"Who's your daddy?" Every time I hear those words there are two things I think of, one of which we can't discuss here. However, the other thing I think of is the fact that those words have become the catch phrase of today's modern day George Barris and self-proclaimed king of late-model hot-car customizing, Craig Lieberman. Craig has ingrained himself in the import car culture. First, by growing the National Import Racing Association (NIRA) into one of the most profitable import drag racing series ever, before it was sold to the NHRA, and secondly by being instrumental in bringing the import car scene to big and small screens around the globe. Not that all this is done without the thought of some personal gain, but who's nitpicking? If I had the pull to get every major aftermarket parts manufacturer to sponsor one of my cars, I would too, and take a sock in the stomach along with it.
To date, Craig has owned at least 35 cars in his many, many, many years on this earth. To say he is a little obsessive would be a gross understatement. One time he actually sold a Lexus IS 300 that he just bought new not more than two months prior because it got scratched. "That car was jinxed," said Craig. However, he replaced it shortly afterwards with a brand-new $60,000 BMW M3. Must be nice. The Fast and the Furious turned Lieberman's 32nd car (A Toyota Supra turbo) into one of the single most widely recognized vehicles in the world (and I'm still trying to get my name on all the stuff I write for this magazine). But I guess it all comes because of the man's gift of gab. Craig can talk holes in Swiss cheese; I have seen him do it. I've seen him sell ice cubes to Eskimos also, but that's getting a little too off topic. After the Supra was sold to a guy in Europe for a cool $80k, Lieberman set his sights on a acquiring his next star project, the Holy Grail of import tuner cars, a '99 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R V-Spec.
But Craig couldn't settle for your average run-of-the-mill-showroom stock Skyline, oh no. He had to have one of the most potent, street-driven, evil-looking versions of that car ever built. After placing a few phone calls to Motorex and waving his engorged wallet around, the car dubbed "The Blackbird"-previously belonging to the owner of Motorex himself-became part of the Crooked "L" ranch stable. Now this car was sick enough in its own rights. Midnight black, lowered, and massaged with all kinds of go-fast goodies, the car was already the epitome of coveted vehicles. In addition, with a claimed 400hp at the wheels, it was more than capable of keeping ahead of the competition. However, that was not enough.
Craig being the "I wanna be in the spotlight" kind of guy he is, had to have more. His obsessive/compulsive disorder was kicking in again and he had to feed his urges. Away went the Darth Vader look in favor of a custom shade of blue mixed by Quigley's called "Craig's Candy Blue" (did I mention that this guy is a little full of himself?). This new shade allows for the curves and contours of the C-West body kit to be more easily seen. The rear deck wing is from C-West as well. Made completely from carbon fiber, from the wing tips to the pedestals, this piece is designed to actually provide downforce, unlike some of the stuff you see on the streets now.
To counteract all the downforce and keep the car from riding on the bumpstops, a set of HKS remote-reservoir coilovers with Goldline Racing springs were installed on the four corners. HRE stepped in and donated a set of 19-inch Model 446 3-piece hoops for the car and Toyo dropped off some Proxes rubber to wrap around them. Nismo provided the stabilization for the vehicle in the form of a strut tower bar and suspension arms. All these components help the 3,300-pound-plus car get through the twisties faster than many cars that weigh a half-ton less. A Stop Tech brake system with 15-inch rotors up front and 14 inches in the rear was installed to help bring the ton and a half car to a screeching halt.
The motivation for the stock GT-R V-Spec comes from Nissan's 6-cylinder RB26DETT. In stock form, this motor is already a potent performer at a proclaimed, but underrated 280hp. But however powerful the original powerplant is, it wasn't enough for Mr. L. The Blackbird edition already came with a host of high-powered goodies from A'PEXi, but some changes had to be made. Over $7,500 was invested into just massaging the engine and internals.
Then on top of that, a pair of brand-new HKS GT2540 turbos were added to replace the very capable A'PEXi units. An HKS front mount intercooler finds its home behind the toothless grin of this prizefighter and to help with air cooling duties, a Nitrous Express intercooler fogger was added. The HKS-enhanced internals already get a healthy workout from the twin hairdryer system, but once again, too much is never enough. The car went down to AEBS in San Diego, California, for some super secret Secret Squirrel-type modifications. A Nitrous Express 150hp direct-port nitrous system was introduced, and before any phone numbers were exchanged or even a "get to know you" date, three 10-pound carbon-fiber nitrous bottles ended up in the sack in place of the front passenger seat in a custom aluminum mount. Air is sucked in through a carbon fiber K&N intake/airbox, tossed around, and booted out through an HKS titanium exhaust like Nads in a bar in Hawaii. All the while, the HKS sequential blow-off valve whistles a happy tune. More magic happens on the inside of the car. As preparations are made for an ear-shattering, eye-bleeding, audio-video system, we are treated in the meantime to race prepped, quiet comfort. I can never get used to sitting on the left side of a car and not having a steering wheel and pedals in front of me. But since the person sitting to my right is the driver, he gets all the cool toys to play with. For instance, in front of the driver's Sparco Milano racing seat is a Sparco steering wheel, and on the floor there is a set of Project U simulated racing caliper foot pedals hovering over the Nismo floor mats. The left-handed shifting duties are the responsibility of a VeilSide shift knob. Sparco 3-inch harnesses hold driver and passenger in place during the neck-snapping acceleration and whiplash inducing turning capabilities this car now possesses and a custom rollcage designed by RJ Simrock outlines the interior space. HKS gauges help keep tabs on everything since the stock dash-top LCD probably can no longer keep up. When you can take a car of this mass and make it run the quarter in 11 seconds, you need a little more than factory gauges to provide the info.
Part two of the movie is already well under way with this car sitting in the top spot. Once again another feather in the cap, another boost to the ego, and another three sizes to Craig's already swelled head. I'd be willing to bet that after this car makes its big screen debut, only the sultan of Brunei could afford the asking price. I'm not sure what could possibly be next on the menu, but you can be sure no amount of therapy and hours on the couch are going to help this man with his issues. He's enjoying the attention too much.