Covid-19 may have thrown a massive cat among our modifying pigeons, but it hasn’t stopped the hardcore from building their dream cars. Behold this Liberty Walk Ferrari 458, lovingly crafted under lockdown…
Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Josh Edward
Tension. It’s the number-one plot device that keeps readers reading, viewers viewing and listeners listening. You’ve got to feel tense, uneasy, unsure of the next move, in order to truly engage; there’s always the hope of some sort of deus ex machina that will arise from the ether and save the situation, but at the same time a part of you hopes that the tension will tantalisingly last forever. The Mexican standoff is the most extreme manifestation of this; a happenstance in which characters are locked in an impossible situation, quite often with three people pointing guns at each other in a triangle (like the restaurant sequence in Pulp Fiction) – no-one can take any action without forcing everyone else to act.
The contemporary modifying scene is rife with this sort of tension. Fashions move and shift and transmogrify, and while the noble pursuit is to mod your car to your own tastes and consider it a bonus if anyone else takes a liking to it, the reality is that culture’s evolved and that’s not the way the world works these days. In 2021, visual presence and social media success often sit on a level pegging with performance and handling, while it’s oh-so-important for your spec list to be bristling with all the right names. Who blinks first? Certainly not the brave. And with the Liberty Walk Ferrari 458 you see here, you’re witnessing a narrow escape from a Mexican standoff with a strong roll-call of fashion-forward names, coalescing into a mould-breaking build which opens the door for every other Ferrari to rush through. Such is life.
An affable fella by the name of Chris Eltham is the brains behind it all, and he’s proud of this car’s roots. It may be an Italian thoroughbred with a Japanese bodykit, but he’s in no doubt as to the Western characters stamping out the project’s DNA: “No one had put this kit on a Ferrari 458 in Europe before, there’s only a handful in the world,” he says.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that Chris isn’t exactly a novice at this; indeed, his past and present car affliction requires some unpicking, so take a deep breath as we breeze through it all: prior to this Ferrari, he’d owned a TVR Tuscan Speed Six, a couple of twin-turbo Mk4 Supras, an R35 GT-R, a Clio with a GT Turbo engine in it, an M3, a WRX STi, an Aston Martin DB9, plus a whole bunch of other cool stuff. And the bagged and kitted Ferrari isn’t the only exotic curio on the driveway today; no, it shares real estate with an Ariel Atom, a Lamborghini Aventador, a McLaren MP4-12C, plus a Range Rover Sport and a Supra TT6 – all comprehensively modified. Safe to say he’s a man of reasonable means who enjoys the odd fast car, then. And he’s not one to keep things stock either, as the vivid red vision before us demonstrates.
“I modify supercars,” he shrugs, “hence my Instagram name, @my_supercar_adventure. Lots of people shy away from this for obvious reasons, but I embrace it! I’ve always modified my cars as I don’t like to blend in, I like to create something in my own image and don’t care what others might think.”
And that’s very much what he’s done here. He hasn’t hung about either; Chris only bought this car in October 2020, and we’ve got cheese in the fridge that’s older than that. It was totally stock at the time, finished in white and set him back a cool £126k. That, of course, was just the starting point.
“I didn’t own a Ferrari, and I’d always said I would have one before I was 40,” he continues. “And obviously it’d have to be red!”
Naturally when you’re buying a supercar it pays to focus more on condition and history than colour, hence picking up a very tidy white example – but Chris’s plans extended to far more than a respray. By November of last year he’d ordered himself a Liberty Walk widebody kit, setting him back a further £40k, and the knock-on mods just snowballed from there.
You probably don’t need an explanation from us about who or what Liberty Walk is, but here’s a quick reminder anyway: the Japanese outfit was founded back in 1993, and it’s the recent exploits of the Nagoya-based company that have pushed it to the forefront of the modern auto enthusiast. They’ve branched out into the USA in fine style, and love to graft outrageous bodykits onto aspirational models like the Lamborghini Aventador and Ferrari 458. This kind of polarising behaviour ensures copious online shares, with a strictly divided audience arguing about whether it rocks or it sucks. But this isn’t all just a PR exercise – Wataru Kato, Liberty Walk’s founder, is keen to keep the operation true to his original vision of ‘bringing out the uniqueness of each vehicle, for the owners to feel engaged on a personal level’. The two key brands under the umbrella fulfil this at different levels – LB Performance ticks the supercar box, while LB Works applies that headline-grabbing aesthetic to cars more in the reach of the man on the street. The GT Silhouette range is a sort of fusion of the two sensibilities, melding the road car aspirations with the supercar dream-weaving under the LB Works banner. Make sense? OK, let’s just say that they’re shooting out hot jets of awesomeness in all directions at once.
So, with the high-end bodykit on order, Chris had some decisions to make. Naturally you can’t just bolt a wide-arch kit onto a car and leave everything else stock, it’d look like one of those questionable 6R4 kits people used to fibreglass onto stock Rover Metros in the nineties. No, you’ve got to get it lower, and pack out those fatter arches with seam-busting rims. After much research and investigation, a Praxis air-ride system with Air Lift management was ordered up, along with a truly glorious set of wheels: 3-piece forged Rotiform VDAs with brushed silver centres, polished lips and chrome hardware. In order to help that rev-hungry F136 V8 really find its voice, Chris also acquired a full valvetronic system from Fi Exhaust – because while that 4.5-litre unit is a howling beast, it really benefits from open pipes to help it realise its potential. The Fi Exhaust system is clever because it features the company’s cutting-edge intelligent ECU exhaust control valve – when the butterflies are closed, you can pootle around town without going deaf; click them open and all hell breaks loose, unlocking maximum power and maximum noise.
There’s a thread that’s been running through the last eighteen months or so, as you’ll be painfully aware, and that’s the spectre of Covid cocking everything up. While Chris was quick to put his orders in, there were a whole load of hurdles to jump over; a global shortage of wheel barrels meant that it was April before the Rotiforms turned up, and the delivery of the kit was delayed by a few months too, arriving in February. As you might imagine, he was champing at the bit to get started, and as soon as the huge boxes bearing the LB Works branding showed up, out came the cutting tools and the unsuspecting Ferrari was laid bare. The kit, air-ride and exhaust were all fitted in March, and of course the finished and perfected body was treated to that Modenese rosso that Chris had always dreamed of.
The tension was swelling to breaking point as the build neared completion, as there was a very clear deadline to hit: Chris is a regular on The Cannon Run, and their Spring Break event was coming up on April 9th. Fingernails were chewed, midnight oil was burned, but just in time Europe’s first LB GT Silhouette emerged blinking into the light. Job well done, as the car was awarded The Cannon Run’s ‘Best Car’ trophy – which, in such rarefied company, is praise indeed.
“It’s turned out exactly as planned – if not better,” Chris grins. “The reaction online has been incredible.” The machinations of the coronavirus may have done much to exacerbate the tension to near-unbearable levels as Chris strove to realise his vision, but it all came good in the end. No Mexican standoff here, just the fabulous deus ex machina of a true one-off.
Tech Spec: Liberty Walk Ferrari 458
F136 4.5-litre V8, Pipercross air filters, Fi Exhaust valvetronic system with decats, c.580bhp
Praxis air-ride, Air Lift management
Rotiform VDA 3-piece forged wheels – brushed silver centres, polished lips, chrome hardware
OEM red leather
LB Works GT Silhouette widebody kit (FRP/dry carbon)