Star of SEMA more than once, and perhaps best known for shooting out ridiculously massive flames, you may be surprised to learn that John Lau’s Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R R35 has a mellow outlook and has been built to be properly usable. 

“I never intended for it to be too much of a show car, I still love taking it to the track.” That’s quite a statement, given that John Lau (@PikachuPcar) built this Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R project car specifically for the SEMA show not once, but twice.

Front 3/4 shot of Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R

Although to anyone who’s had John blip on their modified car radar (which, given the breadth of his portfolio and the sheer number of outstanding high-end project cars he’s created, is highly likely to be quite a few of you), all of this will make perfect sense. You see, a John Lau project build is a very special thing. Yes, he insists upon a flawless and impeccable aesthetic finish, incorporating unique designs and cutting-edge ideas, but all of this has to be underpinned by a mechanical package that’s not only impressive – and, let’s face it, extremely powerful – but also eminently usable. Because this dude doesn’t just build rollers. He’s not the type to rock up at the show with his car on a trailer, push it into the showground, then trailer it home again. He drives his cars, and drives them hard

Indeed, that was the very reason for buying an R35 Nissan GT-R in the first place. This was never intended from the outset to be a SEMA build, it just sort of… well… happened.

side profile shot of Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R

Planning the Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R Build

“This was my original Nissan GT-R,” he explains. “I’ve got others, the R32, R33, R34, and we’ll be building a wide-body R33 soon – but this one was my first, I bought it brand new in 2015. I kept seeing all these drag races on Motor Trend and so on, and it was always the R35s that were winning; I thought, hey, this is a car that offers a lot of bang for the buck! So yes, originally this was bought just to drive around in and enjoy; I did a bit of track driving, some quarter-mile stuff. It proved to be a real supercar-killer.”

Given that John has actual supercars in the garage, it’s impressive – endearing, even – that the Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R has remained faithfully by his side over all of these years. And as is inevitable with a hardcore modifying enthusiast, the car has been evolving across each year of ownership; what began as a stock factory model soon found itself on KW V3 coilovers, and as you can see from the photos it’s advanced rather a long way since.

Bonnet open on GT-R

SEMA 2019 Build

2019 was the big turning point, as this was when the GT-R was fully built with SEMA in the crosshairs. John’s been working closely with Liberty Walk for years, to the extent that they always show him their new bodykit designs many months before they go on sale; he’s properly in on the ground floor, and this relationship blossomed into something special for SEMA ’19. The GT-R was fitted with a box-fresh Liberty Walk Type 2 kit, utilising titanium hardware with Nutserts in order to make it stronger and more versatile (if, for instance, panels need to be removed for whatever reason – say, getting a vinyl wrap). The entire shell was painted in a super-premium Lamborghini shade of Grigio Estoque, a color that’s obscure and special even among the rarefied community of Lambo owners, let alone on a Nissan.

The rear wing offered John further opportunities for personalization, as he wasn’t taken by any of the off-the-shelf designs he saw, so decided to simply design his own. As you do. “To be honest, I’d heard nightmares about chassis-mounted wings on road cars, so I went another way,” he says. “When I was happy with the design, I had it fabricated by the bodyshop in fiberglass – it took a bit of research and development to get it where I wanted it to be, there were six versions of various angles and widths. The next step is to get it remade in carbon fiber.”

IPE exhaust

Exhaust Modifications On The Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R

In addition to Liberty Walk, there are a lot of big names who collaborate with John on his projects, and that’s very much the case with the Nissan GT-R. iPE is a key player, having built a frankly astonishing exhaust system for this car. For a lot of online observers, the flames are what this Nissan is best known for, as the custom flame map enables John to conjure spectacular and massive flame-outs from the titanium valvetronic setup on demand, both static and on the move.

One of the real talking points is the sheer enormity of the extended titanium tips – and they’re not just for show. Well, OK, they’re a lot for show because that’s the whole point of the flame-outs; what we mean is that, like everything about this car, it’s been built to be usable. The obscene length of the pipes serves a purpose, it keeps the fire away from the back of the car. “I’m always monitoring things,” John laughs. “I’d noticed that the FRP end fins on the diffuser were starting to distort with the heat, so I removed them and replaced them with identical copies made from aluminum, with super-heat-resistant powder-coating so it all matches.”

Air Lift management system in GT-R

Air Ride?

Usability and attention to detail are recurring themes throughout the build. Some purists may question the validity of fitting air-ride to an R35 (although quite frankly, the type of people whose go-to is “you’ve ruined that” can get in the sea, it’s not their car, and it’s not like this was the last R35 in existence), but the air hasn’t just been fitted to complement the wide-body for hard-parking. Remember, John still takes this car to the track, and it has to perform.

“People are often surprised by how well it rides,” he says. “Yeah, it slams out, it hits zero all around – but I can stick a fist in the arch gap when it’s all the way up, it can go over speedbumps and pavements, I can take it anywhere. The tyres have a bit of meat on them too, they’re not all stretched out. I’ve done quarter-miles on air-ride and it’s all dialled in. Like I say, it’s made to be used. I’m not one of these guys who builds a car for a show and then sells it – this is a keeper so it has to be perfect, built right, with no rattles or noises. Honestly, it’s great to drive.”

interior Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R

SEMA 2022 Build

So when John builds a car for SEMA, he’s got one eye on the long game. There are no quick fixes here, no cut corners. And for SEMA 2022, he was back again with a fresh new look. “Inozetek knew the car,” he continues, “and approached me about launching their new Millennium Jade colour, which of course is a very celebrated shade to GT-R fans. So that’s what we did, it was wrapped in the fresh color and parked between Greg’s pink F40 and Kevin’s wide-body Aventador in its rainbow wrap.” That’s right, there are layers upon layers of excellence here – the Lamborghini paint, fully coated in Xpel PPF, then the Inozetek wrap (in the door jambs and everything) topped off with Artdeshine Nano Graphene coating.

front wheels on Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R

Chassis, Wheels and Everything Else!

The more you look around the car, the more revered partners’ collaborative efforts are in evidence. SPL has been a key ally, fully upgrading the chassis parts with titanium upgrades, while the LD97 split-rims are shod in the very finest Toyo R888R rubber. Inside you’ll spot the personalized Recaro seats along with the Studio RSR ’cage, and under the bonnet we find the magic of Cicio Performance at work. “The engine is kept at a power level where the transmission can handle it, and it remains drivable, reliable, and usable,” says John. “It’s putting out about 825-850hp at the crank, so it’s not my quickest car, but it’s fast enough! It’s a 10-second car on the strip, and it’s comfortable on the road.”

VR38DETT tuned engine

It says a lot about the type of driver John is that a big-power R35 is his safe and sensible option (“it’s a sickness, making these cars,” he laughs), and you can be sure that the Liberty Walk GT-R will continue to evolve in line with his own tastes and the way he uses it. There are already plans for a color change on the horizon, he’s talking to Inozetek about color options, plus there might be some carbon intakes for the engine if he can find any in the stock diameter… there’s always a list building in his head.

“Again, it’s not going too show car-y,” he deadpans. And for one of SEMA’s best-known and most dramatic show cars, that’s a magnificently modest outlook.

John with his R35 GT-R

Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R Tech Spec


Liberty Walk Type 2 kit with carbon fiber hood; titanium kit hardware with Nutserts; molded duckwing – designed by PikachuPcar; full bare shell custom paint: Lamborghini Grigio Estoque; Xpel paint protection film on whole car; Inozetek Millennium Jade vinyl wrap; Artdeshine Nano Graphene coating; Fully Torqued Racing support rods; LED signal lights; taillights; side markers and reverse lights; JDM-style flashing LED cop lights; front grille LED glow; 3M Crystalline window tint.


VR38DETT 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6; iPE titanium valvetronic exhaust system; iPE titanium custom extended tips for maximum flame clearance; HKS catless downpipes and Y-pipe; HKS SSQV4 blow-off valves; AMS carbon fiber 3.5” intakes; dual Walbro 525 fuel pumps; Injection Dynamics 1;300cc injectors; Visconti fuel basket; AMS front-mount race intercooler; AMS coolant expansion tank; Got Boost flex-fuel kit; Zele carbon radiator shroud; Titek carbon hydraulic hood shocks; engine bay LED glow; Antigravity lithium battery with built-in jump-start; Ecutek tuning platform; Sam Barros custom tune: low and high boost maps plus anti-lag and flame map; Syvecs AWD ECU (for burnouts and 100% RWD); Transmission Control Unit custom-tuned by Sam Barros: faster shifts and custom launch control settings.


11×20” (front) and 12×20” (rear) LB Works / LD97 three-piece wheels; titanium hardware; 285/35 (f) and 325/30 (r) Toyo R888R tires; Air Lift 3P digital air suspension; SPL titanium suspension parts inc. control arms; rear traction links; rear toe links and rear camber links; Nismo track-spec alignment by Riaction USA; carbon-ceramic brakes with Endless track pads; ARP extending lug bolts; Titanium Works lug nuts.


Recaro Nismo seats with carbon rears and sides; Corbeau 6-point race harnesses; carbon steering wheel with Pikachu lightning bolts laser-etched on Alcantara; carbon shifter; carbon extended paddle shifters; carbon center console; colored carbon accents; full sound system upgrade into OEM locations with Morel separates and custom bass box; Dynamat sound insulation; LED lighting upgrade; Studio RSR chromoly 4-point rollcage.

Photos: Patrick Lauder.