The Audi R8 is already a formidable supercar. So how do you make it even cooler? Simple, add some Liberty Walk goodness, air ride and some serious stance…
I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.” That’s what spotted that bolt-ons are making a comeback in a big way. Rocket Beyoncé told us back in 2001. And you know what? She was right. She wasn’t just being judgmental or patronising. We were not ready for that jelly at all. We were ill-prepared for gelatinous posterior gesticulation. It totally blindsided us.
But that was then, and this is now. A lot of jelly has passed under the bridge since the turn of the century, and we’re fully down with juicy booty now. We can blame the relentless onslaught of the Kardashians – yeah, they may claim there’s been no hint of ass implants, but nature just doesn’t make people that shape – and this new-found enthusiasm for chunky butts has led to an interesting resurgence of an old trend in the car modifying cosmos: bodykits.
Now, those of you who are old-school 80s/90s modding survivors will remember that we used to be rather keen on slapping fibreglass addenda to our motors. A Nova wasn’t a Nova without a Kingdom bumper, Escorts needed Rattlesnake sideskirts, your Saxo had to have devil horns on the tailgate. And while today’s scene looks back disparagingly on such excesses, you’ve probably ￼Bunny, Liberty Walk, RAUH-Welt – you name it, they’re riveting a fat set of arches to it. And, as is the nature of the stance scene, this is applicable to all levels of the automotive strata. Supercars included.
And that’s why we’re looking at an Audi R8 with enough rump girth to make even Beyoncé blush. Japanese outfit Liberty Walk may have been founded as long ago as 1993, back when we were bolting horrible crap to our random hot hatches, but it’s the recent exploits of the Nagoya-based company that have pushed it to the forefront of the modern auto enthusiast.
They’ve branched out into the USA in fine style, and love to graft outrageous body kits onto aspirational models like the Lamborghini Aventador and Ferrari 458. This kind of polarising behaviour ensures copious online shares, with a strictly divided audience arguing about whether it rocks or it sucks.
But this isn’t all just a PR exercise. Wataru Kato, Liberty Walk’s founder, is keen to keep the operation true to his original vision of ‘bringing out the uniqueness of each vehicle, for the owners to feel engaged on a personal level’. The two key brands under the umbrella fulfil this at different levels. LB Performance ticks the supercar box, while LB Works applies that headline-grabbing aesthetic to cars more in the reach of the man on the street.
And in the swirling maelstrom of the US Liberty Walk scene, we find Long Tran. He’s the driving force behind scene superheroes LTMW. What he doesn’t know about bolting together a badass ride frankly isn’t worth knowing. M3s, GT-Rs, name an aspirational performance car, these fellas have bolted on a fat set of arches and set the scene alight from SEMA to SoCal. So, why an R8 and why now?
“Well, I didn’t choose this project. This project chose me,” he laughs. “I had a customer call in to order the Liberty Walk kit for the Audi R8. He was a friend of a friend so, on trust, no down payment was made, I just placed the order. And then… nothing. The dude just disappeared!”
Disheartening stuff. But Long is the sort of go-getter who thrives on converting misadventures into victories. To borrow a Homer Simpson-ism, crisitunity was the name of the game here.
“Now that I had the kit coming anyway, I figured I’d better start looking for a car,” he smirks. “I started looking online for an R8, and it had to be a manual one. But it turns out that manual R8s are pretty hard to come by!”
This is a real shame as the Audi R8 has one of the sweetest manual ’boxes in the everyday-supercar sphere – and it’s doing sterling work to hold back the tide that’s hellbent on ensuring that self-shifters die a death. We love a proper gearbox, and we feel Long’s pain. But thankfully, his broad search eventually bore fruit.
“I found a 2008 manual R8 at OC EuroCar in Irvine,” he explains. “It wasn’t my choice of colour, but beggars can’t be choosers. After a couple of days thinking it over, I decided to make a deal. I called them at 4pm to say I was coming the next day to pick it up, but they called back at 6pm to say it had been sold! I was bummed out to say the least. But I guess it is what it is.”
But nil desperandum, reader. You’ve probably guessed that there’s a happy ending. In fact, here it is: “That night, I went back online to resume the search,” Long continues, “and sure enough, there was another one. Auto Nation Toyota had just listed one on Craigslist, and it was even better; an ’09 with a black interior at a lower price. It was a no-brainer!” And so, the very next morning, Mr Tran was signing on the dotted line and heading back to LTMW with a V8-powered projectile fit for a feisty oriental hip transplant.
At this point, the crew were really in their element. They’ve done enough Liberty Walk conversions to know what to expect. So if you’re looking for a build story fraught with peril and mishaps then you’re going to be disappointed. The build itself was actually pretty simple, such is the quality of the LB kit, and Long is well-versed in the formula for crafting a show-stopper.
“It’s pretty simple,” he says. “You need the widebody kit, suspension, wheels, exhaust – get the car wide, low and loud.” Sure, he makes it sound easy, but we’ve all seen cars that follow this recipe and turn out a total mess – the key is to pick the right parts, make sure they complement one another, and fit them right.
And LTMW have played a blinder here. In addition to the waistband-busting booty, you’ll find a set of vast Rotiform KPS rims under those fat arches – 19 inches in diameter, with the rears measuring an obscene 12.5 inches across – while the whole filthy form is dropped to the floor on a cutting-edge AirREX air-ride system. The final piece of the jigsaw, the exhaust, comes courtesy of Innotech, and it sounds dirty enough to make nuns flash their smalls. It’s positively sinful.
“I think the hardest part of a build is picking the colour,” Long muses. “Like any of our projects, going through the list of exterior colours to make a decision was by far the hardest job, so I started with planning the interior instead. I knew I wanted Alcantara with red piping, and from there the best colour match with the red for the exterior would be Porsche GT3 grey. Problem solved!
The R8 turned out to be a pretty easy car to paint too, as all the panels are removable.” Again, he’s using words like ‘easy’, but that’s only because Long has a dedicated and skilled team with endless experience of bolting together jaw-dropping rides. Turns out all you need to break the internet is a little know-how and a keen understanding of a simple modding formula. Oh, and Beyoncé too, of course. Her help is vital. All that buttock-centric cavorting set a precedent, laid the groundwork for cars like this. And yes, we are now finally ready for that jelly. BRING ON THE JELLY!
OWNER: LONG TRAN
TECH SPEC: AUDI R8
Liberty Walk widebody kit; Porsche GT3 grey paint.
4.2-litre all-aluminium 32v V8; Arama carbon-fibre intake; Innotech Performance Exhaust system; manual transmission.
10.5x19in (front) and 12.5x19in (rear) Rotiform KPS; 245/35 (front) and 305/30 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres; AirREX air-ride suspension.
Jason Noren Fabricating custom rollcage painted red; Sparco EVO seats; Sparco 4-point harnesses; custom Alcantara headlining and seats by Rogelio’s Auto Upholstery; custom boot build by Bobby at Sadistic Iron Werks; carbon-fibre trim panel by Dinmann.
Just want to thank my crew at LTMW – Phuong, Will, Darren McQueen, Van, Felix, Chuy, Sope and Tony. These guys bust their asses every time a show comes around. Thanks to our sponsors Kato @ Liberty Walk, Brian @ Rotiform, Stan @ Toyo Tires, Rogelio @ Rogelio’s Auto Upholstery, Alan @ Sparco, Jason @ Jason Noren Fabrication and Marshall
@ AirREX Air Suspension.
Words Daniel Beavis Photos Mike Kuhn