Although you might not be familiar with Liberty Walk, the company has a big reputation for Lamborghini conversions, offering dramatic styling parts for the Aventador, Murcielago and Gallardo.
The Japanese company's very enthusiastic owner, Wataru Kato, has also focused on expanding to other brands, with kits for the Prius and Chrysler 300C getting recent attention. But it was his newest creation - a widebody kit for the E92 BMW M3 - that brought Liberty Walk (also known as LB Performance) to our attention.
Using GT3 RS-style riveted fender flares and large carbon fiber spoilers front and rear, the M3 makeover is both comprehensive and head-turning. At the recent MFest gathering in Las Vegas, these cars were predictably the stars of the show.
Before diving into how the cars were put together and how they perform, we should understand more about Wataru. He's quite a character who grew up from humble beginnings. He didn't come from an affluent background, but his passion for cars pushed him to start the company in 1993, and is now one of Japan's most popular custom shops. Over the years he's not only become an ambassador of Japanese car culture, but also proved that through hard work, you can achieve whatever you desire.
Wataru has a personal garage of more than 30 cars, ranging from daily drivers to exotics such as a highly-modified Ferrari F40. Although his fleet ranges from one extreme to the other, there's one common denominator - they all have his personal sense of style. Whether it's a widebody, disco-like interior lighting, or a deafening custom exhaust, Wataru's goal is to let you know it's one of his unique creations.
Shortly after attending SEMA 2012 with a Lamborghini, Liberty Walk announced it would enter the BMW market, with Wataru creating an aero kit for the M3 coupe. As the months passed, numerous renderings were released, hyping up the interest in the car and amassing a strong following online. With information flowing so fluidly over the internet, Wataru saw no point hiding the aggressive body kit for the M3.
The goal was to have the kit available by the end of spring 2013. And under an agreement with MFest, the car would debut in the US at the show in May.
With the first body kits only available a week before the show, it put a great deal of responsibility on LTMotorwerks (LTMW) in El Monte, CA to deliver the finished cars.
Wataru handpicked the shop, but he needed them to build two Liberty Walk M3s. One would be his personal car, while the other would belong to Bernardo Peña: an LTMW customer eager to have one of the first kits.
Although the deadline to complete two cars in one week seemed insurmountable, LTMW owner Long Tran faced it with enthusiasm and excitement. Together Tran and Wataru communicated through a translator to overcome the language barrier and complete the task at hand.
The pair of 2008 E92 M3s had to be stripped, sanded, cut and fitted with a multitude of new modifications. So it was all hands on deck at LTMW, with some of Wataru's friends volunteering to help the crew as it worked around the clock.
In order to fit the Liberty Walk widebody, all four fender panels had to be cut. Once the fender flares were installed, it was possible to fit 19x10.5" ET -10 front wheels, with 19x12" ET -50 on the rear. These would accommodate 295/30 and 305/30 Nitto Invo tires, respectively, giving the driver huge levels of grip, particularly up front.
Wataru would choose gloss-black Rotiform SNA three-piece wheels for his vehicle, while Bernardo opted for larger 20" iForged Milano wheels, also in black.
In addition to the flares, the Liberty Walk parts include a carbon fiber chin spoiler, splitter, trim pieces on the side of the rear bumper and carbon fiber rear wing.
The cars seen here have the low profile Type2 wing, and the entire Version2 kit retails for $8000. However, you can specify Version1, which has an F1-style Type1 rear wing that takes the price to $11000.
Although both M3s would have identical parts, Wataru wanted to differentiate them, so gave his M3 what he describes as an "energetic look". This would involve Lamborghini Grigio Telesto paint, accented with Verde Ithaca and gloss black highlights, plus numerous decals.
Whereas Bernardo's M3 would lean towards a "sporty look", finished in BMW Diamond Schwartz paint, accented with the carbon pieces and highlighted with a dash of red.
Wataru imagined that his M3 would grab everybody's attention at car shows, while Bernardo's was meant to be a neck-breaker on the street. Either way, both M3s have proven to be captivating and crowd-pleasing.
Once the exterior was underway, the next step was to achieve the correct stance, yet still be practical for the four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for MFest. So Wataru's M3 features CKS coilovers with Swift springs, while Bernardo's sits on KW Club Sport coilovers for a more performance-oriented ride.
The cars would need greater control since they'd also combine ESS Tuning superchargers that made for a rollercoaster ride of pure excitement when we had the opportunity to drive and ride in the cars. It would make up for the 4am wakeup call, and the scorching desert heat we endured for the photo shoot.
Both run the ESS VT1-550 supercharger system, which boasts 550hp - a 33% gain over stock, that transformed the machines into monstrous, tarmac-eating beasts.
The additional power under the hood certainly complemented the exaggerated widebody, creating cars most motorists seemed to find menacing in the rearview mirror, but also cars that spent very little time there. The light traffic and early hours meant we were able to clip along with a good turn of speed that shortened the journey time.
The two drivers also invested in exhaust systems that could be heard and recognized from afar. Wataru opted for the popular Arqray system from his homeland, plus a Mastermind NA X-pipe that gave the V8 a meaner roar than a modern supercar. Despite spitting an ungodly sound outside, once in the car you didn't really notice it, and there was no drone apparent. In an effort to avoid unwanted attention in the still desert air, a QTP remote exhaust cut-out was installed to tame the noise.
You could argue that such a beast shouldn't be tamed, which is the route taken by Bernardo, who opted for a full custom exhaust designed to create as much noise as possible. After all, these M3s demand attention.
Bernardo would also stray from the formula with a Brembo GT brake kit, Sparco Pro 2000 II seats and will soon get a red Autopower rollcage.
After the M3s' debut, Wataru returned to Japan to complete more projects but believes the operation was very successful and looks forward to another visit. And with more European projects on the drawing board for the BMW Z4 and Ferrari 458, among others, you can be sure this won't be the last you hear of Liberty Walk and Mr Kato.
2008 BMW M3
Seto-shi, Aichi, Japan
Owner, Liberty Walk
Engine 3999cc V8 32v with ESS Tuning VT1-550 supercharger kit, Arqray exhaust, Mastermind NA X-pipe,QTP remote cut-out
Drivetrain M-DCT dual-clutch transmission
Suspension CKS coilovers with Swift springs
Wheels & Tires 19x10.5" ET -10 f, 19x12" ET -50 r, Rotiform SNA wheels with 295/30 R19 f, 305/30 R19 r Nitto Invo tires
Exterior Liberty Walk Version2 widebody kit with four fender flares, carbon fiber front spoiler and Type2rear wing, front splitter and rear bumper trim pieces, car painted Grigio Telesto with Verde Ithaca accents,BMW LCI update
Interior wrinkle-finish black leather re-trim with alcantara accents on headrests, center panels, door cards and armrest