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”