Approximately an hour’s drive from the centre of Tokyo, Akira Nakai-San runs a workshop that has now acquired a global reputation – his conversions tend to polarise opinion and lead to heated discussion. He loved fast cars in his youth, driving on the roads and racing circuits outside Tokyo. Known as a drifter in the 'Rough World Drift Crew', he was no stranger to the local scene and not only tuned his Toyota AE86, but also gave it a snappy racing appearance. At the beginning of the 90s, when he was 28 years old, he fulfilled his dream and bought himself a Porsche 930, which he then immediately customised to his own personal taste. The black “Stella Artois“ – named after his favourite beer – marked the start of his career.
Fans of his style love him because his body kits make the cars look larger than life and aggressive. He makes no comprises when designing for speed. Coolness is achieved with a racing look. His extremely wide body race kits are based on race-proven touring and long-distance Porsche bodies that are not only expected to give the solvent racer an aerodynamic advantage in club races on the club’s own circuit, but are also to provide them with an additional eye-catcher bonus. He began customising his customers’ Porsches some 15 years ago. Because he had always liked Germany and German cars, he renamed the business and has since then operated under the name 'Rauh Welt Begriff' RWB (Rough World). He doesn‘t think about what he‘s going to do, he says in our conversation with him, but just goes ahead and does what he likes and what he thinks is cool. He has since corrected the earlier add-on 'Sekund Entwicklung' to 'Zweite Entwicklung', but still works with an air saw and drill in his little workshop, which is decorated with all kinds of memorabilia (snooker table, empty beer bottles and various things American). For a couple of years now, he has had a manager who not only organises meetings with the press, but also looks after the dozen or so locations he has since set up around the world. These are in most cases local workshops or tuners who market the RWB kits in partnership with Nakai-San. When a customer is interested in a conversion, chain-smoking Nakai-San attempts to find out what the customer wants in an advance conversation and to define a possible project and the individual parts he needs. A $ 22,000 RWB kit includes as standard front and rear bumpers, four extended wheel arches, a couple of side skirts, a GT 2 or 3.8 RS rear spoiler and the necessary bits and pieces. Once the order has been completed, the GRP parts are manufactured by his Japanese component supplier and then shipped to the customer‘s local authorised workshop in advance, where they are painted in the desired colour and then assembled and mounted there exclusively by Nakai-San himself: ”I fly out there with my tools in my baggage and a couple of days’ work later the car is finished“. He tends to work until late at night, because the “best ideas for new conversions come to me when I have enough coffee and cigarettes“ – he says with a grin on his face. Working this way, he has converted 60 vehicles in the last few years, jetting from country to country and continent to continent. In addition to his race kits, he now offers 'narrow body' road conversions, covering all the 930, 964 and 993 models, and markets optional suspension kits supplied by Japanese manufacturer Aragosta, XXXXL Champion rear spoilers, SSR wheel rims and tires up to 335 in width. “Around $ 40,000 is what a customer will have to pay to make a fully-fledged Rauh Welt Porsche his own – and these are just the conversion costs." With the help of a friendly TÜV examiner, it was nevertheless possible to obtain approval in Germany – so far at least for the 'narrow body kits'.
It is the way the Japanese tuner seemingly carelessly slices the Zuffenhausen wheel arches with his air saw that polarises Porsche fans all over the world. We Germans tend to give the term “value“ special significance, since the word is linked by its very nature to the amount of effort involved in the manufacturing process to achieve a specific resale value, which is indirectly associated with security (i.e. monetary value). Quite frequently, however, we tend to forget the general background conditions and the criteria that are used to measure the so-called value of an object or a service. From a narrow perspective – which is quite reasonable considering the fact that Porsche 930s are now as much as 40 years old – it is heart-rending to see a wonderful, absolutely timeless sports car with sawn off wheel arches parked outside his corrugated iron workshop. It’s as if a bird had had its wings clipped and was waiting for its artificial limbs to arrive. It’s true of course the new ones will be wider and more beautiful and above all cooler, but they will only be made of plastic and screwed onto the stumps that remain. If, on the other hand, a wider, all-round view is taken to determine the value of an RWB Porsche, then some additional valuation features have be used as assessment criteria. These tend to be much more specific, of course, because the niche for the advocates is much smaller than that of the purists who insist on keeping the original intact. Difficult features to measure, such as coolness, exclusivity and brand value are certainly the most important factors in what is more of a marginal niche for the young who present themselves and their RWB build using humorous names on the side skirt in social media, magazines and their favourites cafés and in so doing polish up their own value. Each to his own, I suppose.
One could say that the success has proven he is right. After all, every country and every continent has its own principles. Germany and Japan are undoubtedly very similar in many respects, such as in terms of the basic virtues of precision and punctuality. What is much more pronounced in Japan, however, is a high degree of conformity among the general public and a sense of community, in addition to the way people function in society. As a European visitor, away from the large office blocks and the company employees, one is all the more fascinated by the tremendous diversity of various subcultures, which are often engaged in only in secret, but always with a tremendous intensity. Whoever dares to leave the system will find himself completely ostracised with no way back into a conservative environment. Perhaps that is why, particularly in a creative and alternative environment, so many characters who set the tone in fashion, design, in the craft sector or, as in this case, in car and bike customising, with their obsession for detail, or like Nakai-San with an extravagant visual form, have made a name for themselves. He is not the least interested in what the majority of people in Internet forums write about him – and even if there is only one of them who likes his creations, then that will do, he says. “I don‘t think about the past or what the future will bring. I live now and am doing what I consider to be the most important thing at the moment and what I enjoy doing. Porsches are simply my favourite cars.“ He has no plans for the future, he says. As long as customers appreciate his work and buy from him he will carry on with what he’s doing now. “After all after all, I‘m not going to give up smoking,” he smiles.
(c) Hermann Köpf