Words & Photography by Raj Hunjan
This is a story about how one man’s passion grew into a new dimension in Porsche culture. A relatively archaic custom bodyshop now creates some of the most iconic air cooled 911s out on the streets. RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF (RWB) was founded by Akira Nakai, known simply as Nakai-san. His first project Porsche 911 was his very own car, a 930 Turbo that he wanted to transform into a race car, with style. He named the build after his favourite after work beverage, Stella Artois. His workshop looks more like a shrine with memorabilia, car parts, old slot machines and other trinkets scattered all over it, stacks of empty Stella bottles adorn the walls too. If there was a definition of underground car builds – this would be it.
Whilst Nakai-San and his creations were well known in car circles in Japan, it took a four minute video uploaded to YouTube in August 2011 for the rest of the planet to wake up to the Rough World Concept, including myself. The video was filmed mostly in Nakia-san’s workshop while he was completing a build for a customer. It eloquently showed what RWB represented, race car dynamics for the road, custom built to order. Each of Nakai-san’s creations gets a name, which he claims just comes to him, during the build. He doesn’t think about it, something inspires the name, whether it is the owners favourite roads, something else in their life they love, or purely a word exchanged in passing while working.
When I design it’s all in my mind. I never use paper and pencils.” Akira Nakai, RWB
Since 2011, interest in RWB has exploded, numerous magazine articles and videos of the cars on the road and track have cemented their place in the mind of petrolheads. To satisfy the demand for his creations, Nakai-san travels the globe, to workshops where cars have been prepped ready for him to transform. Last year he completed over sixty builds, and has a larger number planned for this year. This is a crazy schedule for any one man, more than one a week. Nakai-san completes a car in three days, from start to finish. The transformation he carries out is nothing short of total. The 911s he has worked on all look like time-attack specials, complete with big wings, dive planes and front splitters that scrape the ground. Their wheel arches look impossibly wide and house equally immense split rim deep dish alloy wheels. The dampers are replaced with adjustable coil overs, and set firmer with a much lower ride height. The insides are often stripped out too, with just the bare essentials in place, a drivers seat, gear shifter, steering wheel pedals and dashboard. The engines are normally enhanced, freshly built with lightened components and hooked up to throttle bodies and straight cut exhausts.
Nakai San races his own creations at tracks like Tsukuba during the Idlers Games alongside customer cars. Having followed his work and the Idlers Games via Speed Hunters, it was on my bucket-list to one day travel over to see him at his workshop.
Two years is how long it took for Profusion Customs father and son owners Jag and Raj Jagdev to persuade Nakai San to secure the first Porsche 964 RWB build on UK soil. Once they got the green light from Japan, they set about finding the perfect base car for the project, a Porsche 911 964 Carrera 4 manual in original factory specification. This first UK build was essentially bringing the legend to my door, so it felt like destiny that I should block my calendar out and witness this build in person and document it from start to finish in pictures. The workshop where the build was taking place was Profusion Customs, an car exhaust fabricator near Heathrow Airport. Profusion Customs welcomed all RWB fans to come and see Nakai-san work his magic.
Now different people are telling me they want my cars, which makes me happy.
Profusion Customs have been selected by Nakai-san to be his UK partner and coordinate any subsequent UK builds. Anyone that fancies the most extreme 911 on their driveway should contact Jag or Raj and they will talk you through the process and options available. The range currently spans all aircooled models of the 911, including the 930, 964 and 993 generation cars. A donor vehicle has to be sourced by the client or Profusion, and it can be a Coupe, Targa or Convertible. The RWB body kit and alloy wheels are provided by Nakai-san’s team in Japan, and Nakai-san will fly over to work on the car himself. The body kit is available in several widths from Narrow up to Royal. There are also variations of the front bumper, rear bumper and side skirts. The rear wing can also be discrete or as large as you dare.
Nakai-san’s 911s definitely divide opinion, especially with demand and prices soaring for all air-cooled Porsche models. The extreme styling is adored and hated, particularly the irreversible wheel arch modifications, once Nakai-san has made his first cut with a handheld saw into the metalwork on the rear arches, there is no going back. Watching Nakai-san confidently slicing the original panels of the 964 Carrera 4 donor car was a pivotal moment for me, I instantly saw why some loath and some love what he does. To many this donor car is one of the greats from Porsche’ history, it’s value has tripled over the last few years as a result of more people seeking them out to own. The flipside is that Nakia-san is creating a standout creation, something that Porsche designers and engineers never anticipated or dreamed of.
Watching Nakai-san was utterly mesmerizing, working with the car and new parts, patiently checking the fit at each step of the way, then going back to his work area to grind any excess or manipulate the shape, before fitting and then repeat this procedure all over again. Nakai-san was poring his passion into the car.
Right from his arrival on the first day until he left for the airport for a much earned few days back in Japan, Nakai-san was approachable and friendly to everyone, even as he worked. Sure, there were a few times when someone tried to catch his attention while he was deep in thought about a particular aspect of the car. He simply told them to wait until he was finished – but that is expected of a master craftsman. I was extremely impressed that he brought many of his own tools, all heavily used – they looked like a part of him. Likewise he had these miscellaneous bags of screws and fittings, which were emptied onto the floor in neat piles, ready for when he needed them. He knew exactly what each of these parts was for. I still have images in my head of watching him walk around the car, studying it intently from every angle. The suspension and ride height are set with his eye, he marks angles on the floor with masking tape! At end of build he took the time to meet everyone, a queue formed for him to autograph everything from books, models, race overalls and even engine covers!
As long as it’s treasurable, that’s good yeah?
I’ll never forget those three days where I watched a car transform into a modern moving sculpture, it was a pleasure meeting Nakai-san and seeing him work. He was interviewed at the end of the build and one of the questions was, would he ever retire. His response was along the lines of, retirement isn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I salute you Nakai-san and your attitude towards life and making your dream a reality all over the world.
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