Sporting hips that won’t quit and booty for days, this Liberty Walk NSX was the belle of the ball at SEMA…
Some of the most impressive creatures have ludicrously long gestation periods. Baby giraffes can gestate for fifteen months. Dolphins? Call it eighteen months. Elephants might keep their mothers hanging around for nearly two years – and if you’ve ever spent any time with a heavily pregnant woman, you’ll know that this is a heinously long time to go without wine and brie. (Do elephants eat brie? Guess that’s just one of life’s mysteries.) But all of this is knocked neatly into a cocked hat by the second-generation Honda NSX, which took an impressive nine years to develop.
Even in the automotive sphere, this is a ridiculously long time. The Lexus LFA used to hold the crown for most-anticipated-supercar, taking so long to craft that they had to start again from scratch halfway through when they realised the game had evolved while they weren’t looking. But the NSX? Honda wanted to make damn sure they got it right.
It’s an impressive set of shoes to fill, you see. The original NSX has rightly passed into the pantheon of icons – the first supercar to democratise the genre, to make supercars day-to-day usable. It forced Ferrari to buck their ideas up, and every modern performance car owes it a debt. But the most impressive aspect was that Ayrton Senna himself was keenly involved in its development. So the new NSX had to be a sort of Senna Mark Two – and not like a rubbish Bruno Senna, but a proper champion.
It was way back in 2007 that American Honda CEO, Tetsuo Iwamura, announced a new supercar would be on sale by 2010. The following year it was canned, but then – somewhat mercurially – Honda threw the new HSV-010 GT into Super GT racing, leaving everyone scratching their heads and wondering where the NSX went. Fast-forward to 2011 and an answer came; the NSX was in development again, this time as a hybrid. A concept appeared in 2012, and the car surfaced in Gran Turismo 6 a year later. But where was the finished road car?
It finally showed its face at the North American International Auto Show in early 2015; pricing wasn’t announced until the end of the year, and the first production car ultimately landed in 2016.
Worth the wait though, wasn’t it? Gorgeous thing, it is. Of course, we don’t deal with standard cars around here, and thankfully there’s a world of lunatics out there willing to drop big money on a new and exclusive car, then immediately tear it to pieces and be the first to build something jaw-dropping on the platform. And JJ Dubec MD is one such lunatic. Having got his hands on a boxfresh NSX – here badged as an Acura for his native Canada – the good doctor straight away set about working on a series of ground-breaking ideas.
As such, what you’re seeing here, ladies and gentlemen, is three world-firsts: this is the first second-gen NSX in the world to wear a Liberty Walk widebody kit, the first to run an Armytrix titanium exhaust system, and the first to feature an Air Lift Performance air-ride setup. Because while Honda’s R&D department may have put the hours in, there’s always plenty of scope for improvement.
Naturally you don’t just build a car like this out of the blue. There has to be some precedent. You’ll be unsurprised to learn, then, that JJ is no stranger to garage-centric spanner-twiddling…
“I’ve loved cars for as long as I can remember, beginning with die-cast Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars,” he explains, echoing the automotive gestation of pretty much all of you out there. “When I was in high school I was unable to afford much, but I loved working on cars whenever I could. One thing I focused on was audio as it demanded a lot of skill and knowledge; I learned how to use bondo, fibreglass, and paint; I learned about wiring and 12-volt systems, and a lot about custom interiors.
“Once I completed my Medical and Specialty degrees, I had an opportunity to purchase some vehicles that I had dreamed about owning for some time – the first of those was an R35 Nissan GT-R. I did full bolt-on engine and performance modifications including a Flex-Fuel ethanol conversion and widebody Liberty Walk kit. After that build gained a lot of attention online, I was invited to display it at SEMA 2014 with Liberty Walk. Since then I’ve been invited back to SEMA every year to bring new projects; in 2015 I did a Liberty Walk Ferrari 458, in 2016 it was a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and I brought the NSX in 2017.”
Aside from the glaringly obvious ‘stay in school’ takeout, this is a keen demonstration of what you can achieve if you maintain focus. So why an NSX, why now?
“It was something I’d spoken to Liberty Walk’s Wataru Kato about a couple of years ago,” says JJ. “I knew a new-generation design was in the works, and was eager to see what the changes would look like. The new NSX had a lot of expectations to live up to and I suspected it would have a lot of interest once released. When Kato confirmed that he was also a huge fan of the NSX and agreed we should do the build, we made a promise to each other to do our best to design and fit a widebody kit once we had a chance to evaluate the car and see how we could enhance the stock appearance.”
This wasn’t a case of just ordering in the parts and bolting them on, but an altogether more collaborative approach; JJ was involved from the ground up, knuckles bloodied and brain working overtime. The fun part was the language barrier which, along with the time difference, made the Canada-Japan comms channels rather tricky, but no-one wins medals for doing things the easy way. It was the same case with Taiwan, where the bespoke Armytrix exhaust was developed, but JJ’s effusive about the excellent experience he had with them: “I removed my stock exhaust and sent it to them for research and development, and we collaborated on many design points,” he says. “My biggest stipulation was that I wanted a catless system that implemented their famous valvetronic control, to open the exhaust or muffle the sound at will. One of the coolest parts of the build was that Armytrix flew out their main engineer to oversee the final installation in Vancouver!”
The development of the air-ride presented similar challenges, as obviously there was nothing available off the shelf. Fortunately JJ was able to work closely with Air Lift, alongside local friends at SerialNine in Vancouver, to implement the 3H management system and use custom-designed dampers and airbags with bespoke fittings – these were crafted by fabrication specialists Zero Division, along with Stance Suspension, specifically for the NSX. The results offer OEM levels of ride comfort and handling combined with the ability to tackle speedhumps and driveways – oh yes, and that killer stance when it airs out!
“The installation of the kit was fun,” JJ grins. “I cut the fenders myself, and had my eight-year-old help with sanding, prepping and fitting. We did the majority of the installation in Vancouver at MidVan Motors – a 47-year-old family-owned shop less than two minutes from my home. I then drove the car to my usual partners in crime at Phantasy Kolors in Seattle, who are famous for SEMA builds showcasing their paint expertise. The largest hurdle we had to overcome as a team was that we received the kit in the first week of October and had about twelve days to get it fitted and painted before it was to be transported to Las Vegas!” As you can see however, the truncated timetable didn’t mean they were cutting any corners – plenty of midnight oil was burned in the pursuit of show-stopping perfection.
“I love driving this car,” JJ enthuses, surprising exactly no-one. “It’s so precise to control and the power delivery is strong and direct – and with the modifications in place, it’s getting even more attention than my Liberty Walk Ferrari!”
That’s a statement which would normally cripple us with jealousy, but it’s impossible to resent JJ because he’s just such a nice guy – a true petrolhead with boundless enthusiasm and endless creativity. And while the gestation of the NSX as a model was lengthy and protracted, his efficient build of this project was almost record-breaking, particularly given the complexity of developing all those world-first parts.
Of course, there’s no time to lose. He may be loving life in his one-off NSX, but JJ surely has one eye on SEMA 2018. What will he pull from his magical sleeve? There’s no time for lengthy incubation here, the clock is ticking…
HONDA NSX TECH SPEC
Liberty Walk Japan / LB Works widebody kit and carbon fibre wing, BASF Glasurit paint – factory-matched to OEM Casino White Pearl.
3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, dual front electric motors, rear electric motor, ArmyTrix titanium exhaust system with Valvetronic control.
10×20” -10 (front) and 13×20” -55 (rear) Savini SV 67-XC 3-piece wheels (with brushed faces and inner/outer rims, clear finish on face, triple-tinted barrels, body accent colour-matched hardware), 245/30 (f) and 305/25 (r) Nitto NT 555 tyres, Air Lift Performance / SerialNine air-ride setup with Stance USA Nova dampers and ZeroDivision hardware.
“I would like to thank so many individuals who have an instrumental part in making all my build projects come to fruition. Firstly, my awesome wife and children who support my creative, F7LTHY side and allow me to flex the left and right sides of my brain with these cool projects. MidVan Motors and Phantasy Kolors for their time and expertise ensuring the appearance and finish of the vehicle is world-class. LibertyWalk Japan for entrusting me with doing the world’s first widebody kit and SEMA debut. I am a physician and have only been doing this for about four years, and for them to entrust me with such a responsibility is truly humbling. I can only hope that they are happy with the final product and my representation of their vision. Acura Canada and Honda Canada have been supportive of my project and I love that they recognize the aftermarket modification community and the love and respect we have for the brand reflected by the effort we put into our customization projects. Air Lift Performance, Armytrix Exhausts, Nitto Tires, Savini Wheels, Vancity Vinyl, BASF and Glasurit paint and finishing materials, and JIN Performance. These companies provide such amazing support and products that I love to use. I am so thankful for their trust in me and my projects year after year.”