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The Liberty Walk GTR project

Words from Derek Bartolo, Pfaff Tuning

I have always been fascinated by two specific aftermarket companies that go above and beyond to transform vehicles into something out of this world, in their own way. Liberty Walk and AMS Performance offer unique packages to owners who want to exploit every stylistic angle and every ounce of power out of their vehicles.

One of the biggest projects we’ve ever undertaken, this GT-R combines the outrageous styling of a Liberty Walk widebody kit with equally outrageous performance upgrades from AMS Performance. The look is not something that appeals to everyone – it’s more of a love-it-or-hate-it thing – but executed correctly, youll have something very unique and very special

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It all started with a casual conversation from one of our sales reps at Pfaff McLaren who had a customer that wanted to buy and build something fast and something unique. He came and laid down the foundation, which would be a brand-new 2019 Nissan GT-R.

I was told it had to be more powerful than a Lamborghini Huracan, and still be reliable and easy to drive around town. We instantly thought of AMS Performance – a company that really knows how to make a GT-R fast! AMS was the first in the world to break into 7-second territory with an R35 GT-R back in 2013 with their Alpha Omega 12 GT-R running a 7.98 @ 186.14MPH in the 1/4 mile. When you see AMS’ signature “Alpha” painted on the front intercooler through the bumper of a GT-R, you know it means business.

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We weren’t trying to break records with this build, so we opted for AMS’ Alpha 7 kit (the “7” designating 700HP and over 700LB-FT of torque at the crank). Here’s what was included in the Alpha 7 kit:

  • ALPHA front mount intercooler
  • ALPHA Carbon Fiber Cold Air Intakes
  • Alpha 90mm Catted Mid-pipe
  • Alpha 90mm Downpipes
  • HKS Legamax Titanium Exhaust System
  • Injector Dynamics 1050cc Injectors
  • ALPHA Custom Tune

 

So we have some fancy parts and some wizardry in the ECU, what does that translate to on the blacktop? Well, our customer hasn’t taken it to the quarter-mile just yet, but others have been smashing the strip deep into the low 10’s, with very respectable 140mph trap speeds. Yes, there are a lot of quicker supercars out there, but a GT-R with this kit will hold its own against the big boys such as a 991.2 Porsche 911 Turbo S for a fraction of the cost. Although they’re two very different cars you’d never think a big boxy Nissan would be able to hang with Porsche’s own all-wheel drive Godzilla.

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With phase 1 complete, we needed the looks to go with the jam.

 

I had initially put together some beautiful subtle carbon pieces (front lip, rear diffuser, side skirts, and spoiler), but apparently missed the memo that subtle wasn’t the goal here, as I was shown a beautiful red GT-R fitted with a widebody kit from Liberty Walk – known for making some very outlandish widebody kits for many different manufacturers. Still, when you think Liberty Walk you immediately think of a Nissan GT-R.

 

I put my head down and went to work sourcing the fiberglass option LB-Works Type 2 body kit and sought out the expertise of our body shop Pfaff Autoworks. Jeff Pabst, General Manager of Pfaff Autoworks, Erik Morrison, Manager of Pfaff Tuning, and I sat together and hashed out a plan to see how we can make our customer’s dream come to life.

 

Once we made our plan for this essentially brand new GT-R to go under the knife for some major, MAJOR surgery, we presented our ideas to our customer and quickly got the green light!

 

Fast forward to March, and we managed to secure the last Type 2 LBW body kit in the USA. I was doubtful we would even see the kit land until the summer months, but we ended up seeing it in late April; it was like Christmas in spring! With the help of our parts guru Khurram Mahmood we laid out the kit to ensure everything was accounted for.

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As any mechanic or auto body technician would know, body kits and aftermarket parts aren’t always a “one size fits all” situation, this is why I have to give a huge shout out to our technician Chris Clark (Pfaff Tuning) and Rob Gargaro (Pfaff Autoworks) for making all the puzzle pieces fit like they were made by an OEM. I’ve seen some cars with widebody kits that didn’t go together very well; I am proud to say this is by far the best built LBW GT-R I’ve yet seen. Some of the progress photos had us squeamish as a lot of the fenders and quarter panels of this brand-new car were being cut up. But, the work was done with great precision and accuracy and we knew the outcome was going to be incredible!

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So, power and aero have been taken into account. Next up were some very important details that can make or break the look of a car – suspension and wheels. We opted to reach out to our friends at KW Automotive, who help out with the suspension in our Plaid Porsche 911 GT3R race car. Tom Edge was a great asset and suggested the KW Clubsport V3 coil-over kit with their HLS option, which allows the front end to lift with a quick push of a button on the dash. The customer wanted the low look without the use of air-ride, but needed a solution to still get the vast front splitter of the LBW kit to clear speed bumps and driveways – as this car was going to be enjoyed and not just hard parked at car shows. We’ve built many cars with coil overs with a very low stance which could compromise ride quality, but I can tell you for certain, the way this car rides you’d swear it wasn’t as low as it looks. You’d have to drive it to believe it.

Next up were the wheels. With the suspension sorted, our customer and I went through a wide variety of wheels and ended up landing on the stunning Vossen S21-01 3 piece forged wheel with a dark smoke face and polished clear lips. Once we got the approval from our customer and her son, I gave Alex Barrios a ring at Vossen to discuss sizing, offsets, and tire sizes as you can’t really change things once they’re built. If they weren’t built with the correct specs, they would end up being some very nice expensive coffee tables! Luckily that wasn’t the case, they fit like a charm and we achieved the look the customer was after; more importantly, keeping the car functional without rubbing or smashing fenders while driving. We chose some Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires to wrap these beauties in, and to help keep this 700HP monster stuck to the pavement.

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Just when you thought we were at the end, our customer had the idea to wrap the car in a matte finish with some gloss black accents. We called our friends at C17 Media and Norman Au came through with some designs and renders to help envision what our customer had in mind. We went with Stealth Xpel paint protection film on all white-painted surfaces and gloss paint protection film on all the black bits, which not only gave it the matte/gloss look we were after, but will protect the new paint work from stone chips. We then finished the car off with some gloss black accents, emblems and tinted the rear taillights at the customer’s request.

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With the summer months coming to an end, it was mid-September and we were at the last stage of the largest build we’ve ever done at Pfaff Tuning. Chris and I were data-logging the car with the help of Josh Perez at AMS Performance, who was instrumental in getting us new revisions to fine-tune the ECU, ensuring we were getting the most out of this Alpha 7 kit. After a week or so of fine-tuning we got the go-ahead to do some hard acceleration pulls to ensure all the data was correct at full tilt.

Well, I’ve been super lucky to experience some really fast and special cars here in my role here at Pfaff Tuning, but I was not expecting the neck-breaking torque this GT-R decided to test my neck muscles with. Like being strapped to a rocket, trying to hold my head up as I pressed firmly on the throttle, reaching for the right paddle listening to the twin turbo V6 scream at 7,000 rpm, I clicked the car into 3rd, hoping the power would taper off a little to let my head come off the headrest.

 

Unequivocally, that wasn’t the case. This animal just kept pulling and wanting more. I honestly could not believe the difference in power this kit made. Generally, GT-Rs are pretty quick in stock form, however they’re a bit sluggish up top due to its weight. The AMS kit makes the car instantly more alive and ready to break some hearts.

 

GT-Rs have been bashed for being “boring” or “numb” because they work so efficiently, and it’s easy for a novice to go fast in one. Well if you’re having that feeling as an owner, I implore you to reach out and get started on an Alpha 7 kit. It’ll definitely change the way you feel about your GT-R. I pulled the car back into the shop with a massive smile, and my colleagues had to endure me rave about how awesome this car was for the rest of the day…and until it was ready to leave.

 

After we put this car through its paces, it was time for detailing, some photos, and a quick video shoot care of Matt Berenz. Delivery day was here! 8 months from when we put together our original plan, it felt like it happened in a blink of an eye! It was bittersweet to see the car leave as not only it was one of our largest accomplishments, but it was something I never thought about ever being a part of. It’s definitely a build I’ll never forget. A huge heartfelt thank you goes out to the trust of our customer who let us take a simple brand new car and turn it into something epic!