WILD SIDE: LIBERTY WALK C63 AMG

WILD SIDE: LIBERTY WALK C63 AMG

Posted by Matthew Bell on 9th January 2020

Style matters every bit as much as speed. Just ask the owner of this wide-bodied, neck-snapping 750bhp C63 AMG…

Front and rear, left and right. It doesn’t matter which corner of this C204 C63 AMG coupe slams into your psyche first. The main focus is always the same: extended wheel arches jutting far away from the body shell, following a line that’s just a few precious degrees from horizontal. Attached to the original Mercedes metalwork with dozens of exposed bolts, the kit eschews subtlety in favour of vivid, industrial obviousness. It’s the work of Japanese superstars, Liberty Walk, and, no matter your personal tastes, it demands your attention.

Look a little longer and there’s cohesion mixed into the cartoonish proportions. The arches might start halfway up the body, jumping out from the front and rear bumpers, but they gain a longer, shallower curve as they slide towards the sills and fall into a kinked side skirt. The same gloss black strip rings the car, tying the style together as it grazes up against the exhaust pipes and pulls to an arrowpoint under the front apron. Just above, the bumper itself takes Mercedes’ own trapezoidal, three-part shape and adds depth, the houndstooth grilles falling all the way to the floor. A simple, pronounced flick of rear spoiler completes the transformation. Owner, Nielson Ballon, knows how to make an entrance.

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Rolling through the streets of California, this C63 AMG is a custom build which goes all the way down to the ground. Air Lift Performance air bags sit at all four corners, replacing the original suspension with height adjustable double-bellow air springs which can drop the car up to 95mm lower than standard. “I wanted an aggressive stance, even though Los Angeles streets aren’t friendly,” Nielson explains. “Having the option to adjust the suspension is the perfect solution.”

The frame-laying ride height forces focus onto the Savini alloys, another showstopping part of the build. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the brand,” says Nielson, “and to be able to partner with them is just the icing on the cake.” Sometimes, his C63 AMG runs a set of black SV83 Xtreme Concave multi-piece wheels with a polished rim. On other occasions, it rolls on the curving, directional sweeps of all-black cast BM15s. Both position the AMG far from stock and look all the better for it.

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FRENCH FANCY

Peer inside and the transformation continues. Leather and electrical adjustment might characterise the standard C63 AMG cabin, but Nielson has created a more extreme interpretation. The rear bench has vanished, and the original front chairs are absent too, replaced by a pair of hide-covered Recaro Sportster CS seats. Boasting deep side bolsters and a single-piece rear shell, they’re the same track-ready items RenaultSport has long favoured for its fastest hot hatches. A customised RevoTech Motorsports steering wheel echoes the same aggression, glimmering with high gloss carbon-fibre sections covering the base, top, spokes and gearshift paddles. Flashes of bright red counterpoint the motorsport material, tying the stitching and straight ahead into the car’s twin-tone colour scheme.

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The same shade also throngs behind the passengers, thanks to a half roll cage. “It’s all in the details,” Nieslon explains. “That’s what I hear over and over again, and it’s little changes like this which make my C63 stand out.” The four-point construction comes courtesy of Studio RSR, a Los Angeles specialist best known for the hot pink exoskeleton it recently fabricated for a Lamborghini Huracan. Bolted to the chassis via six custom brackets, the AMG cage is far less controversial, but just as purposeful. Even a Black Series can’t measure up.

THE LOW LIFE

Don’t let us give the wrong impression: the interior isn’t just an exercise in sports car asceticism. The centre console wears an Air Lift Performance 3H controller, a wired-in device which allows Nielson to control the air suspension’s height and pressure at all four corners without leaving the driver’s seat, but the real action is concealed in the boot. Built from Diamond Audio components, the stereo system is a custom Al & Ed’s Autosound construction which brings the noise and struts with simple, distinctive style. Clear LEDs pick out the main attractions, while an angular cut out, complete with a custom three-point star, gives admirers a window on a pair of upright speakers. And all this in a luggage compartment that’s still carpeted and accessible.

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Pop the bonnet and it’s clear this C63 is a long way from Mercedes’ mechanical specification, too. Where the factory favoured natural aspiration for the W204-generation AMG, quite reasonably reasoning that a basic 451bhp, optional 481bhp and a range peak of 513bhp were enough to grant the C-Class a wild side, Nielson is hungry for more. Eschewing the twin turbochargers that now appear throughout the AMG range, he’s opted instead for a 2.3-litre supercharger.

Though both devices operate on the same basic principle – air goes in, air is forced above atmospheric pressure, power levels rise – turbochargers and superchargers diverge wildly in practice. While turbos are spun up to operational speed by exhaust gases, creating a small but sometimes detectable lag between driver demand and power delivery, superchargers run straight off the engine crankshaft. There’s a slight power cost – a supercharger requires some of the motor’s output to run – but the result is instant, any revs boost. Once the preferred forced induction method for AMG models, appearing in a range of noughties models thanks to the thundering, 5.4 litre M113K engine, superchargers are still a popular tuning choice for big power Mercedes builds. Nielson is in very good company.

The power adder in Nielson’s C63 AMG isn’t just any supercharger: it’s a Stage 2 item from globally renowned, California based specialists Weistec Engineering. A twin-screw construction, the blower uses a pair of grooved, meshed lobes to compress air and raise power. Benefiting from a cast aluminium throttle body and lower manifold and billet idlers, the Weistec device is a heavy-duty unit supported by a high-flow fuel rail, a 45mm bypass valve and a liquid-to-air intercooler which is rated to 1000bhp. “Put the pedal to the floor and you get pushed back into your seat and hold on for a wild ride,” Nielson laughs. The numbers tell their own story: 750 horsepower and 700lb-ft of torque.

PUMP UP THE VOLUME

Power isn’t the only defining feature of the C63’s M156 V8: all variants of the 6,208cc unit are also renowned for their barbed, ululating exhaust note. Shouting from four squat pipes, it’s a violent noise which made the C63 AMG an audio icon straight from the factory, but a full Frequency Intelligent exhaust helps Nielson’s car to go further still. Complete with ceramic-coated manifolds, a serpentine crosspipe and 55mm finishers with vivid Titan Blue detailing, the system has the visuals to impress and more than enough sound to match. That doesn’t mean the Frequency Intelligent pipes are always bashing ears, mind. Thanks to electronically controlled valves which can open on demand or at a pre-configured rpm threshold, this exhaust hides blends low revs subtlety with hard use theatrics.

Wherever Nielson goes, the AMG puts on a show – something the build has proven with two appearances at Las Vegas tuning extravaganza, SEMA. “I surrendered my car for the whole six weeks before the 2017 show,” he tells us. “SEMA was my own personal reveal, too. And Long Tran’s work speaks for itself!’ Founder of LTMotorWerks and sole US distributor of Liberty Walk body kits, Tran has been a pivotal figure in ensuring Nielson’s C63 is finished to the highest standard.

With over 18,000 Instagram followers and a seemingly endless stream of videos and photos online, this brilliant black C63 AMG is never short of attention in the real world, either. “It’s so rewarding being able to own one of just two Liberty Walk C63 AMGs in the USA,” Nielson smiles. “The car gets greeted with a warm welcome everywhere it goes. I really enjoy seeing how it’s viewed through other people’s eyes.” We’ll tell you one thing, Nielson. We can’t stop staring.

Feature taken from Mercedes Driver magazine. Words: Emma Woodcock. Photos: Dan Sherwood