Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Mr Hayashi’s Liberty Walk Ferrari 458 Spider from back in 2014…
A long time ago, in a country far, far away, the body-kitted home-grown tuner car was king. It was the 1990s and Japan was undergoing an automotive rebellion. On the streets, the Bosozoku ruled the roost, charging around in massive groups on crazy modified bikes or slammed, ultra-wide motors with ear-splitting exhausts. At the same time ‘brand-new’ tuning and styling companies like VeilSide and Do-Luck were on the verge of becoming global megastars. This, one of the more mentalist aspects of car culture, was almost mainstream in the far East but not so much here in the West.
Of course, there were a few ‘import’ tuners in Europe and the USA back then, but they weren’t exactly common. Then, just after the millennium, a low budget film called The Fast and The Furious came out and the whole planet went bodykit crazy.
We all craved a piece of the action, we all wanted to ride in the lairyest, loudest motor out there, preferably a genuine 9-second Japanese rocket. The trouble was, most of us we’re knocking about in Saxos and Corsas.
What happened next was a natural progression. We took a load of 1-litre non-Jap cars, grafted on kits (along with a number of other obscene modifications) and life was good… even if we look back now and think all those Euro-kitted show cars were usually a bit wank. That’s the thing about any past fashion, it’s rarely remembered fondly and this one soon took its place in the history books with Spliffy jeans, Burberry baseball caps and Brut aftershave.
Nowadays, for the Euro mainstream at least, the crazy Jap body kit has been dead for years and I think that’s a bit of a shame – not least because rocking one took guts. And I guess that’s my whole point, back in the day you needed massive kahunas to get on in the world of the Kaizo-sha (modified car) but steadily things have become far more sedate. Luckily there’s one or two ‘traditionalists’ left in Japan who aren’t quite so civilised and are still packing some pretty bloody hefty trouser potatoes.
Wataru Kato, is the bloke behind Liberty Walk, LB Performance and this particular ‘kitted-up’ European motor. You’ll be reading a whole load more about the man and his roots in our full-on interview over on Pg.18 but for now what’s important is his outlook on developing bonkers areo and the fact he’s got the audacity to restyle a host of European motors that many consider untouchable.
Quite obviously, he’s not one for messing about. His latest creation isn’t just any old Golf GTi or BMW M3, this is a true European icon, a thoroughbred racer, 200-grand’s worth of 200mph carbon-fibre pedigree that’s got 560bhp and will hit 60 in 3.4 seconds. More to the point too, this is one of the world’s most soul-stirring pieces of exotica and he’s had the cast-iron nut-sack to get in there and cut it up with no remorse.
The result is a somewhat ‘roofless’ evolution of the gunmetal LB Performance 458 Italia demo car which stormed SEMA, the biggest car show on the planet, just a few months ago. What you see right here could be one of the most important cars of this decade too, and that’s because it’s actually a real customer’s motor. Yes, a bloke called Mr Hayashi actually handed over his pride and joy and a wedge of cash to a man with a big, fat vision… not to mention a big, fat angle grinder.
And why not? When it comes to cutting up serious-money supercars Kato-San’s a Jedi master, he’s like Obi Wan, Yoda and Samuel L. Jackson rolled into one, and he’s not afraid to go over to the dark side either. His motto is, “I bought the car, I should be able to do as I please!” And he personally owns a heavily-modified F40 and F50, along with a rather special C110 Skyline. Liberty Walk, his prestige dealership also has more than a couple of kitted Lambos, Maseratis and other LB-modified European exotica – most are just waiting to be snapped up by anyone with the nuts to drive ‘em.
Quite obviously the old skool Bosozoku style courses through Kato-san’s veins and it shows in all his designs. The ridiculously negative offset wheels, ultra aggressive stance and screwed-on overfenders were the same when he started modifying cars and running with the tribe over 20 years ago. In fact, when you think about it, it’s true to say that none of the ideas behind this Italian beast are actually new and that’s the key to what LB Performance does – they bring a slice of aggressive 1990s mentalism to modern, more restrained cars. An architect would say the designs of Wataru Kato are ‘modern’ in the same way as London’s Shard or Gherkin which are both buildings based on concepts that appeared more than 80 years ago. I guess the only real difference between this Ferrari and any jap-kitted Corsa bombing around in 2003 is, visually, this actually works – it’s pretty damn far from the mis-match of styles in the days of ‘I did this to be different.’
Strictly speaking, the mods haven’t changed, it’s just the budget that’s significantly increased but, much like a classic racecar, none of these take anything away from the original, instead they enhance it massively. It’s still a Ferrari after all and Kato-san has made sure it hasn’t lost its air of pomp and refinement, a bit like a sleek and beautiful Italian ballerina – a ballerina who has no reservations about taking her pumps off and using them to smash your face in.
What’s even more amazing though is that all this impact is created by a car that’s essentially only rocking three mods and a bit of paint. It’s certainly not your usual cover car for us here at FC, but that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve it – the way it makes you feel seems to put it beyond any other motor out there.
In any case, it’s a testament to the fact that a few, well-chosen mods can go a long, long way. So next time you’re thinking ‘what do I do to get on the front cover of Fast Car?’ You have your inspiration right here. Best start saving!
Tech spec Ferrari 458 Spider
LB Performance Italia 458, wide arch kit, Ferrari body heavily modified to fit, Ferrari white pearl paint
9 and 12×20-inch 3-piece Rotiform SNA wheels (right side), 3-piece SSR Executor CV01S wheels (left side) with Toyo Proxes tyres, custom LB suspension
Words Midge Photos Connor Surdi