There are some of you that will love this and there are some of you that will hate this article because simply put, once someone starts cutting up supercars there are a whole lot of feelings that get hurt in the butt region. But don’t give up on this piece yet, I promise you’ll gain some insight into a style that you may be currently shaking your head at. No matter what your stance on the issue is, it takes a lot of confidence to cut up a Lamborghini, Ferrari or any other supercar, and if you’re doing it on a daily basis then you must be doing something right.
Photos: Mike Alexander, Brian Goude, John O’Neill | Words: John O’Neill
You could describe it as the calling card of the Japanese based performance shop, Liberty Walk, where their motto of no boundaries and no limitations is brought to fruition daily with the cars they create. They have harnessed that old school outlaw chopper mentality of ‘anything goes as long as it goes fast’ and when the stock cars in your shop wear the badges of Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari 458 Italia or Nissan GT-R, well you can surmise that yeah anything does indeed go around here!
We left from Tokyo at an ungodly hour of the morning after only a few hours of sleep, since our Liberty Walk destination was 4 hours away in Nagoya, the 3rd largest city in Japan, which happens to be a huge hotspot of car culture. It’s nestled just outside of Toyota City – think our Detroit, well classic Detroit – and driving through the city you can spot custom shops, speed shops, and even Paradise Road – a very well known lowrider shop. If you’re a car guy in Japan, this is heaven and the perfect location for Liberty Walk Performance.
Without diving too deep into the cultural differences between American and Japanese society we can paint it with one large brushstroke called respect. From the moment we pulled up to the showroom we were greeted with smiles and hospitality. Did we need cars moved around for photos? Garage bay doors opened? An entire operation placed on pause? No problem. Kato-san, the owner had just met us, but we were treated like family as we lugged around our camera gear shooting everything in sight.
There was one burning question though that we had brought with us, what’s the deal with these wide fenders, front splitters and white letter tires beyond the normal racing history and traditions? The explanation was fascinating and rooted deep in the history of Japanese car culture called Bosozoku. “Boso” translates to crazy, loud or rage and “Zoku” simply means group. So this crazy, loud group of street racers were out hitting the streets at midnight with wide bodied Nissan Skylines while the rest of normal society was asleep. The Liberty Walk style encapsulates this piece of Japan street racing history much the same way that modern American street rods pull from the classic parts of early traditional hot rod styles.
While touring the main location, Kato-san surprised us and offered to take us to their fabrication, paint and body shop which was about 20 minutes away from the showroom. This was the heart of the operation where Lamborghinis sat midway through their transformation from stock supercar to ‘bagged, wide, and loud. We’ve been in a fair share of custom shops throughout the years but there was just something magical about this place. That tingle on the back of your neck that lets you know that we were in a special place that not a lot of people – Japanese or Americans alike – ever get to see.
As we poked around the shop and passed over small automotive gems like an immaculate Ferrari F50, there was a lift in the back of the garage that we stumbled upon. On the lift were several Bosozoku styled cars and as we stood there over 5,000 miles from home taking it all in, it felt like we finally got “it”. A bit of juxtaposition between the classic wide bodied Nissan Skylines and the newly transformed wide body Nissan GT-Rs sprawled before us was all it took to tie it all together. Kato-san wasn’t just doing it, he was doing it right. The vehicles he is creating are directly related to the passion and connection he grew up with and this light bulb moment will probably resonate for quite some time.
It’s the universal language of custom cars; we constantly build and improve on what we know. For many of us it was what our fathers built in the garage on week nights and took to the track on weekends. It was the car or truck we fell in love with as it cruised by the local strip on a Friday night. It’s the vehicle that consumes our thoughts, our creativity and of course, our wallets. Liberty Walk Performance is a thriving center that speaks this language and for a group of American foreigners halfway around the world, this is a place that felt like home.
Be sure to check out the builds that Kato-san and Liberty Walk will be bringing to SEMA this year, if you’re into, you know… custom supercars and stuff.