The Collection Expands: Kato’s Mazda RX-3
There Is A Meaning To It All

A new McLaren 650S and a 40-plus-year-old Mazda RX-3 might seem like a strange pairing of cars, but what you’re really seeing here is inspiration.

If you’ve come to the assumption that Liberty Walk just happens to do what it does out of chance, then you are quite wrong. You see, there is a lot of meaning to what Kato-san has been attempting to do with his LBW aero kits since he first slapped overfenders on a Lamborghini Murciélago. The ‘W’ in LBW stands for ‘Works’ and it’s something I’ve touched on quite often over the years when talking about this ongoing trend. Works was the term first given to race cars prepared by manufacturers back in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s.


When Japanese motorsports was in its infancy, base cars for legendary endurance races like the Fuji Grand Prix were nothing but stock production cars that had been gutted out, mechanically modified and visually altered with these great old flares – works fenders – to accommodate gumball-sized slicks mounted on ridiculously wide wheels. These cars kicked off a real movement with enthusiasts, who forever since have been emulating the looks on their own street cars.


The works look ranges from subtle little flares on Hakosukas all the way to stupidly widened shakotan cars of every type. Kato-san has always enjoyed this style, owning quite a few of these slammed and modified vintage rides, and the Mazda RX-3 he presented at the Tokyo Auto Salon this year is his latest addition.


Painted in the same colors as the LBW McLaren 650S we saw a couple of days ago, this Savanna coupe is a perfect example of why Liberty does what it does. Infusing that works feel into modern-day supercars may sound like something very difficult to pull off, but it’s safe to say that Kato and his team have done it quite successfully.


Joining cars like his S30 Fairlady Z, the blue Kenmeri, the C130 LaurelHakosuka and Yonmeri Police car, the little Mazda will fit right in with the colorful collection, following suit with the overall look but presenting a very different take on things.


We must first talk about the overfenders, which closely resemble those fitted to later JTCC RX-3s, and give an almost Kaido Racer presence. The fronts don’t look too outrageous depending on the angle you view them from…

But the rears are comically gigantic, pushing out the Mazda’s hips dramatically. For perspective, those 300-wide Dunlop slick tires at the rear sit almost entirely outside the original body line.

As for the ride height, that’s something taken care of by AirREX air suspension. Yes, it’s an unconventional approach for a car like this, but perhaps not too surprising given it’s a Kato creation.


It’s impossible to not draw parallels here. These two cars are such different beasts, yet are strangely linked; it almost makes you confused to think about it.

One Angry, Pissed-Off Rotary

Kato-san never fails to give attention to the important parts of a car, and I loved the little pissed-off rotor plush toy sitting on the dashboard. It’s the perfect representation of what this little angry rotary-powered car is all about.


Up until this point of the shoot I still had no clue just how angry the tuned 12A under the hood really was though. The LBW staff told me that we couldn’t crank the engine into life as it had no exhaust, only headers, and it would be stupidly loud. I didn’t realize just how loud until later in the day, and I was left speechless for a good few seconds.


Had the twin-rotor motor been fired up in this quiet Chiba neighbourhood, I’m pretty sure we would have all been arrested on the spot. I kept thinking in my head, how on earth can such a little engine make such a gigantic noise?

For the engine build, Kato-san called in the professional help of rotary tuner Team Miyoshi, who took the 12A apart and gave it a new lease on life with a session of bridge-porting. Fueling is taken care of by a Weber 48 IDA carburetor, which is the first thing you see when you pop the hood.


As with any rotary motor it all looks so simple and uncluttered, especially in an older car like this. The 12A sits low in the chassis, and you can just imagine how that positively impacts the handling, weight distribution and steering feel. In this tuned form, the 12A can crank out around 200hp.

Hit Play & Have A Listen

Although you can’t quite get the full effect through video, this has to be the loudest car I’ve ever heard. Imagine that piercing rotary buzz pounding your chest at every rev, your ears barely able to cope with the frequencies it generates. Hit play, turn up your speakers and enjoy. Then hit play again, as I’m sure one time won’t be enough to take it all in!


The cabin oozes ambience like these older Japanese classics always do, and especially when they’ve been given the kyusha/Kaido Racer/shakotan treatment. That includes the gutting of most of the interior down to the metal, another nod to the works race cars of the period. Kato-san took the opportunity while the car was completely dismantled to add a fresh coat of paint to the inside too, which is why you will find glossy black on every exposed metal part. The contrasting half roll-cage is a must, as are the period-correct race buckets.


The small-diameter Mizuno Works steering wheel may be a new part, but it just fits the cabin so well.

Older auxiliary gauges are there to offer a more accurate readings of important information like water temperature and engine revs. Oh, and there is a reason why the scale reads to 10,000 rpm – it’s pretty much what this motor can rev to!


As the RX-3 sits there, ridiculously low and with its bucktooth front spoiler mere millimetres away from the ground, you can’t help but praise the diversity of Japanese car culture and how it challenges people. Kato-san’s love of older cars has led him to do things that nobody had once dared do to expensive exotica, and the results gets as much love as they do hate. If the latter is your opinion, maybe it’s because you don’t know where the roots lie, so hopefully after reading through this post you can learn to appreciate it for what it is.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I have been waiting for this story since the 650 (and Tokyo Auto Salon), worth it! Awesome story, what an engine and what a car! Thank you Speedhunters!


As a work in progress this is a totally awesome project, but some details make it seem a bit unfinished:

-That 11inch steering wheel combined with slicks and shortened rack ratio will be absolutely no fun at all on the road - if it hasn't regeared the steering it might not be too bad, but why go for such a small wheel if it hasn't?
-Keeping the 40+ year old inline fuse holders?
-Air ride on a shakotan?
-Not fixing the windshield wipers?
-Not having any fuse on the main power cable?
-Straps hanging on the ground under it because it probably has some issues with the12A (weber48 on a bridgeportet 12A will NEVER be happy doing cruising/hardparking) ...was it driving at all during the photoshoot?

*Flamesuit on*


Been waiting on the best car from TAS full review ....thanks Dino-san


Appreciate the added car specs <3.


Those are one of the most disgusting overfenders ever made...


I agree but in a positive way... you just gotta love these disgustingly insane overfenders!


Care to share why? Or are you just here to troll?


Fully apprenticed trolls would probably make a far better job of it. Nice banded steels though.


Why is the back license plate bent? I'm assuming its a sign of rebellion towards Japanese police.




That is one seriously ugly car actually the mclaren is very ugly as well. The flares on both cars totally interrupt the lines and the design of both cars all I can see is rivets and overdone garish flares.


Must be the first time you've viewed a LWB project. Anndd....taste in design, anything!, is subjective. What I like someone else hates. Hey! that's the way it is!


yeah just admit it my opinion hurts your feelings.


Not the first LWB I have seen but I am really sick and tired of them. Design is not subjective at least not as much as you seem to imply there are rules and guidelines.

if it is as you say subjective than why do you feel the need to get offended that I don't like these hideous things and comment on my opinion?


If you think LBW kits are ugly then lets see if you can do a better kit than Kato San? And I know wide body kits isn't for everyone but thats none of my business.


So there can be no opinions or criticism of anything unless one makes a similar thing themselves? ridiculous.


When it comes to Liberty Walk, there are no rules!


Design is Subjective...Always. Best Designers know the rules and then know how to skirt them for their favor. I'm always fascinated by those that reach outside the norm. But what do I know... just a designer that retired from NBCUNIVERSAL at the age of 33...


Still think those black overfenders on the Mazda look like big holes from many angles, yellow or green would show the lines much better. Good you didn't fire up that engine on what looks like a peaceful Sunday morning. :-)


Such a good article, thank you Dino!

OG your momma johnson

high priced ricer garbage - go ahead fools and tell me it's subjective just like the wings west days and vis days and apr touring car spolier days and the fast and furious bomex days and the veilside days and and and and and where is any of that crap now, forgotten, laughed at and in the scrap heap - but give it 10 more years and it will be teh bestest ever again...




Not the biggest fan of the colours but that rotary idle is so so good!


Pleased that I got the wheezy rotary thing out of my system by running an NSU RO80 for my daily one summer. This little one sounds like a bucket of poorly organised cheap spanners. I'll retire back to my Mopar/BMW/Benz garage space where overfenders are for drying wet overalls (thankfully) and rice is served under a steaming Lamb Bhuna with a side of Aloo Gobi. Trot on.


This ride is so beautifully done! I laugh at all the close minded statements made from those below. Why even mess with cars if you can't even appreciate what passionate car guys build? So much talk, yet you fools can't even conjure up something amazing for car guys to appreciate and admire. Such close minded pea sized brains. Sad really. But thanks for this awesome writeup and the photos! Damn!


Never skip leg day


Tough little car with a shitload of personality.


Personality pretty much sums it up! Love it.


would be interested to see the mclaren style fenders on an old school build like this.


they do what they want. "imagine all people living in peace" fuck u haters.


This is the most fun car I have seen on the site for a while. I love how completely impractical it is. The slicks, the stupid small steering wheel, the seat choice is brilliant. It's everything I would want if I were building a toy car, but Kato-san has made it a real life-thing. Amazing. Thanks for sharing Dino!


What a sound, reminds me of the 787B


There's quite a lot I like about this car, and a few things that give me pause (like the battery in the passenger footwell rather than a clean install to the trunk or even fabricating a battery box).

However, I understand that it's a show car before anything else and I appreciate its cartoonish qualities. Good for LWB to build a neat, conversation worthy car like this. Now, where can I find the rotor plushy? My FC convertible driving friend needs a late birthday present.


That RX-3 has some rickets-style stance going on...


Whilst over-the-top in typical LBW style, the RX-3 is pretty close to Katayama's racer.


It's all about photo number 8.

IMO, and notwithstanding any reservations, however valid, about performance or practicality ... photo number 8 explains & justifies the car, LBW and arguably this whole website. It you get it you get it. If you don't ... P E A C E x

Nice one Kate-san and Mr D-C.


* Kato-san (lame autocorrect)


Oh my god it even has the original engine. May only be a twin rotor but holy hell I love it


The Harrods livery is one of the best liveries ever, absolutely love it!


Reading this you would think we don't call the factory teams "works cars" anymore and that over fenders where invented by Japan.