I like Kato-san at Liberty Walk. He’s my kind of car guy. This is a man that has worked hard to create a brand that over the last couple of years has had everyone around the world talking. He meddles with perfection, he does the unthinkable to supercars, things that anger uptight purists in a rather satisfactory manner. Think about it this way: how boring would the car world be without characters like Kato? I salute him for his braveness and respect the enjoyment he gets out of it. After all, life is short. We should enjoy doing the things we do, right?
But away from the mainstream, away from the works-style supercar thing that has brought Liberty Walk so much press lately, there is another side to Kato that I like even more. While the rest of the internet salivates over the slammed Ferrari 458s that Liberty Walk brought to TAS this year, I feel a great need to take you off on a tangent and concentrate on what, in my view, was one of, if not THE most interesting car at the Tokyo Auto Salon this year, and one I avoided touching on too much in my show coverage. I thought it’d be far more appropriate to head down to the outskirts of Nagoya where Liberty Walk is located and dedicate an appropriate amount of time to Kato’s latest personal project.
The LBW x Mizuno Works Kenmeri is a GC111 Skyline that combines substance with style and is spiced up with an unquestionably Kato-ish sort of flair. Japanese classic cars like these are always interesting to me because they can be built, tuned and restored in a variety of ways and often are a direct reflection of the owner’s character and taste. Much like the supercars that LBW builds for its customers, Kato’s kyusha collection may upset those that believe the period-correct, factory-perfect look is the only one to go for. While I believe the most sought-after limited edition cars do need to stay stock or close to it, what the hell is wrong with having a bit of fun with more run-of-the-mill models? This GC111 Kenmeri wasn’t a rare KPGC110 2000GT-R in its previous life, so Kato didn’t think twice about going full out and applying a perfect mix of yanki style and performance, creating one hell of a statement.
The Skyline was built in collaboration with legendary kyusha restorer and engine builder, Mizuno Works, who took the prepped and stripped chassis and really went to town on it. Original Mizuno Works overfenders were bolted directly on to the freshly painted exterior which was covered in multiple layers of ‘Ice blue pearl’ a custom pastel blue mixed with blue flakes that help give the vintage surfaces a very unique sort of depth.
Rear overfenders followed too – the widest ones that Mizuno Works offered, as they had to extend over the custom-built steel wheels that Kato chose for his car.
Ryo-san from Liberty and I spent a great deal of time loading the Kenmeri on and off the transporter to get it to my chosen shoot location, so I can confirm just how low this damn car sits: precisely 5mm off the ground, which makes it one big headache to move around. This sort of ride height is achieved by running special Mizuno 92 short-stroke dampers at each corner with carefully selected springs that are nothing short of rock hard to guarantee the car doesn’t self destruct itself over minor surface imperfections. This car is currently set low for show at the moment but since its main use will be around track and exhibitions, I doubt Kato has any plans to set the ride height any higher.
Continuing on the looks, you’ll notice that it all consists of a very few simple touches, starting off with the painted bumper and bucktooth lip spoiler up front. The front grille has been gutted out, the headlights given the must-have yanki tilt that’s so typical of the deliquent sub-culture and an external oil cooler slapped onto the front – that must-have, necessary hint back to the Hakosukas and other domestic classics that used to race in those long and gruelling Fuji endurance races in the seventies.
There are no fender-mounted mirrors here, but rather a set of more flowing Vitaloni items, color-matched to the rest of the body.
Move on to the rear and the Mizuno Works three-piece ducktail spoiler serves up an abrupt end to the Kenmeri’s flowing seventies silhouette.
I also thought it cast the most badass shadow I’ve seen!
That simplicity ends as soon as you swing around and take a gander at that rear end. The whole rear section has been smoothed over, shaved, rendered bumper-less – whatever you want to call it – a true kaido racer sort of touch that gives that must-have bosozoku feel to any sort of kyusha! Rotated Nissan Cherry tail lights are the only addition; there isn’t even a recess for the license plate. That’s illegal for any street car, so yet another polite way to show the middle finger to the authorities – half of the reason these sort of cars are built in the first place.
Getting a car like this to sit just right is as important as the details themselves; there must be a ridiculous sort of ride height. Check. A decent amount of negative camber is an absolute must. Check. The fenders flares must swing down over the tire’s sidewall towards the protruding lip of the wheels. Again, check. For added bonus, you have to run the widest possible wheels which as I mentioned already is done with a set of custom-widened 14-inch steelies measuring a massive 13 inches across the rear and 10 inches at the front. It’s close to impossible to find the right sort of rubber to achieve the right sort of look so like on Kato’s other kyusha rides, the Kenmeri runs vintage Advan race tires.
Yes there are plenty of cracks due to age and the obvious stretching that has been done, but that’s just something you have to be prepared to deal with for the right sort of look.
Combine all of the details above and you have nothing short of shakotan perfection; a low-slung, fear-inducing, menacing creation which you just can’t help but stare at.
And that’s precisely what I did: lots of staring, and lots of shooting in an attempt to get all of those details.
Like all of Kato’s vintage cars, the Kenmeri wears the Liberty Walk logo on the windscreen, written in a mix of Hiragana and Katakana characters, but it was the little black on white sticker below it that I was more interested in. Mizuno Works is one name that is highly respected in this scene; everyone knows about them and the awesome work they do, so there was definitely no more waiting. I HAD to pop the hood.Powered by Mizuno Works
Yep, it’s hard to be disappointed when you have a view like this waiting for you!
Kato really had Mizuno Works go to town on the L28 that the GC111 runs. The motor was stripped down, taken completely apart and subjected to a complete overhaul and rebuild which saw it spiced up – a little understatement there – along the way.
At its heart is an all-new bottom end based around a longer stroke LD28 crank, I-section connecting rods and forged AS Watanabe 89.25 mm forged pistons. Combined, this allows the capacity to grow by 300 cc to 3.1L, also running higher compression. A great deal of work has gone into the top end which has been hand polished to boost flow in the combustion chamber, as well as the intake and exhaust ports. An Engine Works 77-degree camshaft actuates the Kameari Engine Works oversized valves, 46mm for the intake and 38mm on the exhaust side.
Providing the necessary mix of air and fuel are a triplet of Mikuni 44 mm carburettors mated to appropriately chosen velocity stacks, tuned to give a good trade-off between low-end torque and response, and outright top-end power. On the power side of things, the car hasn’t really been put on the dyno, but it’s not uncommon for these sort of Mizuno Works fully built, stroked L28s to run around 100hp per liter.
How about the exhaust I hear you ask? Well there isn’t much there… yet! For now there’s just a non-brand set of stainless steel headers mated to, well, no exhaust. So yes it is very loud and very obnoxious, but in a very good way if you get my drift. Custom headers – or takohashi as they’re called in Japanese slang (octopus legs) – are on their way to being fabricated along with an exhaust system to help quieten down the eardrum-shattering straight-six sound.
Making sure each cylinder combusts all of its air and fuel mixture as cleanly and efficiently as possible, an Ultra MDI unit has been added to increase the spark intensity the NGK plugs provide.
As the original Nissan chassis plate suggests, this stock C-GC111 Skyline two-door used to be powered by an L20 straight-six, not the most potent of engines providing around 130 PS (128.2hp) despite offering the usual, raspy straight-six wail synonymous with all vintage Skylines.
So it seems Kato has made sure that the bespoke shakotan kyusha exterior is matched by ample power, provided by a motor built by nothing short of a legendary shop.
As you can see above, the shakotan term is well-deserved, because as I mentioned earlier, there’s no more than 5mm clearance offered by the lowest point underneath the car. But looks and performance aside, there’s one final area that Kato has executed to perfection.The right sort of details
The interior. Swing open the heavy steel doors and you reveal a cabin that beautifully combines an authentic stripped vintage racer feel with just the right sort of touches.
Take the period-correct Datsun competition steering wheel, the only ‘handle‘ (as the Japanese call it) that this sort of car would, and should be equipped with. It’s a touch of perfection in what is an ultimately minimalist sort of cabin, stripped out of the need to dump as much weight as possible but at the same time assume the same sort of qualities that seventies Japanese race cars had back in the day.
That’s why you find aluminium sheet covering areas where stock factory trim has been removed, like the door cards, parcel shelf and the entire dash panel.
There honestly isn’t much to look at, bar some well-selected bits of analogue instrumentation like this Kameari Engine Works fuel pressure gauge on the custom center console, helping Kato keep an eye on a pretty vital engine parameter.
The stock instrumentation has been eliminated, in its place a simple set of four Omori gauges that start off with the main unit, the tachometer sitting in center position right behind the steering wheel. The revs are really the only thing Kato has to worry about, as there’s no speedo to distract attention. On the left, three more Omori clocks give accurate readings of oil temperature and pressure, as well as water temperature.
The Liberty Walk Kenmeri wouldn’t be a proper yanki kyusha if it didn’t have a few details to set it apart from more authentically built, period-correct classics, and one such detail is definitely the Mizuno Works half cage, painted in a rather contrasting shade of yellow.
Any Nissan enthusiast lusts after a set of original Datsun sport seats and they’re precisely the seats that Kato went for, ticking all the right boxes when it comes to authenticity and the right sort of look for these kind of cars. The addition of a Carrozzeria headunit and a pair of parcel shelf speakers might look slightly out of place but it’s all part of the look and style.
It’s hard to justify cars like this to an audience that isn’t predominantly Japanese. Even the majority of Japanese people don’t get the shakotan thing, but there’s nothing to really ‘get’. It’s a way of keeping an old style alive; a call back to the seventies and the start of Japanese motorsports all coupled to an underground way of doing things. You don’t like the look or result? That’s ok, Kato and others that are into these sort of cars couldn’t care less; all they want is to enjoy their cars in their own unique way. And to me there’s nothing wrong with that, just as there’s nothing wrong with bolting overfenders onto Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Call it the Liberty Walk way…
That color is gorgeous. I think it just replaced Laguna Seca Blue as my favorite color. And that yellow rollcage complements it so well.
it's like the guys at liberty walk purposely choose their modifications with the sole intent of pissing people off.
This car makes me very happy.
dovvv If the tires were bigger and not stretched, and the original tail lights/more going on back there it would be a pretty good looking car
Looks like a great show car ...for now. Love the color the rear end and the spartan interior, not a big fan of the camber though. I always had a soft spot for the troubled Bosozoku.
It's probably because I'm a 16 year old delinquent, but I really dig this car. There's just something about it that I can't quite put my finger on.
I really want to hear how this sounds with no exhaust.
I like Kenmeri's. I like the colour. I love the engine. I even like the fact that this is probably the only Liberty Walk car so far which (in my opinion) actually suits bolt on guards.
That ride height, stretch and camber is ridiculous though. I'm sorry, but when you have so much stretch your sidewalls are cracking, you're doing something wrong. Tyres aren't really something you should fuck with, considering they're the only things between you and the road.
Not a big fan of the rear end either.
I'll admit I probably like this more than any other Liberty Walk cars, but then again that's not really saying much.
Glad to have seen this at TAS; nice to finally get a look under the hood.
Great article and photography. Dino, I love what you do.
I really like this car as a whole package. The over fenders, canted headlights, color and interior all fit together so well and seem to hold true to the style (for what I understand of it). The ride height is amazing. It takes work to get a car down that low. Yes, I could see where the camber might turn some people off but look how good it looks with the whole car. No, this doesn't make me want to put ten degrees of camber to the rear of my slammed '66 Dart, (if that were even possible) but I think it really plays out well on this build.
And thank you Speedhunters for featuring stuff that I've never seen anywhere else. Its really opened my eyes and got me thinking about all kinds of different cultures and styles that I wouldn't have ever thought about.
love the colour
well, like i'm always saying on here, it's not how I would have done it, but if it was, it probably wouldnt have been worth reading about. I really like it except for the absurd negative camber and stretch.
fairlady432 dovvv thats just it, theres so many out there that look like what you have described. Go through the photos at any JCCS or classic show from japan and you'll find them all looking the same besides a different pair of wheels on each one. This is pure textbook shakotan style, only real thing missing would be some carrozzeria speakers on the parcel shelf.
Amongst all the near standard Kyusha (read: lowered with wheels) rides you see at any JCCS or classic japanese show, a well executed shakotan car is a breath of fresh air and is well deserving of this post. WELL DONE DINO.
@BUSHIDO fairlady432 dovvv Thanks man, and yes it does have Carrozzeria speakers on the parcel shelf
Flawless victory. Love that first shot too (not the opening) the composition is so choice! And the L28! Dribble. I think though I like the interior above all other features in this car... I can just imagine sitting in there and putting that rowdy L6 through it's paces and grinning like a coked out stockbroker. What a privilege to have been audience to this car Dino, you've done it proud.
Like others I love the overall look of the car, but it takes the "form" just a little too far for my liking. Sort out the silly tyre stretch, dial the rear camber down a touch and thats pretty much perfect!
No seatbelts? Safety third!
Why is every one getting pissed off about the neg and stretch in the rear? in your ya face and awesome, I was going to buy some 14 x 8 bands for my steelies now i think thats boring and going for the 10s yee ha
speedhunters_dino fairlady432 dovvv give this guy a cookie..
Awesome shots and story!!, Dino did you use a different lens than you normally use or a new camera?
I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing.
JDMized Exactly. This is because Dino will help that folk mount Takata harnesses, so you can moan about it like you did with the Skyline. HAHAHAHHA. You are addicted to Speedhunters, dude. Admit it.
Very, very nice car review buddy!
JaredRush Im not pissed I think it look awesome to, Thats why I have 15 x 10 banded steels on my 240z
Wow Dino, you absolutely killed this. Awesome!
Taryn Croucher I knew you'd like it
PaddyMcGrath Thanks Paddy
@Seeking Perfection Glad to hear that
kultivateblog Thanks man, no just trying out new methods I guess
atomman JaredRush Yeah don't get the whole "I don't like the negative camber" it's a must have aspect of these sort of cars. It's those that apply it to other cars that are getting wrong if you really need to complain...
JDMized No wipers either. Good Lord, whatever next!
And you get a like because that is awesome ^.
tbtstt But then it wouldn't be a proper yanki style, shakotan ride. What on earth would the point of that be then lol
SnoozinRichy Cheers man!
Wildcardfox haha JDM emoji
robzor No onikyan and stretch? Blasphemy! hehehe
almos_world Thanks for the kind worlds
azmedaj Yup, it makes the car, that's for sure
Hotcakes The tyres are cracking because they are 30 years old or something, not because they are stretched. These things you list are the exact details that categorize these sort of cars. Might not be for everyone that's for sure, but it's a style, taking away key components of it would make no sense.
@CheeseR Imagine the loudest car you have every heard. Now take off its exhaust lol
Michael Atwell Are you saying these cars appeal to delinquents? I must be one too then....;)
koko san Oh don't worry, Kato will use it as is probably, I don't think he cares if he scrapes it everywhere, hasn't stopped him thus far that's for sure lol
NYporkdept It's all about creating the right sort of contrast
fairlady432 So you no longer like it then?
speedhunters_dino kultivateblog Then I love the new method the shots look very crisp, good job.
This is guy is running a mechanical fuel pressure gauge inside the cabin.... I know this is car is just for looks and is not running real high pressure, but still not smart. That is pretty dangerous. Dino if i were you i would advice him not to do that. I have seen mechanical fuel pressure gauges leak and burst.
reno808 I've seen this done on a ton of old Japanese cars. I think Kato and Mizuno Works know what they are doing
speedhunters_dino reno808 that they may Dino, but a fuel leak and fire in the cabin is incredibly dangerous. and its not necessarily about them is it? what about the kid who sees it and likes the idea but doesn't have any idea why it might be a bad idea...
just because a ton of old Japanese cars have it doesnt mean its right, safe or smart. there is a reason almost every race reg has the fuel lines run outside of the cabin. id hate to see speed hunters work them selves into a position where you have to put disclaimers on your articles because some kid tried to duplicate the look didnt do it properly and burned their car or even worse themselves
@Mike speedhunters_dino reno808
If we're going to be pedantic about modifications that have been done to the car in the fear that some kid is going to try to replicate the look on their own car wouldn't you be more worried about the fact the car has no seatbelts or head rests on the seats?
Relax a little and enjoy the car for the work of art it is.
Great review Dino, loving the cars you feature.
@Mike speedhunters_dino reno808
Rally cars run fuel lines inside. They would smash up if you didn't.
You should probably know what you're talking about before going on in length about it.
speedhunters_dino reno808 You see many people are misinformed that is the issue now a
days…. form over function. By your comment and post; kids that don’t know any
better is going to think its ok to bring in pressurized fuel into the cabin
that is literally right next to your face. Only because you have seen this done
to a ton of old Japanese cars doesn’t make it correct. If they knew what they
were doing they wouldn’t have that pressurized line at the location. Just let’s
say that car gets into an accident or develops a leak or that line is rubbing
against something that is cause wear on the line now you have fuel pouring into
the cabin. Do you know what fuel does to the skin or eyes without even igniting
it? It burns.
I am not even going to speak about your comment on cracked
tires “that’s just something you have to be prepared to deal with for the right
sort of look”. Again form over function and misinformed. I am sure to use that
line when I cause an accident due to a tire blow out because of tires cracks.
Tires do not crack because they are stretched. The only reason for it to crack
is because its harden rubber. FYI they do not let cars on the track if it’s
really stretched or cracked. It’s for a reason.
last paragraph...perfect as the car
speedhunters_dino atomman JaredRush the other thing the camber whiners aren't realizing...there is no adjustment for camber in these old cars. you lower the car and what you get is what you get. and the stretched tires....if you think something that started in the 70's is a "trend"...then i just don't know what to say.
Hotcakes kato-san literally has a FLEET of kyusha on level with this car.
speedhunters_dino reno808 you can get an isolator kit for this and use coolant from the engine bay to the gauge. it's not new technology, and I'm sure their using one in this car. kids. http://puredieselpower.com/images/detailed/36/5282.jpg
speedhunters_dino reno808 *they're
Incredible, Kato san is the man, he always has a smile on his face and rocks his style to the max! Favorite feature I have read on SH. Great work Dino!!!
lol @ people saying "id like it, if only this this this and this were completely different." ok we understand you dont like the damn car, so put your fingers back in your nose and stop typing about it.
speedhunters_dino this must have been such a surreal experience having a personal moment with this car. nicely done, the photos are amazing.
speedhunters_dino robzor I still smile when I see cars like that, though i'd never do it to my own car. I'm an engineer so i'm functional through and through i guess. I don't slam on him for doing it with his in any way, its just the only parts of the car I don't like.
Kinda like pizza, I dont mind someone ordering anchovies, I just wouldnt for mine. If someone wanted me to try their pizza I might really like it, but the next time I order it, i'll skip the anchovies. Does that make sense? More power to him for building it the way he likes, I'd just do it differently myself.
azmedaj Your user icon is awesome!
speedhunters_dino In high school my buddy ran his 72 buick skylark(old school chevy 350 motor) with no headers for about 1 minute just for the heck of it(we were switching the headers out) and it was the loudest thing I had ever heard.
speedhunters_dino In high school my buddy ran his 72 buick skylark(old school chevy 350 motor) with no headers for about 1 minute just for the heck of it(we were switching the headers out) and it was the loudest thing I had ever heard.
Did you shoot these way underexposed then bring up the shadows in post? Whatever you did, it looks fantastic; I love the tones and colors, and the milky, noisy shadows. Plus, of course, your immaculate control of depth of field.
Oh, and the car is pretty sweet too.
CAR OF THE YEAR // DINO FOR PRESIDENT
Tasty but... "Yes there are plenty of cracks due to age and the obvious stretching that has been done, but that’s just something you have to be prepared to deal with for the right sort of look." Bollocks is it... just plain stupid running ancient rubber and then wanting credibility. Sorry - bollokosukis...
Wow, so nice....and 14x13in steelies, why not just go for 14x14's instead!?!?
No tyres all after 30kms...
speedhunters_dinokoko sanI hope those bucket seats have some padding.
love it, wish i could import it into michigan, and roll into Baker's on a summer night.
I also love it... Am a Ford nut but this is amazing..
CAR OF THE YEAR!
robzor lol thanks! found it at the Street Car Nationals last year. forgot which car it was on though...
missile I think it has a real shot at that. I probably wouldnt vote for it because my tastes are more performance and less show oriented, but I'd say there really is a shot at it.
@AUTONERD speedhunters_dino reno808 sorry I still don't see the issue. A lot of vintage or reproduction kyusha race cars run the same gauge and I've never heard of it ever being an issue.
TomKimmell He sure does! Thanks Tom!
LamesIngram speedhunters_dino Thanks and yes it was, all alone in the middle of nowhere with this car was quite the experience
hushypushy Some over, some under:) Glad you like them
Ben Chandler Can I start a dictatorship?
Spaghetti No tyres!
AlanPeterson1 What's Bakers?
robzor missile Check the engine specs:)
speedhunters_dino Yeah, I know thats all part of the style and I understand why they've done it. I personally don't like to think of cars solely for show (especially when elements of their look are suppose to be "race inspired"), hence why I commented on some aspects of it being a little too much for taste.
The "form over function" argument is a never-ending one though...
speedhunters_dinoreno808 Failing to see the issue in order to protect your business equals in one ear and out the other. good luck.
Based on what he has I would guess he's making just north of 300 hp. In a car that light it's certainly enough, but I don't really consider it a performance car with such an impractical suspension and tire set up. Cars at gatebil will far best it in the performance category.
speedhunters_dino Ben Chandler You can finally have your dream of V8ing every GT-R...
speedhunters_dino reno808 With the kit I posted, you don't run fuel into the cabin. It's what anyone with an in-dash fuel pres. gauge runs. I'm sure that's what's used here. Like you said, he's been around. people just assumed it's gas in there when it's most likely not.
250 or 260 at the wheels would be about right, and enough to be a lot of fun. Esp w shortened gearing.
Please educate me: is Mizuno Works owned or related in some way to Mizuno-san the former R35 GTR lead designer/chief engineer?
speedhunters_dinoAlanPeterson1Bakers of Milford, just a local place that has a drive in and park cruise night. Every sunday, all summer long. They also happen to be a stones throw from GM's Milford proving grounds. This thing would stand out like a sore thumb, in such a good way.
robzor but daaayuuum it looks good.
speedhunters_dinoI should give: http://www.bakersofmilford.com/1/252/cruisin.asp some love, because, we do like our cars here in the Motor City. They also claim to be America's largest weekly cruise event, and they do get a good turnout.
reno808 speedhunters_dino do you realize that carbs only use like 5psi (if that much) of fuel pressure...
speedhunters_dino reno808 no issues I've heard of either...this has been done since the 70's... factual data...
Chris Nuggets Nope
robzor Sure the suspension might make it impractical, but to not call this a performance oriented build will be wrong. All that's needed is there really
AlanPeterson1 speedhunters_dino Ah, thanks for the explanation!
PaddyMcGrath speedhunters_dino Ben Chandler I'll leave that sort of thing to the R35 boys who love to dump their turbo motor when it's time to get serious and go racing
reno808 speedhunters_dino protect my business? What are you on about? IO don't sell fuel gauges lol
@AUTONERD speedhunters_dino reno808 Precisely
familycar speedhunters_dino reno808 Indeed!
tbtstt speedhunters_dino Yep it definitely has no end lol
robzor speedhunters_dino Sure does
Konkrite Ok then lol
robzor speedhunters_dino Yeah that must be pretty damn loud
AnthonyCrawford Yuuuuuuuubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum!
Swag_factory69 blaarrgghhh good god
Swag_factory69 It's a long term goal of mine to own something as lovely
BrendynMorgan I'm Finna get a 72 skyline for cruisin and an RB swapped Datsun for bruisin ya feel
Swag_factory69 haha I'm finna cop a smartbusa. Pull all the hoes
speedhunters_dino tbtstt What would be the point? A usable car that doesn't need to be trailered for any journey longer than a couple of k, maybe?
The Japanese scene has a really unparalleled style and I love it...
This is an absolutely awesome machine! A 21st century callback to the roots. Thank you Dino for writing this and also sharing some Japanese terms!
I know I'm gonna get hell for this, but all that car needs now is a stylized number 43 on the door.
Excellent article, great to have an in depth look at such a beast!
Does anyone know if the steel wheels are from any particular car before being banded or are they modular steel wheels?
Shit,there is no covers on gutters like at home, I can not perform gutter runs on this course.
At first I really Liked it then I saw the camber and rear end