What looks like a miniature GT-R in fact isn't even a Nissan. Surprised? We sure were but we don't come across kei cars very often living in Southern California. The little convertible GT-R on your screen is known as a Daihatsu Copen (actually a Toyota product), and what you're looking at is known as the "GT-K" conversion magically whipped up by the mad scientists of Japan's Liberty Walk.
WHAT THE KEI?
If you don't know what a kei car is, don't stress about it too much as they're not sold in the U.S. In Japan and other parts of Asia, they're the smallest highway legal passenger cars you can buy. There are limitations set on a kei car size, engine capacity and power output, which allows the little munchkins to take advantage of government tax breaks and insurance rates. If you ask us, most of them look kinda funny and impractical, but they're huge in Asian markets where parking is tight and fuel economy is the top priority.
The aftermarket scene for kei cars (and kei trucks and kei vans) isn't anything that's going to make headlines in the States, but there is a healthy kei community with dedicated track events and shops and suppliers developing parts for them. But it's this Liberty Walk kei car that's got us shook and wondering what the hell we're lookin' at.
THAILAND DREAM GARAGE
The owner of this second-gen Daihatsu roadster is Heng Thammarat from Bangkok, Thailand. He is perhaps one of the most well-versed JDM car collectors we've ever met with a dream garage of every generation of Nissan GT-R including a 1,600+hp Top Secret R35, not to mention he also has a 700hp Mk4 Supra, Veilside RX-7 and twin-turbo Lamborghini. But oddly, it's his Copen convertible that is drawing more attention than he could've ever imagined.
The Daihatsu Copen is a front engine, front-wheel drive, two-seater roadster. It's about as small and slow as it gets, powered by a 658cc 12-valve DOHC three-cylinder engine with a turbo that's about the size of your fist. Mated to a CVT automatic (he opted against the manual), it summons a whopping 63hp and 68 lb-ft of torque (now you know why he opted for that auto). Simply put, this cute little toy is a city cruiser and nothing else but in true Heng fashion, he wanted something fun and different, yet heavily modified in his garage that would make his friends laugh, yet make other folks smile, which is exactly what this kei car does.
SLOW BUT STUNNING
The resemblance is astonishing with the stock Daihatsu headlights joined by the front and rear bumpers, which you'll recognize as Liberty Walk GT-R pieces that broke ground during the 2013 SEMA Show. There are even titanium exhaust tips (not functional) to mimic the look even further, not to mention the front LED lights and the swan-neck rear wing that follows the design of the R35.
Lastly are the riveted-on over-fenders, which are frankly massive and give the kei car its odd shape. In U.S. dollars, the LB Copen kit goes for about $4K, which includes the bumpers, over fenders and wing, but Heng wasn't done there...
The transformation continues with an Ideal air suspension kit, then 16x9-inch SSR Longchamp wheels mounted to all four corners. Heng retrofitted powerful race brakes front and rear to give the illusion that this little Copen can go. He's also added a custom rollbar, HKS blow-off valve and air filter, upgraded the intercooler and threw in Cusco strut and sway bars. Some high-performance gear but don't be fooled, this is still a slow-mobile.
Despite it's rather boring driving experience, it's truly a sight to see; a rolling toy that turns more heads than any of Heng's other GT-Rs. It's imaginative and unlikely and it's living proof that anything is possible in the aftermarket tuning community, even with a kei car.