Article by Anthony Alaniz. Photography by John Zhang (1013mm).
Cutting up a Ferrari 458 Italia would register on the sacrilegious scale somewhere around the same place dropping a Chevrolet Big Block into a Ford would, but Wataru Kato, owner of Liberty Walk Performance, doesn't believe that a chopped-up 458 is a bad thing. Debuting at last year’s SEMA show, the Italia takes many cues from Kato’s own upbringing around kaizo-sha styled—modified— cars in Japan.
"During my young bosozoku kaizo-sha days, we would run Skylines with rivet-on fenders and drive all night, running traffic lights and raising hell with 50 or so bikes and cars," said Kato in an interview from SEMA. "Those are my roots. In Japanese, Liberty Walk means walk free.
"Liberty Walk means to not be afraid to cut up a Ferrari,” said Kato. "If it’s a car I bought and if it’s not causing harm to anyone, then I should be able to do what I please. That’s liberty. To not be bothered by the naysayers.” Liberty Walk Performance takes modern cars, from GT-Rs to Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and adds a classic Japanese look, like the wide rivet-on fenders on the SEMA 458.
Kato, who doesn’t speak English, tells how the company was struggling, having to beg DUB to display their car at SEMA years ago. "The car should be the hero,” he said. Liberty Walk Performance started in 1993, when Kato was just 25. He had only two cars and two employees at that time, headquartered in Nagoya, Japan. Kato wanted to popularize customized cars and began designing body kits for the greatest supercars currently offered.
If the SEMA Ferrari is any indication of what the company is capable of, the blending of classic, Japanese underground customization with the styling and performance of today’s supercars will allow the tradition to continue on for enthusiasts and owners alike.
Liberty Walk Performance works by designing their body kits to respect and harmonize the essence of the original body. That is what makes their 458 look so good. Yes, it is widened, but it doesn’t look out of place. It reminisces back to a time that many of us never knew or experienced. It is nice that Kato is working to preserve that history, even if it is with today’s modern cars.