The story of these twin GT-Rs is one of classic values, camaraderie, and dreams fulfilled. To hugely misquote Forrest Gump, ‘awesome is as awesome does’… Words: Daniel Bevis. Pics: Olliee Wildsmith. Walk designed in japan, built in Belgium and killing it on the UK’s streets and shows, these two liberty walkkitted R35 #Nissan
GT-Rs set the standard.
RUN FORREST, RUN
Twin Liberty Walk-kitted Nissan R35 GT-Rs are a match made in wide arch heaven
As fans of the silver screen will enthusiastically tell you, 1994’s Forrest Gump is one of the greatest tales ever committed to celluloid. It’s not so much the vast budget, the sprawling scenescapes, the all-star cast, or the kickass soundtrack (although those are all, naturally, important factors), but the fact that what seems like a complex story is actually very simple: it’s all about how greatness can stem from humble beginnings, how having strong and clear values will win out in the face of all kinds of adversity. It’s a principle that’s oft retold in various formats, but the heartwarming truth of that now-careworn ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ motif sits at the core of it all.
It’s also a theme that we find mirrored in countless walks of life. Take these artfully matched Nissan GT-Rs, for example, resplendent in Liberty Walk’s finest – the twins are named LB Shadow and LB Pearl, and the story is rooted in humble beginnings. Just ask Phil Hird, owner of the grey car, LB Shadow: ‘I’ve been modifying cars since I got my licence at 17, with my first car being a MkII Fiesta,’ he recalls. Yep, cars don’t come a lot more humble than that. ‘After that I moved onto a diesel Golf, and then I spent a bomb on an Audi A3 which got lost in the floods in 2007.’ It’s not reading like the strongest start so far, is it?
Remember that Vietnam scene where Forrest’s platoon is wading through chest-high floodwater? This whole modifying lark can seem that way sometimes, can’t it. ‘Big ol’ fat rain!’
‘In 2008 I started again with a brand new Audi A5, fitting a one-off bodykit to it,’ Phil continues. ‘But then kids came along, so by necessity I moved onto a Q7. And then the GT-R came into my life in 2014…’
Well, there is an argument to be made for Nissan’s supercoupe being a sensible choice, isn’t there? Everyday usability, baked-in Japanese reliability, strong residuals. Ah hell, you only live once though, don’t you? Coming from a starting point of a tired old 1980s hatchback, if the opportunity to play with a GT-R presents itself, you’d regret it forever if you didn’t pull the trigger. It’d be like slapping fate in the face.
‘I found the car on the Supercar Rooms website, it had low miles and was a great price,’ says Phil, ‘so I called and paid a deposit on it until I could get to their showroom to see it! A week later I drove the five hours to see the car and testdrive it – from the moment I put the pedal down I wanted the R35 to be mine. So as soon as I got back to the showroom I bought it!’ Some might call it reckless to put a deposit on a car sight unseen; others would say you’re just rolling the dice. Sometimes you just have to play it the Gump way, go with the flow and allow history and culture to swell around you.
Phil wasted no time getting stuck into the mods, as the art of tweaking GT-Rs (a car, remember, that Nissan originally claimed was ‘untuneable’!) is now well-established and, frankly, required. He started with a set of 20in Vossen CV4 rims and then moved on to a full-on carbon-fibre Knight Racer kit, complete with bumper fins, full diffuser, and all manner of carbon tricks. Then came the 21in Strasse wheels, at which point Phil opted to take a little time out from the build to go old-school, like Forrest returning to Greenbow, Alabama. The counterpoint to the GT-R project lay in his 1967 VW Beetle, a car – named ‘Elmo’ – that he fully restored himself, running air-ride and winning copious awards. This tells you a little about Phil’s skills, as well as his focus.
But the GT-R was just sitting there all along, its carbon-fibre gleaming, goading Phil on to take the next step. And who was he to refuse?
‘In September 2015 I ended up speaking with Jean-Marie de Roover from the Belgium GTR Store,’ Phil explains. ‘I’d seen his Liberty Walk GT-R on the Battalion30Five Facebook group, which we’re both members of, and a Liberty Walk GT-R was kind of the final dream for my car! We discussed building it, and options we could add to the car to make it a one-of-one styling exercise so it was bespoke, that could be seen as an individual build amongst the Liberty Walk community.
After a few ideas and lots of discussion, a deposit was paid and it was all systems go!’ You see, sometimes, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Moving in the right circles helps you, but occasionally these things are shimmered along simply because the cosmos is smiling on you.
‘A few weeks later, Dan and Mike Jackson, who are good friends of mine and utter GT-R fans, heard that a guy from the UK had booked his car in with Jean-Marie,’ Phil goes on.
‘While chatting on the phone one night, Dan was talking about creating an LB build of his own but was unsure who the other person was who’d already signed up with the Belgium GTR Store. Eventually I gave in and told him everything! Dan was very supportive and couldn’t believe what I was actually going to do – and a month or so later it was confirmed that Dan and Mike had also booked their car in for a Liberty Walk transformation.
It makes sense at this point to meet the Jacksons, doesn’t it? Dan and Mike are a father-andson team, with Mike holding the impressive distinction of being, at 68 years of age, the oldest known owner of a Liberty Walk car. Which is a very cool boast, indeed. No battered Micras here, this is a guy who approaches every day with flair and élan.
‘We have always been interested in cars,’ says Mike, ‘especially Japanese cars. Before the R35 GT-R was a 350Z, and we’ve even owned a Nissan Bluebird! But we fell in love with the R35 after driving one at an experience day at Elvington airfield with Everyman Racing.
Not long after, this car was purchased from Alexanders Prestige in Boroughbridge.’ As bought, the guys found themselves gazing lovingly at a totally standard, UK-spec 2009 Black Edition, and it remained stock for quite some time, barring the addition of a Y-pipe and a remap. But the lure of GT-R tuning proved too strong, and their mate Phil certainly wasn’t helping matters…
‘In December 2015, Battalion30Five held their end of year meet at Black Hangar Studios,’ says Phil. ‘I took my GT-R along, with Dan and Mike in theirs, also knowing that Jean- Marie would be coming over from Belgium with his Liberty Walk R35. From the moment we saw his car, we knew we’d made the right decision. His attention to detail was first class, along with his knowledge. We all came away from the event dreaming of the day we’d get to deliver our own cars to Belgium and get the builds rolling.’
And so, at the end of January, the lads boarded a ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge for the overnight trip, driving the next day down to the Belgium GTR Store. They took the tour, chatted over all of their ideas with Jean- Marie, then made their way back to the ferry to play the waiting game. (Which, as Homer Simpson will tell you, is a game that sucks, and you’re better off with Hungry Hungry Hippos.) The cars were in Belgium for three months in all, with Jean- Marie feeding the guys’ enthusiasm with constant photo updates of how the projects were progressing, while they in turn worked hard to create specific design templates of the graphics they wanted applied to the cars for the GTR Store to replicate.
After what felt like aeons of thumb-twiddling and nail-biting, Phil, Mike and Dan found themselves back aboard a ferry in late April, ready to see LB Shadow and LB Pearl for the first time in their classy new threads. ‘Man, I couldn’t stop shaking at the sight of the car that was now coming home with me,’ Phil breathes in an awestruck whisper. It’s evident that this car still thrills the hell out of him, still sends an electric shiver down his spine. ‘And the rest is history, really,’ he says, brightening, returning to reality with a gentle bump. ‘The car lives at home with me, most nights I just sit there and stare at it.’ Well, when he’s not out there enjoying the vast swells of hard-revving fury from that VR38DETT, we imagine…
‘Our car was already a headturner, but now it’s just insane,’ Mike chips in, evidently just as awestruck as his buddy. ‘People video it and take photos everywhere we go. We use it all the time, too – having air suspension means we can pretty much go anywhere without worrying about damaging it, and we’re planning to go to as many car shows as possible so we can just get out there and share the car with everyone.’ A very cheering and altruistic sentiment, to be sure, and it’s clear that these guys are enthusiasts in the old-school sense; they haven’t chosen Liberty Walk kits simply to win the intangible celebrity of Instagram fame, but just because they thought it’d be cool. And they’re right, it is. So now they want to share the whole experience with like-minded petrolheads.
‘Yep, we go to a lot of meets and shows,’ Phil confirms, ‘and charity events for sick children, too. The reactions to the cars are always amazing.’ And that is the crux of the thing – Phil, Mike and Dan didn’t build these cars to show off, they did it just because they wanted to touch a little of that oriental magic; their inherent good nature and strength of character means that these builds are all heart. You see, life really is like a box of chocolates. And right here we have a pair of angular, exotic chocolates with extraordinarily gooey caramel centres.
‘THE REACTIONS TO THE CARS IS AMAZING
VERSION 1 VS. VERSION 2
You’ll no doubt have spotted that the cars’ bodykits are subtly different to one another. This is because liberty walk don’t just offer one identikit set menu, but are always tweaking and broadening the range; LB pearl wears the version 1 kit, while LB shadow is rocking version 2, the principle difference being in the rear spoilers. This makes sense for Phil, Dan and Mike as, while the cars are unmistakably twins, it was important to keep each one unique. You can follow the cars’ respective evolution on their instagramfeeds - @[email protected]
TECH SPEC LB PEARL
ENGINE VR38DETT 3.8-litre 24v V6 twin-turbo, Stage 1 with Ecutek Version 5 maps, #ARMYTRIX
titanium exhaust system with remote-control valves, uprated intercooler
TRANSMISSION Stock GT-R transmission
SUSPENSION AirREX digital air suspension
BRAKES AP Racing discs, Ferodo pads
WHEELS 20in custom Gravity rims
INTERIOR Re-trimmed and re-shaped flat-bottom steering wheel with carbon-fibre insert, carbon-fibre effect instrument surrounds, Alcantara centre tunnel, custom instrument cluster with carbon-fibre effect inlays and blue LED backlighting
EXTERIOR Liberty Walk Version 1 kit, Pearlescent White wrap, custom 12-LED Formula 1 brake light, tinted front headlamps, custom LED indicators integrated into the mirrors
THANKS ‘Alexanders Prestige, Middlehurst Motorsport, Litchfield Imports, JM-Imports, Tyremen (Hull), Belgium GT-R Store, AC Speedtech, Andy at R35Audio, Battalion30Five, Darren Tucker’
TECH SPEC LB SHADOW
ENGINE VR38DETT 3.8-litre 24v V6 twin-turbo, Litchfield Stage 4.25 tune, monster intercooler, full Milltek Sport stainless steel exhaust system, Litchfield Forge BOVs, Forge header tank, custom Liberty Walk carbon-fibre engine cover
TRANSMISSION Stock GT-R transmission, Litchfield bellhousing upgrade
digital air suspension
BRAKES Alcon discs and pads (front), AP Racing discs and pads (rear)
WHEELS 20in custom Gravity rims with blue ink clearcoat lacquer
INTERIOR Re-trimmed and re-shaped flat-bottom steering wheel with carbon-fibre insert, extended carbon-fibre paddle-shifters, carbon-fibre wrap on centre console, Alcantara centre tunnel
EXTERIOR Liberty Walk Version 2 kit with ducktail spoiler, 3M matte grey wrap with carbon-fibre accents, custom 12-LED Formula 1 brake light, custom front DRLs, custom LED indicators integrated into mirrors, Valenti taillights
THANKS ‘A big massive thanks needs to be given to Jean-Marie de Roover of Belgium GTR Store, who built the car into what it is today, and to Kato of Liberty Walk for meeting us and putting his signature of approval on the car. Also a big shout out to the Battalion30Five family who are a collection of GT-R owners from across the world.’
‘A LIBERTYWALK KITWAS THE FINAL DREAM FORMY CAR’
BELGIUM GTR STORE
As the name suggests, these guys deal exclusively in GT-Ts. So is it worth your while trekking all the way over to sint-truiden to let them have a go on your R35? Their results speak for themselves, really – it’s a full-house offering, encompassing engine and transmission tuning, interior and exterior mods, and they’re keen to express that they love working with carbonfibre. So we’re not just looking at bolt-ons here, this is a shop that passionately wants to make every r35 that comes through the door unique and distinctive. We’ve already seen a number of cool cars with the Belgium GTR store name attached, and there will undoubtedly be many more to come!