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LIBERTY WALK M3 Wild Australian E92
Walk This Way
A Japanese body kit on a European car with American suspension screwed together by an Australian equals something pretty bloody special. Words: Ben Dillon. Photos: Trent Wilson.
Forging a different path in Australia’s modified car culture can be a tricky thing to do as fresh ideas often collide with an iron resistance to change from the established scene, but breaking down barriers is what Ty Isaak and his one-stop modification brand Mode Auto Concepts does best.
Growing up in a hot rod-loving family meant Ty received a healthy amount of exposure to grinding, welding and rumbling V8s from a young age and was himself swinging tools and modifying cars before he had even finished high school. His first foray into the scene was with an Isuzu ute which he chopped, sectioned and bagged and added #V8 greatness to. From there Ty waded deep into Australia’s street tuning scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s just as the Japanese import craze was calming down and the Euro scene was on the rise. Ty built on his fabrication roots and his ethos of unique concepts heavily influenced by his numerous trips to the US by creating a number of cars showcasing his talents.
These included a SoCal lowrider W116 Mercedes and a bagged, pure white A4 Avant, also dropped on its guts.
For his latest car, the stunning E92 M3 you see on these pages, Ty’s inspiration came from a visit to rev-head Mecca: the SEMA modified car show in Las Vegas. This instantly set him on the #Liberty-Walk-E92 body kit course as not only did Kato-san’s (Wataru Kato, Liberty Walk founder) fat creation for the E92 look fantastic but no one had yet attempted it in Australia. Added to this, the build could showcase brands represented by Ty’s business, which gave the project the added pressure of being an advertisement for what his company could do, but the choice of M3/ #BMW-E92-Liberty-Walk was an easy one to make.
“I’ve always been a fan of Euro cars and I appreciate all different marques, but I’m really selective on the models that I like within a brand,” Ty says. “I remember seeing the first M3 and have enjoyed the evolution of the generations; they always appealed to me. They are a really good package with a real motorsport feel.”
As purveyors of some of the fattest body kits in the known universe Liberty Walk is at the top of the heap – but a fat rear end alone was never going to set the world on fire. So, in the planning process before Ty even bought his M3, the concept of the build was given great consideration with the main goals for the car to be outlandish on the outside but still feel as good as it did driving off the showroom floor. “The objective with the M3 was that it should look crazy but feel like something that was made right from scratch, like it came from the factory,” Ty explains. “It has the loudest possible exhaust on it. It’s fully decatted to the x-pipe. And it’s all Armytrix Valvetronic, so when it opens up it’s an absolute beast. I had a guy come up to me with a race M3 and he said my car was louder!” And while the body kit is the focus of much attention, it seems the wheels are the starting point for all conversations on Ty’s E92. “Everyone argues about which side they like more and they all have really strong opinions about it,” Ty says. Those amazing wheels measure 10.5x19 inches on the front and 12.5x19 inches on the rear. You definitely can’t get them on eBay or anywhere else in the retail sphere (at the moment) as they are of Ty’s own creation – from concept drawings to tyred-up, forged alloy finality.
“I own the company Forge Wheels,” Ty reveals. “I went to the States years ago and started my own wheel company because I couldn’t find what I wanted in Australia. The wheels and tyres on this cost $10,000 (circa
£4800 at the time of writing) and so much work went into them in every single aspect. They are not off-the-shelf wheel; every single element has been engineered, designed and checked by me and my team.”
As impressive as all that is, wheels and a body kit don’t just attach themselves to a car, so Ty swung the grinder and sparked up the welder for every step along the way of the transformation of the E92 from muscular factory M3 to barking, steroidal, day-glo-wheeled freak. And there was plenty to do – not least to have US documentary filmmaker and good mate Zach Wingfield (whose showreel alone proves he’s car mad like the rest of us) hovering with a camera for three months solid, filming every single part of the build. “I had to put the front wings on about eight times because Zach wanted to shoot it from every angle, change a lens, or change the lighting,” Ty laughs.
The body work didn’t stop there. Modifications to the firewall ensure that the front wheels actually turn full lock.
Subsequent work involved plating and body deadened, while the rear of the car was mini-tubbed to accommodate those super-wide rear wheels. Again Ty fabricated and fitted the rolled inner tubs himself, sticking to his ethos of ‘if it’s been done right, it can stay like that forever’. But none of this was without drama, especially with the fitment of the Liberty Walk kit. “People have this perception that these kits come in some IKEA-like kit and you just get the screw gun out and screw it into the side of your car but it’s a lot of work to fit it properly. The instructions from Liberty Walk were pretty much just ‘cut it’,” Ty grins. “Getting the fitment right and making sure the car still drives like it did from the factory was the aim from the start. Whether it was legal or not I was still going to do it but I wanted to do it to specification, so I talked to my engineer and told him what I wanted to do. He reassured me I was on the right track.”
While cutting into an M3 to put a body kit on sounds like a #BMW purist’s worst nightmare, snatching out the factory M3 suspension and replacing it with airbag units seems a sure way to draw fire from those who would question how anything could replace M-division’s Nürburgring-honed best. But Ty is adamant that it fits the ethos of the build and his car still handles like a real M car. “A lot of people assume that because it’s on air it rides or drives like sheet but everything people perceive about air suspension, sloppy ride, or lack of handling, is eliminated in the AirREX kit,” Ty explains. This is down to the AirREX design combining the best of coilover and airbag designs with what is basically a damper-adjustable-strut on a fully-threaded body but with an air spring on it where a coil spring would normally be. The end result is something that looks like a coilover but with an airbag on it. “With the combination of the valving and the damping you wouldn’t know it was bagged and it just rides like a factory M3,” Ty adds.
It’s this approach to quality control which marks Ty’s car out from the herd. He’s paid particular attention to how the car now responds dynamically to the mechanical and aesthetic changes he’s made to ensure that it can be used as a daily driver – albeit one that never escapes attention when out in the wild.
“It’s totally ridiculous and a lot of people are in disbelief that I’ve even done it. You can’t drive it on the highway without someone driving up to you to take a photo or a video. It’s fun. It’s like being in a celebrity car,” Ty says with a smile. “I don’t think people even know what kind of car it is.
Nobody knows what #Liberty-Walk is and to have people hanging out the window of a car yelling out and giving me a thumbs up is just amazing.”
It’s not just fellow road users Down Under who appreciate Ty’s M3 either as fans worldwide can now drive this car through the streets of Surfers Paradise in Forza Horizon 3. It’s fitting for a car made on the Gold Coast to appear in a game with an Australian setting. Digital fame aside, Ty has even bigger plans for a ‘Stage 2’ build for the E92, which will see a toned- down colour scheme with the body kit as the sole survivor of the car’s current state in what will be a more track-focused evolution of the current ethos while still retaining street usability.
“Making huge power figure is not of any interest to us. It doesn’t achieve anything; it’s just a number on a piece of paper,” Ty says. “The next stage with this car is a full roll-cage and supercharger which, with the exhaust, tune, intake and underdrive pulley, will still make it a great streetcar but one that we can take on the track or to social track days and have a bit of fun with.” All we can say is bring it on Ty, we can’t wait to see it.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Liberty-Walk / #BMW / #BMW-E92 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E92 / #BMW-M3-Liberty-Walk / #BMW-M3-Liberty-Walk-E92 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E92 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E92 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-M3-M-DCT / #BMW-M3-M-DCT-E92 / #Forge-Wheels / #LB-Performance / #AirREX
ENGINE 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 , intake, custom ECU tune, #Armytrix-Valvetronic exhaust system with de-catted front pipes, x-pipe and ceramic-coated matt black tips
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed #M-DCT gearbox
CHASSIS 10.5x19” (front) and 12.5x19” (rear) #Forge-Wheels-USA-SV5-FS-spec-SL wheels with 275/30 (front) and 305/30 (rear) Nitto Invo tyres, #AirREX-Performance air suspension struts with #AirREX digital wireless management system in concealed enclosure, #Rolloface-Performance 380mm six-piston forged performance brake kit
EXTERIOR #Liberty-Walk-LB-Performance widebody kit (version two), Piano black front splitter and ducktail, BMW Performance black chrome kidney grilles and side vents, LED angel eye upgrade, LCI rear light upgrade
INTERIOR Factory interior
THANKS Everyone behind the scenes at MODE Auto Concepts that made this project possible, FORGE Wheels USA, Brian and the team from Armytrix Exhaust, Dizzy and the team from AirREX Air Suspension, Ken and the team from Rolloface Performance, Zach from ZWINGFILMS, Trent from TNW Photography for the behind the scenes photos, and Brad my painter for always telling me “no dramas”
“It should look crazy but feel like it came from the factory”
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- Post is under moderationMEAN STREETS
Less is often more and this subtly-modified E92 M3 proves that point, with some mean styling touches and 480hp.
Liquid Performance has a classic approach to modifying: big power, subtly contained in a factory-fresh suit. This E92 M3 proves the formula – you can go in hard without getting extreme… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Henry Phull.
There’s a classic Hollywood anecdote about Robert De Niro, concerning a bee and an argument. It goes like this: after Martin Scorsese had finished working on Mean Streets in 1973, he took the film to Cannes. A whole entourage came along, and one evening they were dining at Le Moulin de Mougins, a restaurant way up in the hills above the town. De Niro was there along with his girlfriend of the time; he had a reputation for picking feisty, aggressive girlfriends – girls he could argue with. During dinner the table was buzzed by a colossal bee, which bothered the group so much that they called over a waiter, who took it down with a flick of his tea-towel. It landed in De Niro’s girlfriend’s water glass.
She kicked up a fuss, he yelled at her, he told her to take a hike, and she did. It was a ten mile walk back to Cannes; De Niro insisted that everyone leisurely finish their meals before they made their way back, and they picked her up in a cab on the way – bedraggled, infuriated, but also grateful. He bought her a bottle of perfume the following morning, and order was restored.
Now, the De Niro of the mid-1970s was very different to the De Niro of today. Back then you’d expect to see the angry young man cruising around in a yellow NYC cab with blood and, er, other fluids on the back seat. But not today (yeah, we’re blurring the lines between fiction and reality, it’s called breaking the fourth wall, just go with it). Today, De Niro is an altogether more suave character – edgy, sure, but also classic.
Refined. Whereas in his youth he was so socially awkward he used to refuse to talk at auditions and fell asleep on the sofa at parties, today he’s more at home in his own skin. No yellow cabs for him now. In 2016, Bobby is more of an E92 M3 kinda guy.
Specifically, we reckon, the sort of E92 M3 you’d find peeping through the garage doors at Liquid Performance in Southampton. Not quite the postcode you’d expect to find him in, granted, but let’s persevere. We’ll let one of the company’s bosses, Ross Ponsford-Jones, explain the rationale: “We’ve gone for a functional OEMupgrade look,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The vehicle was modified to try and retain comfort and luxury as well as performance – such as having the M Performance bucket seats, for example – but also having a unique look to make it stand out as different from the average E92 M3.” Which wraps the idea neatly into a little nutshell, really – boisterous, yet measured; mainstream, but offbeat. A De Niro M3 for the post- Hollywood Netflix generation.
What did the guys at Liquid do, then, to achieve this impressive feat? Well, they concentrated on the basics. By focusing on the details, they’ve achieved something that you might almost be able to call stealthy, were it not for the inherent outrageousness of the E92 in stock form. They’ve pinched ideas here and there from the BMW upgrades catalogue, while also keeping an eye on the more obscure iterations of the model as it butted heads with contemporary sports cars and junior supercars – not least the fabled M3 GTS.
If you’re going to do this sort of thing, you really do need to do it properly, which is why Ross’s team sought the best possible donor available. Makes sense really, doesn’t it? It’s what De Niro would demand. He’s a forthright sort of guy. The car they landed upon was resplendent in Frozen silver paint; indeed, the little heard-of Frozen silver Edition was a car designed for M3 enthusiasts who liked to tick option boxes but were worried they might get carried away (um, possibly), being in effect a version that cost £4000 more than the stock M3 but provided £9000-worth of extras. Aside from the unique paint colour, there were all kinds of other goodies to enjoy.
“The spec includes the Competition Pack,” Ross explains, “which brings lowered suspension and three-stage Electronic Damper Control along with revised DSC+ settings. There’s also adaptive headlights, Comfort Access, electric folding mirrors, sliding armrest, and PDC front and rear.”
Obviously some of these features are more exciting than others, but even a hairychested sports car like this is never going to be driven at ten-tenths 100% of the time. Sometimes you need to have somewhere to rest your elbow. Sometimes you do approach the locked car with your hands full. Spec matters.
However, this isn’t What Car, we’re not here to discuss OEM spec lists. Liquid used this generous state of trim as a base upon which to lavish some extra unique accoutrements: “We’ve programmed in a few custom codes,” grins Ross knowledgably.
“The mirrors fold automatically when the car’s locked, the auto wiper return position’s reset, the DVD operates in motion, the ignition gong’s removed…” Again, not the sort of mods that would set a teenager’s heart a-flutter when viewed in isolation, but it’s all part of the bigger picture.
But let’s stop being sensible for a moment. People who buy M3s don’t do so solely for the gadgetry potential, they do it for the mischief. The luxury element is merely a happy bonus. So what does one do with a fire-snorting V8 that’s already packing the thick end of 420hp and is, in a convoluted sense, basically the F1-derived S85 V10 with a couple of cylinders lopped off (kinda)? If you’re Liquid Performance, you do what you’ve already been doing with the rest of the car: hack into the scrolling Matrix ones-and-zeroes, throw in some new code, and modify the thing from within its very core. Or, more specifically, you get DMS Automotive to do it for you.
“We went for a custom Stage 2 remap,” says Ross. “It’s now putting out 480hp, making it one of the fastest ever naturally aspirated E92s DMS has tuned.” Aha! We knew this wasn’t just going to be a case of retrofitting gizmos from the options list. Phrases like ‘fastest ever’ are very much at the heartland of what we stand for.
Furthermore, since we’re talking ‘fastest ever’, there are few tweaks and tricks in evidence here from the aforementioned M3 GTS, that bonkers £100k+ E92 that was basically a race car with number plates. Here we see the staggered 19” Competition alloys that you’d otherwise find on the mythical orange screwball, but behind the scenes there’s also lurking the DCT gearbox software from the GTS, offering more aggression – something in-keeping with the ramped-up horsepower levels. And if you’re working on your ‘go’, you need to give some thought to your ‘woah’, which is why we see a sneaky set of yellow Brembo calipers sidling in from stage left, sleeves rolled up and ready to dive headfirst into a spiralling whirlpool of thrust retardation.
Naturally, like a fired up De Niro in a crisply-tailored dinner suit, the focus must constantly swing back and forth between the precipice of full-blown aggression and the creamy mellowness of suaveté, and Ross feels that the M3’s seats are a strong marker of this. “We enabled the heating elements inside the M Performance seats, which represented a huge amount of complexity,” he says, casually dusting off the difficulties like specks from a cuff. “Even the local BMW franchised dealers couldn’t figure out how to do it…” An infinitesimal smile curls at the corner of his lips as he says this. He knows the capabilities of his team, he’s rightly proud of their achievements. Ditto the approach to the aesthetics, with which Liquid deviated from the official BMW parts to instead augment the Frozen silver with a sprinkling of goodies from the European Autosource catalogue; grilles, vents, mirror caps, just enough to ensure a level of neatness that never strays into the realm of the gaudy.
With all of this thoroughness and attention to detail coursing through the build, Liquid Performance’s take on the E92 platform very much represents the sort of car that could feasibly have sat within BMW’s own brochure, somewhere between the stock model and the GTS. It’s a naturally aspirated heavy-hitter that’s optioned up to the hilt, and if Robert De Niro were ever to find himself ambling through Southampton with his peepers peeled and chequebook to hand, you can imagine that his switch would be well and truly flicked. But he’s probably a PBMW subscriber anyway, isn’t he? Hey, Bobby – can you see yourself in this?
Imagine those vast chasms of horsepower resonating with a sharp bark through that titanium Akrapovic exhaust. It certainly beats arguing about bees in restaurants…
Matt black and carbon exterior elements add a sense of menace.
It’s now putting out 480hp, making it one of the fastest ever NA E92s #DMS has tuned.
The vehicle was modified to retain luxury as well as performance.
Carbon galore inside, along with those #BMW-M-Performance seats, which have had their heating elements enabled.
DATA FILE #BMW / #Liquid-Performance / #BMW-E92 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E92 / #BMW-M3-Liquid-Performance / #BMW-M3-Liquid-Performance-E92 / #M-DCT / #BMW-GTS-DCT / #BMW-M3-M-DCT-E92 / #BMW-M3-M-DCT
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 / #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 , #DMS-Automotive custom Stage 2 remap, Pipercross race filter, #Akrapovic full titanium exhaust system with carbon tips, seven-speed M DCT gearbox, BMW GTS DCT gearbox software. 480hp
CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #BMW-Competition-GTS wheels with 245/35 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Continental SportContact 5 tyres, #Brembo-GT-BBK with 6-pot yellow calipers, #BMW-Competition pack (including lower suspension and EDC)
EXTERIOR European Autosource matte black side grilles, front grilles and bonnet vents, BMW M Performance carbon fibre mirror caps and carbon fibre boot lip spoiler, H3 Lux angel eyes, Xenon headlights, privacy glass
INTERIOR Heated #BMW-M-Performance seats and carbon fibre interior trim including centre console, custom Alcantara steering wheel with M stitching and black leather rally marker, custom Alcantara handbrake gaiter, BMW Competition sill platesStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.