Make it to break it. This must be Kato-san’s motto when he sits down and thinks about his next car build. With ‘break it’ I am of course refering to the internet, something Liberty Walk destroys quite often.
Online reactions to these builds are usually fueled by equal amounts surprise, admiration and criticism. That’s probably to do with the fact that much of what Liberty Walk has done in the past revolved around grafting on overfenders to valuable sports and supercars; some people love it, and others do not.
For Tokyo Auto Salon 2020, however, Kato came up with something that resonated very well with the enthusiast crowd – the LB Super Silhouette Works R34 Skyline.
In Japan, the Super Silhouette Formula race series – which was based on Group 5 regulations – was hugely popular in its day. It spawned the gurachan movement, which played a major role in the style of bosozoku cars. Super Silhouette race cars looked like the production models they were modeled on, but sported wild widened bodies hiding massively powerful turbo engines inside tube-frame chassis.
The car Kato wanted to emulate with his TAS 2020 showpiece was the Hasemi KDR30 Skyline that Masahiro Hasemi drove in the 1982 and 1983 championships. The red and black Tomica livery has become legendary, but recreating that wasn’t the challenge – the body was.
With their new line of Silhouette body conversions, Liberty Walk has become rather good at full aesthetic transformations of cars like the Ferrari 458 and R35 GT-R. So they knew what they were doing when they applied similar thinking to the ER34 Nissan Skyline GT-t.
Straight after TAS wrapped up, I met the guys from LBW in Makuhari Sea Town, a cool housing estate just a block away from the Makuhari Messe exhibition center, where we positioned it pretty much in the middle of a little junction. Don’t worry though, it’s a quiet neighborhood, so our temporary presence didn’t cause too much trouble.
Seeing it outside the show and parked on the road gave real sense to how wild the front splitter is. There is no way you could register something like this for road use in Japan, let alone any other country I imagine, but that’s beside the point. This was purely an exercise in fun – the Liberty Walk way.
I can’t recall any other build from Liberty Walk being so well received at TAS as this one, but the fact they used an ER34 as a base surely kept all the potential negativity at bay. If Kato-san had chopped up a GT-R for this, it would have been a different story.
Another key aspect of this build is the engine swap, so removing the RB26DETT had this been a GT-R probably wouldn’t have gone down well either. But swapping the ER34’s factory-fitted RB25DET NEO for the stroked-to-3.1-liter L28 that now sits up front is a little more palatable.
Plus the authenticity is just right. Yes, the DR30 RS-Turbo ran the FJ20DET, but the race car was powered by an L-series – an LZ20B to be precise, which was a four-cylinder version of the L20 fitted with a twin cam head and equipped with a TD05 turbocharger, good for 570PS.
So the ‘L-gata’ as they call them in Japan works perfectly well in this build; it has that link to the past and adds an instant vintage touch. But Kato-san wasn’t just going to leave it at that. He sent the engine to a specialist and had it tuned in the same way that the motor in his blue Kenmeri was done years back, with a ported and polished head, and hot cam, allowing the 3.1L bottom end to do its thing. Fuel is provided by three twin-draft 50mm Solex carburetors which must sound glorious at wide-open throttle.
A stock header system and side-exit exhaust take care of amplifying that mechanical symphony to the world, and there’s an ensemble of air horns to add some bosozoku-ness to it all. Except these ones play the Mickey Mouse theme song. The Godfather theme is just so overdone these days…
The whole interior has been stripped out and painted the same glossy black as the rest of the car, with a bright yellow Cusco bolt-in roll cage and red Bride Gita buckets providing some nice contrast.
One of my favorite touches are the fins that run along each side of the hood. These are something the race car had, but also a modification made to a lot of DR30s back in the day.
The boxy fenders are as wild as we’ve seen on an R34 this side of a Super GT race car, meaning the 18×11-inch Yokohama Advan Racing GT wheels have quite the job filling them out. In fact, they had to be mounted with hub extenders to get the right fitment. Air suspension at each corner allows the car to be moved around easily; remember, this is no race car but purely a statement.
Here’s another first – Vitaloni mirrors on a ’34. This touch is normally reserved for gurachan and bosozoku cars.
As wild as the rest of the conversion is, this Skyline’s best angle is the rear. From the boxy fenders abruptly ending with a 90-degree angle as they meet the underlying body, to the way the massive diffuser protrudes from the bumper and how the wing attempts to recreate that multi-level-look the KDR30 sported, it’s absolutely killer.
I’m sure you are going to ask, so here is what Liberty Walk has to say: No, the kit/conversion is not for sale, but it will made available to official LBW dealers across the world if they want to build their own cars.
This car, in my view at least, represents a total slam dunk for Liberty Walk. It’s such a well thought out and executed homage to a legendary car that’s part of the Skyline heritage, and one of the most talked about cars ever to be shown at a Tokyo Auto Salon. Now I’m keen to hear your views on it – see you in the comments section below…
Dino Dalle Carbonare