You won't run into a single person today who hasn't heard of Liberty Walk. But just a few years ago, it was a different story. Many enthusiasts in Japan have known the name through Liberty Walk's customization of Lamborghinis, Chrysler 300Cs, Dodge Challengers, and Suzukis. The company didn't reach global fame until the '12 SEMA Show. Founder Wataru Kato enlisted the help of TRA Kyoto and Rauh-Welt Begriff to create what was the talk of the industry whether you were a JDM, Euro, domestic, or truck enthusiast. Tucked away in the Toyo Tires booth was a Lamborghini Murcielago with its body chopped up to accommodate enormous bolt-on fender flares. The quarter-million-dollar sports car was slammed lower than most stanced Civics and wrapped in brushed metallic aluminum—as if it didn't stand out enough. The car graced our March '13 cover and also paved the way for many more flared high-dollar sports cars over the last few years. While these wild cars are undeniable showstoppers, at last year's Tokyo Auto Salon, we discovered something slightly different from Kato-san—this Nissan Kenmeri Skyline.
When it comes to classic Japanese cars, the majority of enthusiasts keeps them very close to factory, but Kato-san's style and personality is about having fun, being loud, and standing out. His way of thinking and lifestyle were applied to Ferraris, Lambos, and BMWs—and ultimately how his recent Kenmeri project played out.
He teamed up with old-school specialists Mizuno Works; we've seen many awesome projects surface from their small shop located in the countryside of Japan. For Kato-san's build, they started by stripping the entire car apart and painting the Skyline its pastel blue pearl color. From there, in true "works" style fashion, Mizuno Works supplied wide over-fenders that bolted directly to the body. Filling the arches, Kato-san opted to widen a set of 14" steelies. The fronts measure 10" wide while the rears are a whopping 13" wide! The Advan tires are perhaps the most insane part. The old race rubbers haven't been manufactured in decades—you can notice the cracks on the rubber from their age and stretching. According to Kato-san, each tire is worth close to a $1k each today!
To complete the low and aggressive look, chassis upgrades came next. The suspension uses a custom set of Mizuno short-stroke dampers matched with springs as stiff as concrete. The camber was adjusted as negative as possible to give just enough clearance. Having seen this car in person outside of LTMW for our photo shoot, it can barely handle mild dips in the road. It has the sort of low ride height even cars on air wish they could have!
With the perfect blue paint, pronounced fenders, and wide stance, the exterior is a thing of beauty...but it doesn't end there! The rear has been completely smoothed and given the bumper-less look, while the trunk received a pronounced duckbill spoiler. Up front, you'll notice a gutted front grille and slanted headlights—to the untrained eye you would think they're crooked, but this is a style known as "yanki" that's typical of some hard-core race builds in Japan, just like the external oil cooler.
Of course, a gorgeous body is only half the battle. Kato-san and Mizuno Works had still yet to tackle underneath the hood. A stock GC111 two-door Skyline comes out of the box with an L20 straight-six. Its 128 hp is nothing to brag about in today's modern age, so Mizuno Works sourced an L28 and gave it all the tender love and care it needed. A fresh bottom end features a longer stroke LD28 crank, stronger rods, and forged AS Watanabe pistons. When all was said and done, Mizuno Works bumped up displacement to a true 3.1L with higher compression.
For the top end, they didn't half-ass it, either. The head was carefully ported and polished while a more aggressive cam was installed along with oversized valves from Kameari Engine Works. Mikuni 44mm carbs matched to velocity stacks allow for better airflow, resulting in more power and a wicked sound. Kato-san has yet to put the Skyline on the dyno, but Mizuno Works estimates the motor to be around 300 hp—not bad considering the car used to have 128 hp originally!
Continuing the aggressive Japanese street car feel is the interior. The car is already light to begin with and double the power—now imagine the interior with next to nothing! It's been stripped and left with only a pair of period-correct Datsun Sport seats, competition steering wheel, Omori gauges, half-'cage, and aluminum covers.
When Kato-san set out to build this Kenmeri, he didn't care about pleasing the old-school purists or the dedicated race guys. Even in Japan, most enthusiasts don't get him. But he's doing what he loves and sharing with the world his wild style that has been translated to beautiful showstoppers such as his widebody Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and now his personal Kenmeri Skyline.