Wataru Kato’s latest build has divided opinion more than any other overfendered car built by Liberty Walk – or anyone else for that matter.
As an Italian with a special love for the Ferrari F40, you may assume that I’d be the first person to criticise Kato-san’s decision to do what he has done with this car. Before I dive into that though, let’s let spend a few minutes to just take it all in…
As has become a tradition now, once Tokyo Auto Salon ends on Sunday night, I meet up the Liberty Walk crew to shoot a few of their cars before they’re transported back down to the LB HQ in the outskirts of Nagoya. This year we chose a really cool location.
Italia Street is a small, hidden away spot five minutes’ walk from central Shinbashi. It was built around 15 years ago and themed to resemble your average Italian square, so there’s a piazza, Tuscan-style architecture and cobblestone roads. Basically, there’s no better place in Tokyo to shoot an Italian automotive icon at.
This is actually one of Tokyo’s prime shooting locations for car owners – especially those with Italian makes – and automotive media. No surprise, as visually it looks like nothing else in the city and there is plenty of room to move around in.
On any other Sunday night it would be full of people shooting their cars, but on the last day of TAS 2023 it was empty. The rain was bucketing down.
So, apart from getting wet, we had it all – a prime (empty) location, mist, water reflections and droplets, and one of the most iconic cars ever created.
The craziest thing is, this not the first Liberty Walk Ferrari F40 I’ve shot. Eleven years ago, I travelled down to Nagoya in order to feature Kato-san’s original F40 – a car partially responsible for putting Liberty Walk on the map.
That car was also white – but painted, not wrapped like this one – and basically modified to emulate the LM (Le Mans) version of the F40, with an adjustable rear wing blade and fixed headlights. If that F40 riled some people up – which it did – what can we say about an F40 that takes things to another level altogether?!
Note: If you scroll down to the very last picture in the feature of the first F40, you’ll see the car we’re featuring today when it was red.
For this new build, Kato and his crew went for a LM++ take on it, adding to the factory LM race car feel with some added width. The four-piece rear overfenders add a good 5-inches to each side of the car, allowing for some extra-wide LBW wheels to fit rather nicely.
But have the stock wheel arches been cut? They would have had to, or else the wider wheel/tire package wouldn’t be able to tuck inside the newfound width, right? I haven’t seen any footage of Kato-san going wild with his angle grinder on the carbon/Kevlar rear cowl, but that sort of footage may have been censored.
The LM style continues on the lower portion of the rear bumper with the two carbon extractors.
Looking into the engine bay, the F40’s original 2.9L twin-turbo V8 is presented in stock form, with the exhaust/wastegate heat-shielding still in place. I like how they highlighted the cross bar in red as a hint to the car’s underlying color.
Like Kato-san’s first F40, this one uses Roberuta suspension with air cups at each corner to allow the car to lift and actually be driven around. In its lowest static setting, the tires tuck in behind the new wheel arch radiuses.
If the front looks familiar, it’s because it’s based on the redesigned cowl that Kato originally made for his first F40 build. Except for this project it’s been slightly widened and re-contoured around the arches.
You can clearly see the extra width around the recesses for the side latches, just below the Cavallino Rampante (Prancing Horse) side badges which have been left in their original positions. That redefined and widened profile line is carried rearward with pumped side skirts.
When you look at the original F40 design, you realize that regular overfenders would just not work. There’s basically no space to accommodate them as the top of the wheel arches come all the way up to meet the sloping top line of the nose.
So the solution makes total sense; you get the widening necessary to nail the look and the ability to fit wider wheels and tires.
The Liberty Walk front cowl on top of the fixed headlights features a small NACA-style duct and a large opening to extract air away from the radiator, just like on the LM. Four elongated openings above the wheels add some extra drama.
Thanks to some reshaping on the sides of essentially the front bumper section of the cowl, Kato-san has incorporated a pair of long canards as well as two supports for the carbon fiber under tray.
Never has a car looked so good under Tokyo’s night lights.
I was having such a good time shooting this wild, opinion-splitting car, that of course a local patrol unit had to turn up and try to ruin the party.
The Liberty Walk guys bowed and slowly moved the F40 closer to the loader, at least making it seem like we were going to leave the area.
As soon as the patrol car left, however, we just continued shooting over at another little spot around the square.
By this time I was soaked right down to my underwear, but I hardly even noticed the discomfort. Because, it’s not every day you get to spend time with such a rare car in an iconic Tokyo spot with pretty much no one around.
Aside from the pair of modern Sparco bucket seats and a matching steering wheel, the cabin was left alone. Not that there is much you can do with an F40 interior in the first place.
With the car having been brought directly from the Makuhari Messe, the Tokyo Auto Salon 2023 ‘Best Import Car’ award was left on the passenger seat. It’s another reminder that when Liberty Walk sets out to steal the show, they nail it every time.
But that doesn’t make this car an attention-grabber, it’s just part of the result. Kato-san’s approach to cars is simple: he builds what he likes, using models that have special meaning to him.
He became an F40 owner 15-plus years ago, then he made his own LM interpretation five years after that. And now there’s this.
Kato loves it and his fans can’t get enough, but me? Well, I’m not one to get offended by what people do to their cars; I enjoy seeing limits being pushed, and that’s definitely the case here.
Now, what do you think?
Dino Dalle Carbonare