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10 Jun 2015

Liberty Walk BMW M3

Liberty Walk BMW M3

Clarkson, Hammond & May Live Liberty Walk BMW M3

Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
Text: Chris Gray

Liberty Walk?! I'm sure that is a name you are all aware of, but just a few years ago it wasn't the household name it is now! Despite Kato-San running the Liberty Walk Tuning Shop in Nagoya, JP for over 20 years, it's only in recent years that he's hit the mainstream, and boy did he hit it hard! 
Starting off at the age of 18, Wataru Kato was part of the huge Bosozoku scene in 1980's Japan. A Google image search will show you some of the wild Bosozoku cars. Low, Loud, Wide Wheels, Riveted on Over Fenders... Starting to sound familiar? This is where Kato-San started out, and where his roots are. It's this style that he has perfected over the years and is now portrayed Worldwide through his company Liberty Walk!
In 1993, Kato-San opened the Liberty Walk Shop at the age of 25. He wanted to make a living out of Car Tuning and bring his style to the mainstream. After many years of hard work it is safe to say he has now done that! A quick chat with Wataru Kato and you will realise he is not your usual businessman. Kato-San is eccentric, full of energy, passion, friendly and of course very intelligent. He is also a very serious man that believes anything is possible, and the Liberty Walk way is to 'Walk Free'. This means, there are no rules, have no fear!
Don't be afraid to cut up a Ferrari, Don't be afraid to make the car as wide or low as possible. Don't be afraid to be different! From a small Garage and working on friend's cars, to creating new custom body designs. wheels and demo cars all across the world. Liberty Walk are going from strength to strength!
So, how did the name 'Liberty Walk' get thrown around Northern Ireland so much? Rewind back 2 years and I get a phone call from the Top Gear Stunt Team.

After a quick chat, the stunt team told me his plans for the new Top Gear Show and asked if I could help them. They wanted to build two BMW M3's to be part of the new stunt show. They had to be Loud, Wide, and Stand Out... or simply put they had to be Liberty Walk! Having the contacts and the know how, I immediately approached Kato-San directly at Liberty Walk Japan to see what he thought about this idea. He loved it, and wanted to be a part of this project right away! We needed the parts quickly, so Kato-San set about making the Body Kits and Shipping them Air Freight to London Heathrow where they would be forwarded to the Top Gear Team who wanted to build the cars locally in Northern Ireland!

It didn't end there though. After several calls to Kato-San and Anna at Liberty Walk, we agreed that there is a 'certain style' that a Liberty Walk car should be. This is where Kato-San's intelligent details came into play. 'It needs to have the right wheels, or it just won't work', said Kato-San, 'It has to be the right height, have the perfect amount of tyre wall, etc'. The more I talked to him, the more I realised it's not just about being rough and ready and crazy like the Bosozoku days. Over the Years Kato-San has created a perfect vision for his style of car! He immediately set about arranging a deal with Forgiato Wheels in USA to compliment the BMW E46 Liberty Walk M3 Kits.

That was my end of the deal done for now, and the cars and parts all arrived at Momentum Motorsport in Lisburn. It as here the BMW M3's came to life. Andrew Mercer carried out alot of custom work for the stunt cars, such as Hydraulic Handbrakes, Custom Twin Caliper Brake kit and Steering Modifications. The suspension was supplied by Extend Racing, and now sits lowered on Coilovers. Local Bodyman Kenny Wylie then fitted the Liberty Walk kits and finished the Cars in a Stunning Black Paint which works so well against the custom made Forgiato Wheels. Back to the Momentum Motorsport shop, the BMW's were each fitted with Innotech Performance Exhausts to really make that wonderful V8 roar! Custom made Corbeau Bucket Seats keep the driver supported during the stunt displays and compliment the interiors, which are still legal, street worthy and very comfortable! Andrew at Momentum also fitted a new product, Quick Latch Distribution Mini Latches to the front bumpers. It's such a neat touch and very effective as the bumpers can literally just pop up at the touch of a button!

You may have attended the 'Clarkson, Hammond and May Live Show' last month where the Liberty Walk BMW M3's had their first UK debut under the new show. It's safe to say they were the main stars! They now run a full body wrap and LED light show, for the stunt display. It's not for everyone, but atleast it can be easily reversed back to the state you see in these photos by Reinis! The cars run parts from all over the world, with so many people helping out, and it was great to be involved in such a project that build cars to this standard! Deep down to me, they will always be the Liberty Walk BMW M3's. They have a little bit of Kato-San's passion, local expertise from Momentum Motorsport, and of course, the fame of the global stage! When I look back to their roots, when painted black, they really do sum up the perfect Liberty Walk road car! Maybe someday they will return to that and reside back in Northern Ireland!

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