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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 moderationCHAIRMAN OF THE BROAD Wild #Liberty-Walk E92 335xi!
There are wide-bodies and there are wide-bodies… and then there’s this E92 335xi. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Josh Levy has certainly mastered the art of width, as demonstrated by his chunky E92. The extremely wide wheels and body turn this 335xi into an aggressive beast… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Mike Kuhn.
We try not to focus too keenly on one single element of a car when we’re buzzing around a shoot and formulating ideas for the story; after all, you people out there building progressive and exciting BMWs always take a holistic approach. It’s never about one sole piece of the puzzle; it’s how they link together.
This car, however… there’s one thing that just stopped us in our tracks as we were ambling around it – something at the back end of the car that got us rubbing our eyes in disbelief: the rear wheels. Now, this isn’t to sideline the myriad other stunning elements of this E92 – the bulging Liberty Walk hips, the low-slung aired-out stance, the pops and crackles from the quad exhausts – but those rear wheels really grabbed our attention.
They measure a mighty 15x18”. Fifteen inches wide! That’s insane. Remember when you were a kid and you first saw the back end of a Countach, how those wheels seemed cartoonishly wide? They were 12x15”. This brutal 335xi is packing supercar girth, and then some. We’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for that.
It could be the case that owner Josh Levy is exorcising a few demons from his own automotive past. While his personal motoring adventure has been long and diverse, he happily admits that his love for cars was sparked by a build he saw running 13” wheels – and he’s talking diameter, not width. All fit for purpose on a Mk1 Golf GTI, of course, but it shows you how far he’s come. Too much is never enough; it’s all about pushing forward.
“I started modifying cars when I was 17 years old and haven’t stopped since,” says Josh. “It all started when I first saw an ’1984 GTI dropped on 13s, with a roll-cage and just one seat. It looked awesome and I wanted to know more about it. My interest grew and I started my love/hate relationship with automobiles. Whether it’s lowering your car, adding aftermarket parts or whatever, it’s the passion we have for our cars that keeps us going. No matter what car I’ve had in the past, I always wanted to modify it. It’s fun, exhausting, and painful, but I love the feeling when it’s all done. And I actually have a 1984 VW GTI that I’m restoring now.”
A pleasingly full-circle tale then, but how did Josh end up with what has to be one of the widest and most aggressive E92s we’ve seen to date? This sort of thing doesn’t happen by accident, nor does it happen overnight. He must have been harbouring a desire to build such a thing for a while, yes?
“Well, no, I wasn’t really on the lookout for an E92 per se – or, in fact, any car,” Josh recalls. “This project just sort of fell into my lap, really! There were a few mods done to it by a previous owner. It was just an old project that had been hiding away in storage. It needed some TLC but I could see its potential. It simply needed my personal touch to turn it into something badass!”
And when Josh talks about his ‘personal touch’, what he’s basically referring to is tearing the car down to first principles and building it back up again as something fresh, new and exciting. Taking a broad view of the car – which, incidentally, is a 2009 335xi – you can see that there are three key areas to consider: first, there’s the unmissable Liberty Walk bodywork; then there’s the rims and air-ride combo. But there’s also something that’s easy to miss at first glance, given the striking nature of the aesthetics, and that’s the extensive conversion to M3 spec. While the 335xi is a formidable thing in its own right, this example has been treated to no less than the bumpers, front wings, front grilles, lock plates, combination brackets, reinforced bumper brackets and radiator support, mirrors, and side skirts from the mighty M3 – a meisterwerk of parts-sourcing and effort in itself. And that’s before we get to the really juicy stuff.
“I knew my next car needed to stand out and I wanted something that would take really wide wheels,” Josh explains. “I wanted a car that would make a statement no matter where I was going, whether it was at a show or just getting gas. I always loved the E92 M3’s body style, and with the wide Liberty Walk kit it felt like the right way to go… the M3’s body lines mixed with wide flares sure draw you in!”
The next job was rather an important one: wheel choice. “I wanted to build a street monster and show people that having wide wheels isn’t just for looks,” Josh says. “The three-piece Nine1Forged LV6 wheels gave me everything I wanted with their VIP feel and aggressive design. The huge 8” rear lips really help show off that extreme concave construct. I wanted the fitment just right and for my 15” rears to touch the fenders.”
This wasn’t as easy to achieve as Josh makes it sound and a lot of adjustments were necessary, along with rear camber arms: “After I got the fitment I wanted, I realised it was bottoming out and hitting the Liberty Walk kit so I had to make more adjustments and pull more camber out of it! As this is my daily driver I didn’t want to go too crazy, but then again what’s crazy?”
What indeed? There is a certain inevitability to projects like this, where one modification necessarily leads to another until the car’s basically unrecognisable when placed alongside a stock example, but Josh’s commitment to commuting daily in the thing does lend his own personal definition of ‘crazy’ an interesting perspective filter. The best way to categorise it at this stage is ‘exactly crazy enough’. But that’s an elastic concept, and he’s always got a new idea bubbling away.
When your car looks this extreme, you really need to have a bit of grunt to back it up, that’s just an immutable law of the universe. No point expending this much elbow grease on something that’d struggle to haul itself up a moderate incline, there’s little joy to be derived from that. Thankfully, as mentioned, the 335xi is a fiery thing – but that’s not to say that Josh had any intention of keeping the turbocharged three-litre straight-six standard.
“The only issue with buying someone else’s unfinished project is that you can’t totally know what you’re getting,” he admits. “And if you do run into issues, it could be very difficult. I had a few issues under the hood but fortunately it was soon all straightened out. The motor was pretty stock but it felt like the car needed more. I added a full exhaust and that, together with the huge front-mount intercooler, really helped the car open up.” He’s also added a Burger Tuning Juicebox, which sounds like it should be delicious but is actually a rather clever little remap gizmo that’s marketed under the alluring slogan ‘add 100hp to your twin-turbo BMW instantly’. You can’t really argue with that, can you?
So he’s got the look, the power, and he’s the envy of everyone at the petrol station. It’d be churlish not to lavish a little affection on the interior, too, wouldn’t it? After all, that’s where Josh spends a lot of his time – particularly given that he’s using the thing daily. “It came to me as a base model with no extras so I had to do something about that,” Josh grins. “The trim needed some updating along with the doorcards, seats, and there’s now a bolt-in roll-cage from House Motorsport, too.”
This outrageous E92, then, is far more than just a set of ludicrously wide rear wheels. It’s a beautifully finished and surprisingly practical daily driver with oodles of power and that intangible wow factor in spades. The wheels are a pretty good place to start though, aren’t they? When there’s this much for your eyes to process, it’s quite soothing to lose yourself in all that dish.
“Yeah, people do seem to love the car,” Josh declares, amused by the visual and aural assault he unleashes every day upon the local traffic. “I had an idea when I started of what I wanted it to look like but I never thought it would turn out like this. That’s what makes modifying cars so much fun! You can do whatever you like.”
Sage counsel indeed. And with Josh raving about his near-future plans to single-turbo the car, shave the bay, swap the dash, change the boot install, respray the body, replace the wheels and goodness knows what else, he’s certainly taking the ‘do whatever you like’ idea and running with it. We just wonder how much wider the E92 can possibly go.
Rear Nine 1 Forged LV6 rims measure an obscene 15x18” and boast outrageous 8” lips.
If the Liberty Walk kit wasn’t quite wild enough, Josh has added a carbon front splitter and rear spoiler for good measure.
DATA FILE #Liberty Walk / #BMW-E92 / #BMW-335xi / #BMW-335xi-E92 / #BMW / #BMW-E92-Liberty-Walk / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E92 / #BMW-E92-Coupe / #N54B30 / #BMW-N54 / #Nine1Forged / #Burger-Tuning / #N54-Stage-3 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo #N54B30 , #Dual-AFE downpipes with custom exhaust system, #Burger-Tuning-JuiceBox4-PNP (N54 Stage 3) software, #AFE cold air intakes, M3 washer reservoir, six-speed manual gearbox, Spec 2+ clutch
CHASSIS 12.5x18” (front) and 15x18” (rear) #Nine1Forged-LV6-Extreme -oncave wheels in Blushed Monaco Gold with hidden hardware, 285/30 (front) and 305/30 (rear) Sumitomo HTR ZIII tyres, Air Lift front struts, #Air-Lift rear toe arms, #Megan-Racing rear adjustable control/camber arms, #Air-Lift double bellow rear air springs, #AccuAir management, dual #Viair-480c compressors and five-gallon aluminium tank, Forge Motorsport front brakes with six-pot calipers and 380mm discs, StopTech grooved rear discs
EXTERIOR Liberty Walk ten-piece body kit including overfenders, carbon-fibre spoiler and front splitter, carbonfibre M3 bonnet, Challenge carbonfibre rear diffuser, custom headlights, M4 headlight arms, OEM M3 upgrades comprising: bumpers, front wings, front grilles, lock plates, combination brackets, reinforced bumper brackets and radiator support, mirrors, side skirts
INTERIOR Carbon-fibre trim, Jaffster gear knob, BMW ‘Rennsport’ Performance Alcantara steering wheel with factory airbag, custom ‘race’ seats with matching doorcards, centre console, gaiter and handbrake cover, House Motorsport bolt-in roll cage
THANKS Thank you to my sponsors @Royal_Stance, @Elite_tuner, @Clean.e93, and @Stance_DailyStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.