Japanese new car modifier Mitsuoka have long been known for their bizarre creations based on run-of-the-mill JDM models.
I’m not sure if categorizing them as a ‘coachbuilder’ would be correct, but they are probably what the watered-down equivalent would be in 2022. They are well known for taking cars like the Nissan March/Micra or Teana, and grafting on massive metal grills and round headlights to give them a ’60s British vibe, often reminding people of MkII Jaguars. While these type of cars are still offered in the lineup, Mitsuoka have recently branched out into more visually-pleasing models. They’ve injected Corvette Stingray DNA into the Mazda MX-5 with the aptly named Rock Star, and applied a Chevy Blazer grille to the new-gen Toyota RAV4, calling it the Buddy.
Of all the models that Mitsuoka have created though, perhaps none have garnered more international attention than the Orochi.
Mitsuoka debuted the Orochi concept – a Honda NSX converted to the point that it was barely recognisable – at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show. In their press release, Mitsuoka said the model was inspired by Yamata no Orochi, the famed eight-headed and tailed Japanese dragon. You can sort of see it in the snake-like headlights.
I remember thinking at the time, ‘Oh no, why did you have to do this to an NSX!?’ Thankfully though, by the time the Orochi was launched as an actual production car in 2006, it was built on bespoke underpinnings, put together with a variety of Honda and Toyota parts.
Fast-forward another decade and a half and you’re looking at possibly the strangest ‘sports car’ to have ever come out of Japan taken one step further with the Liberty Walk treatment. I say ‘sports car’ because, frankly, the Orochi was never a sports car, but rather a design-driven exercise – like all of Mitsuoka’s products.
If you need proof, just look in the engine bay. Power comes from a mid-mounted and transversely-oriented Toyota/Lexus 3MZ-FE 3.3L V6 mated to an automatic transmission.
So we’re definitely not looking at this car from a performance standpoint, rather the visual impact that Kato-san at Liberty Walk has given it.
The project was actually brought to LBW by the guys at Sphere Light, a Japanese automotive accessory company that specializes in HID and LED lighting.
I remember seeing the car at the 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon but, like most people, didn’t take too much notice as it was finished in black and became somewhat lost amongst all the other Liberty Walk cars.
Fast forward a couple of years and a fresh white respray later, and boy is it looking different.
Having the Orochi finished in the same race livery as Liberty Walk’s Formula D Japan S15 4-rotor Silvia has given it real presence.
As it sat aired-out over its 20×9.5-inch front and 20×11.5-inch rear LBW wheels on the quiet streets of Makuhari New Town barely hours after the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon had wrapped up, the car looked purposeful and aggressive, to the point that for the first time in 21 years, I actually thought the Orochi didn’t look too bad. It really is amazing what these overfender conversions can achieve.
Having been co-built by a company that specializes in lighting, there is, unsurprisingly, ample illumination. It was actually impressive how bright the LED headlight bulbs were even on their regular low-beam settings, but a first for me was seeing illumination within the dashboard and seats. This full-custom two-tone interior was pieced together by Newing.
The main takeaway for me here though, is just how popular overfenders continue to be. Even away from a company demo car like this one, wide body kit makers like Liberty Walk, RWB and Rocket Bunny – to name the top three – have shown that overfenders aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
This modern interpretation of the ‘works’ race look, once the simple way to prep a car for motor racing, is here to stay. In fact, it’s probably growing, as LBW showed us at TAS with even more examples of their integrated wide-body conversions.
It simply comes down to human nature. Some of us want to stand out, be different and disrupt, and people like Kato-san are here to show the way, no matter how extreme or what the base car is. Looking at the Liberty Walk website now, they are catering to a total of 21 car brands, with various models and interpretations to choose from.
The question then is not when this modification style will end, but more like where will it go and how will it evolve. Let me know in the comments what you think.
Dino Dalle Carbonare