Story: Michael Crenshaw
Photography: Andrew Link
As we arrive by van—jam-packed with gear, food wrappers and lord knows what else we’ve picked up since our trip started six days prior—Wataru Kato is patiently waiting outside one of his two custom shops located across the street from one another in Nagoya, Japan, alongside numerous Chrysler 300s, some dropped and some waiting to be chopped for their new look. But we didn’t come here for that.
We came for Lamborghinis.
The very extroverted and eccentric Kato of Liberty Walk LB Performance doesn’t care about how his creations are portrayed by purists; he goes for shock and awe. So much so that aggressive modifications such as cutting the fenders on a $300K Lamborghini Murciélago to incorporate wider wheels is considered standard procedure.
“[I am] not worried about resale value,” Kato explains. “[My favorite thing to do] is lower the car, make the body fit the unusually wide wheels.” Kato’s penchant for being outside the norm is apparent when we start taking rolling shots of the cars on Japanese highways and backstreets. Not only are the cars insanely loud and big—taking up more space than the roads can accommodate—he is also driving 50-plus mph with the Lamborghini doors open at full tilt, showing off for the cameras, yet being completely himself.
Two hours earlier—after we meet everyone, exchange handshakes, bows and laughs (at the sake of each other’s cultural formalities)—the sliding doors to the second building slowly begin to open, unleashing a wave of anticipation at what lies beyond. To our baffled expressions: Five Murciélagos and a multitude of other priceless exotics stare us in the face.
The custom styling “programs” that Liberty Walk will do are based on Kato’s love for “Kaido Racer,” a Japanese style that infuses massive fender flares with ostentatious styling, reminiscent of early Japanese racecars. Starting with choppin’ the fenders and incorporating larger fender flares with exposed rivets, all Liberty Walk projects become menacing pieces of automotive art once finished. What’s proper about Liberty Walk is that they use their cars. These cars do not sit stagnant on the floor like some model; they get driven—and they get driven hard. Pampered beauties, these are not.
In the world of exotic-car tuning, Liberty Walk is a kind of unicorn. It’s out there, but you have to know where to look. And once you find this automotive showcase of excellence, you’re entranced by what you’re actually in the presence of: car guys who love their cars as much as their personalities. And that is transparent and understood in any language.