear, two SWS-102 Type-R 10-inch subs in the boot along with MRX M1000 and M240 amplifiers, and an IVA-520A Bluetooth doubledin head unit — you already know the tunes crank with clarity that needs to be heard and seen to believed. Again, Khrunal uttered those famous last words, “I’m done; no more”. And he was. Well, until roughly mid 2016, when the urge to go wide overcame him, flirting with the idea of running a Varis widebody. “But I was put off running the Varis, as there were a few cars overseas running it, and I really wanted something unique; a build that would inspire.
I’ve always loved the look of Liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny aero, so I was inspired by their curves but wanted to match the body lines of the Evo X,” explains Khrunal. To pull together what he was envisioning, Khrunal sat down with Falgoon to smash out a design, then took the idea to Zac Haar at Carboglass to bring it into reality. The original form was 100mm wider each side, which is already a massive step up, but that had to be pumped out another 30mm for a total of 130mm per side, thanks to the purchase of a fresh set of shoes — Ammo Forged Bespokes measuring in at 19×10.5 inches (-75) at all corners. “That’s a big guard,” laughs Khrunal, “and although a big ask, it only took three weeks for Zac to craft the custom kit from scratch and have it fitted to the car and ready for colour. Zac also revised the wing to suit, as it used to be double the size it is now, and I thought it would look a bit stupid with the new shape.
The custom high-mount wing was cut in half, with the mounts reshaped to lower them to be near where the lights are.” Complementing the custom touches is a gaggle of Varis pieces, including side skirts with carbon-fibre extensions, widebody front bumper, carbon-fibre front splitter, a rear diffuser, and carbonfibre side mirrors. In need of paint, Khrunal employed the expertise of good friend Ben Martin at Custom Bodyworks to lay down fresh layers. There was only one problem though: deciding on a colour that would do the gnarly bodywork justice.
The original concept called for a teal option, but Khrunal went off the idea after seeing an overseas example wrapped in a similar colour and not liking how it worked in with the factory lines. “It’s such a nice colour — look at Elise’s RX-7 from Champs, it works so well — but, with the Evo X, it was a different story,” he tells us. “I looked around the internet for ages and stumbled across a Holden concept car called the ‘Efigy’. The colour stood out to me so much and we began to search it out, hoping it wasn’t an impossible-to-replicate custom thing. Thankfully, we found the exact paint code from House of Kolor and bought the last three buckets of Wild Cherry in the States.”
The same colour spread to the engine bay, too, where the once-cluttered and impossible-to-work-in hole is now far, far cleaner thanks to the help of Sheldon Currington for the fab work and a few local auto sparkies who took care of the wiring. Although now kitted out with a modified Sidewinder extended turbo manifold that sits the Garrett GT3076R snail where the intake would normally be, along with a Blitz intake plenum, Kelford 272/260-degree camshafts, and a set of Injector Dynamics 1000cc injectors, power was never all that important to Khrunal. He explains: “Everyone asks what power I’m making now, but I can honestly say [that] power doesn’t mean anything to me in context of the build. I would be happy with the 234kW that it was running originally — it’s just a bonus. The main thing for me was to make the engine bay look good, which is why we’ve done most of what has been done in there.”
That aim to make it look good is very evident, with everything rewired and de-loomed to declutter the space, along with all the pipework being redone with a lot of straight lines and acute angles to create eye-pleasing symmetry. Even the little details, such as relocated reservoirs and braided lines, make a difference, not to mention that he took it a step further by powder coating all the pipes in metallic bronze — although he admits that it came out a bit darker than expected and he may revise it at a later date.
Forever in the pursuit of perfection. Having now travelled the country as part of the 4&Rotary NZ Show Car Championship, Khrunal hopes to take out the Tough Street class this season and potentially inspire the next generation. “People know the car now, here and overseas, and I feel honoured to own it,” he says. “But it’s always been in a constant state of build, so I’ve never had a good chance to enjoy it, so I look forward to being able to clock up some kilometres now that it’s ‘done’.” But we’ll be keeping a close eye on anything new during its next outing, no matter how many times Khrunal assures us that, “I’m not doing any more.” We’d bet our bottom dollar that he won’t be able to leave it alone for long.