Ever since the Liberty Walk/LB Performance Ferrari 458 hit SEMA in 2013, car lovers have wanted to know more about the man behind this innovative Japanese shop. And thanks to this great vid from GTChannel, we got an insightful look into Liberty Walk and its interesting owner. His name is Wataru Kato, and he’s a pioneer in building custom body kits for Japanese, American and European vehicles. However, you have to go back to 1980s Japan to understand his eclectic style.
Back then, the Bosozoku—a biker gang with a translation that means "reckless tribe,” ruled Japan’s roads. Tens of thousands of Bosozoku would run red lights and cause general mayhem on hopped-up bikes. And 18-year-old Kato was a Bosozoku kaizo-sha: a reckless kid in a modified car. Bosozoku cars were lowered, had modified bodies with huge fender flares, and used insanely long exhaust pipes. "We would run Skylines with rivet-on wide fenders and drive all night,” Kato explains, "running traffic lights and raising hell with 50 or so bikes and cars. Those are my roots.”
In 1993 at the age of 25, Kato tried to make a career out of his passion. So in Nagoya, Japan, he opened Liberty Walk, which in Japanese, translates to "walk free.” You might think that after years of hell-raising, the name gives respect to his Bosozoku past. Kato clarifies: "Liberty Walk means to not be afraid to cut up a Ferrari,” he explains. "To not worry if it will drive straight. To not be bothered by the naysayers. If it’s a car I bought and if it’s not causing harm to anyone, then I should be able to do as I please. That’s liberty.”
But even though Kato has enjoyed liberty for 21 years now, it wasn’t always easy—especially during his first trips to SEMA. "Before, we would ship one car out from Japan for about $1,400 without insurance, and had to beg DUB to have our car displayed in their booth.” It got so tough that Kato considered giving up. But a wild Lamborghini project and a Toyo Tires SEMA booth invite finally got Liberty Walk’s body kits the attention they deserved. GT-R and M3 body kit projects followed, and the rest is fast, innovative history.
Charismatic and outgoing, Kato is the perfect spokesperson for his company, and his low and wide show cars are a breathtaking mixture of his past rebellion and present boldness. Kudos to GTChannel for a warm, informative and fascinating interview.