Overfenders on an R35 Nissan GT-R street car. Some might say it’s been done to death, but at one point in time it was brand new and breaking the internet. That time was November 2013.
Yes, it’s been 10 years since Wataru Kato of Liberty Walk debuted the very first LB☆WORKS R35 GT-R, choosing the 2013 SEMA Show in Las Vegas for its unveiling. There have been many more cars since – not to mention numerous other R35 wide-body kits coming to market over the course of the last decade – but not counting the slightly more radical BenSopra R35, it all started right here.
For this week’s Throwback Thursday post, we’re revisiting Dino and Larry’s feature on the original LB☆WORKS R35 GT-R, shot right before SEMA ’13 kicked off. Does this look like a 10-year-old custom build, or is the style still standing the test of time? You tell us…
Is Liberty Walk taking over the internet? Has the Nagoya-based company declared war on the SEMA Show? It sure seems like it if the number of cars we’ve seen wearing the company’s signature wide body conversions is anything to go by. If Kato-san was attempting to get our attention, it’s safe to say he definitely has! After taking a closer look at his Ferrari 458 last week, it’s now time to move onto his second SEMA project – the LB☆WORKS Nissan GT-R.
If you cast your minds back a few months, you might recall that Kato-san allowed Speedhunters to unveil the first rendering of the GT-R – a CG image that Miura-san at TRA Kyoto – the man that Kato-san has entrusted to design and produce his aero kits – later showed in a variety of body colors and angles.
So like the 458, we all had a pretty good idea of what the car would look like in its finished form. However, as was the case with the Ferrari, seeing 3D images on the internet can never prepare you for the full impact of witnessing the completed car.
If there’s one car out there that probably doesn’t need its fenders blistered it’s the R35 GT-R. The big Nissan – successor to the Skyline GT-R – boasts a pretty robust stance to start off with: big Aeroblade (in Nissan talk) front fenders joining a chunky, bulbous rear end that makes it one of the most imposing cars on the streets today. But who the hell said aggression has limits?
Kato-san certainly didn’t, so when he asked TRA Kyoto to make those works-style overfenders as ‘in your face’ as possible. Miura listened, and delivered. The bolted-on look is once again used, exposed screws showing each mounting point onto the cut stock fender below it.
The FRP addition follows the primary crease line of the GT-R’s wheel arch, extending downwards along the side air outlet, then all the way down to the main skirt line.
Making the LB☆WORKS aero stand out as much as possible, while sticking to the company’s recognizable design ethos, was all part of the plan.
Color is always important – especially for a show car – and the OEM dark metal grey makes every line of the GT-R’s exterior pop under the sun’s rays.
The GT-R has been captivating the minds of the worldwide tuning industry since it was first revealed back in 2007, and it’s quite cool to see that Liberty Walk decided to do something with a domestic car instead of the usual imports and exotics it tends to concentrate on.
Will this car appeal to everyone? Of course it won’t – it’s not meant to. Like all the cars that bear the LB☆WORKS name, it’s aimed at a very unique individual – one that just isn’t content sitting at the wheel of a car that everyone can own.
So it seems that this sort of aero package is born out of exclusivity; the need to satisfy a very small niche.
And judging by its rump – the sheer need to shock! Miura may as well have come up with the biggest works-style overfenders ever created for a car – the massive rear pieces extending from underneath where the door ends and arching all the way around and touching the high hip line. Over the top touches like this were sort of a necessity, you don’t try to make a statement with a car like the GT-R and not go full out.
Take how the overfenders end abruptly once they pass the bumper line and tuck in, quickly merging into the original dimensions of the car. Here, Miura gave a nod to aerodynamics, the recess behind any fender helping the extraction of air from the wheel arch and some of the flow form the underside of the car, which if you recall is completely flat on the R35 to smooth air passing underneath it. While this detail may or may not add a functional aero effect, the fact that you end up seeing more of the rear tires is a big bonus in the looks department, that aggressive offset of the rear wheels making quite the statement.
Does it all seem a little exaggerated? Yes, but that was the obvious intention, having been given carte blanche there was little if no conformity to what he was sculpting away at.
Take the rear wing for example; Miura keeps up with the times, he gets his inspiration from a variety of styles, is always paying attention to how things change in the vastness of the car world and it was motorsports that provided the idea for the spoiler. As we have seen, with the introduction of DTM regulations in Super GT most GT500 teams are adopting the swan neck wing stays which literally hangs the wing from the top side over the car. Here it’s purely a style driven addition of course, but one that brings a touch of race spirit to the road. I’m sure we will be seeing more of these type of wing stays in the aftermarket during the course of 2014.
Wheels Make The Car
Race car touches don’t end there of course, the Liberty Walk GT-R sports a GT3-inspired extended front lip spoiler to help slice through the air and actively boost downforce while at the rear Miura has extended the centre section of the diffuser and bolted additional winglets onto each corner, for an additional visual impact.
The LB☆WORKS treatment has created a one-of-a-kind GT-R that’s just as aggressive as the BenSopra R35, but in a totally different way.
No show car is ever complete with out a well chosen set of rims, and serving as a dark contrast to the silver-bronze body, Liberty Walk went for a set of Forgiato Maglia wheels, custom painted in satin black and measuring 20×11-inch up front and 20×12-inch at the rear. The LB☆WORKS GT-R runs Toyo Proxes tires, 285/35ZR20 at the front and rather large 315/30ZR20s on the rears, boosting grip levels considerably.
Providing the unmissable stance element and dropping the car right to the ground is the CSD Platinum VIP adjustable suspension setup. This features air cups at each corner that allow the R35 to go from normal-ish low ride height,all the way down to show car mode at the push of a button.
See what I mean with the tucked in rear over fenders? Can you see how much of the rear tires you can actually see? Yes we like!
The Japanese phrase Jiyū ni aruku underneath the Liberty Walk logo on the rear bumper roughly translates as ‘walk freely’, and it’s somewhat of a motto for Kato-san. It’s an emphasis on the way in which he approaches his cars and his products, and to some extent, his life – doing his own thing and striving to reach his goals in his own unique way.
Performance Meets Style
While under the knife, the GT-R also gained some extra performance courtesy of a complete Trust exhaust system and a full hard piping kit which gets rid of the cheap looking stock items with lots of polished aluminum goodness. Trust Gracer Airinx filters have been positioned right behind the front grille so they are not only in the best position possible to suck in cool air, but also away from engine bay heat. Trust blow-off valves dump unneeded intake charge when backing off the throttle and also supply that must-have whooshing sounds many R35 owners dream of. An ECU remap takes full advantage of these upgrades, helping to obtain a slight bump in horsepower and a more responsive set up. However as the car was just completed the day before SEMA, no power measurements have been made.
The interior has been given a little custom touch too, thanks to a two-tone quilted leather seat re-trim courtesy of Newing that stretches to those tiny seats in the back.
If you are a purist and insist that any modification made to a car must be functional and bettering performance even in the slightest of ways, then the LB☆WORKS GT-R will probably make you angry. But if, on the other hand, you are more like Kato-san and are happy to enjoy the more aesthetic approach to car customization, then I think this R35 will be doing it for you. No matter what camp you may belong in though, the Liberty Walk GT-R has done its job – it has awakened some emotion within. Love it, or love to hate it, as they say…
Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photography by Larry Chen