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 Liberty Walk’s Nissan GT-R from back in 2014…
American suspension installed by an Essex Boy on one of Japan’s greatest sportscars? Liberty Walk is far from traditional when it comes to tuning…
No matter what scene you belong to or what car you drive, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid Liberty Walk in 2014. Over the past few years Wataru Kato and the Liberty Walk team have transformed the way we look at modifying, showing that big bodykits and overfenders are back in fashion and no car – regardless of prestige or price tag – should be exempt from going under the knife!
First came along the Lamborghini Murcielago, closely followed by Ferrari’s 458 Italia that hit the cover of Fast Car back in issue 340. They shocked the automotive scene so much even Top Gear jumped on the bandwagon, praising Kato-san’s unique style and attitude. But there was one creation left which would cause more controversy than any of its predecessors – the Nissan GT-R.
Now that may sound strange given how many tuners worldwide have fettled with the GT-R, but truth be told most of those upgrades consist of either tuning the 3.8-litre V6 engine or making the 1750kg chassis lighter. Liberty Walk took a very different approach; bonkers styling and airbag suspension… two upgrades which send shivers down the spines of purists!
Anyone who’s driven or even seen videos of the R35 knows just how ferocious this beast is on the track. Despite often being underpowered and overweight compared to its German rivals, its perfect blend of lag-free turbo boost and super-trick all-wheel-drive transmission allows it to lap the Nürburgring in just 7-minutes and 29 seconds, faster than a Porsche 997 GT3 RS and even the Koenigsegg CCX. It’s the ultimate underdog which set the standard for performance cars, giving a two-finger salute to those exotics with a price tag upwards of 10-times the GT-R.
Take all of this into consideration and you can see why air suspension has never been looked upon as a performance alternative for the Nissan, but Kato-san is no stranger to controversy – and looking good is just as important as going fast. What’s more, the air suspension Kato-san wanted to install wasn’t some old-fashioned, show-only setup. It was the latest technology from American manufacturers Air Lift Performance, a company who – over the past few years especially – have shown that you really can have your cake and eat it when it comes to building a super-low stance with (proven) coilover-beating performance.
Let’s get one thing straight – you don’t just bolt on an airbag system to a GT-R and hope it works. This is the kind of platform which takes time, skill and development to ensure it performs better than standard while still allowing that super-low drop at the push of a button. But for Air Lift Performance engineer Brian Vinson,the GT-R represented the perfect model to show just how far air suspension technology has progressed. No pressure then…
Tasked with this development program, Brian was flown across from Chicago to California to install a prototype kit on another GT-R built by Liberty Walk’s USA division, LT Motorworks. With a little help from local tuners and fabricators BenzWorks, Brian was able to install the prototype kit on the GT-R, and more importantly, drive it before flying back to Chicago and putting the kit into production. ‘‘First impressions were VERY good. The ride was firm, not punishing and the steering sharp,” explains Brian. “Our handling evaluation was limited but the on-board data system indicated we were cornering at over 1G! With an
extra 120bhp over stock this car was a rocket…”
Fast-forward a few weeks later and the Liberty Walk team were flat-out preparing cars for the annual Tokyo Auto Salon. With the first Air Lift kit now in production Kato-san wanted the R35 pictured here to be the first air-equipped GT-R in Japan, the perfect centrepiece to their stand at TAS. Unfortunately, time was always going to be limited, so in order to ensure it performed faultlessly Air Lift decided to send Essex Boy and Air Lift ambassador Carl Taylor halfway around the world with a suitcase filled with suspension parts… as you do.
In just a few days, the GT-R install was complete, and with a bit of spare time Carl and the Liberty Walk crew even managed to air-out an E92 M3 also making an appearance at Tokyo Auto Salon! But don’t be fooled into thinking cars like the GT-R are all show and no go – with 639bhp, 20in Toyo R888 tyres and an Armytrix titanium exhaust system, this R35 packs a serious punch! Kato-san and the team take great pride in using every car they build, so making jaws drop and ears bleed wherever they drive is an absolute must for these fellas.
Looking at the finished article here, it’s impossible not to appreciate the sheer presence this GT-R has wherever it’s parked. Kato-san is famed for his positive attitude towards modifying, and while most tuners would shy away from chopping up a supercar-slayer like the R35, he’s embraced it with arms wide open. It’s a true testament to everyone involved – especially given the hurdles faced with putting air suspension on such a high-profile car.
So forget Kim Kardashian – when it comes to breaking the Internet, there’s only one man knows how to do it properly – Kato-san.
TECH SPEC NISSAN GT-R
VR38DETT 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 Armytrix full titanium exhaust system, Trust/Greddy Airinx filters and intercooler/hard pipes, remapped ECU, power rated at 639bhp.
Air Lift Performance Nissan R35 threaded body air suspension kit, 20in Rotiform SNA 3-piece wheels one side, 20-inch LB Works the other, Toyo Proxes R888 285/35ZR20 front, 315/30ZR20 rear.
Newing custom leather interior.
LB☆WORKS wide body kit comprising of front bumper, front & rear overfenders, rear diffuser, swan neck rear wing.
Words Mark Riccioni Photos Connor Surdi