Before Nakai-san and RWB became household names in Porsche circles, I only ever saw him tackle specific areas of a car at his lair in Chiba. In the few hours I’d be there to shoot a build or do a shop tour, he’d get on with fitting a spoiler, cutting a fender, changing the seals around the windows or maybe doing an alignment.
I remember the first few interviews I did with Nakai; he would quote the build of a car taking a couple of weeks, but of course that was totally dependent on how much work he had on at the time, how many events or races he was entered in, and probably how much inspiration he had in the particular moment. Boy have things changed now. As Nakai-san is building so many cars abroad now, he’s really had to streamline the process.
I knew he had a system, but it didn’t strike home just how good he had got at it until I followed him to Kuala Lumpur for the build of RWB Miyabi two years ago. Only then, sitting on the floor and watching every step of the process for four days, did I realize the amount of concentration and stamina that was involved. Last month, however, I found myself in Dubai observing Nakai pushing himself beyond any limit he’d ever had to push himself to before. Six days is what he had, but in that time three cars needed to be built.
Abdulla and Marwan from RWB Emirates invited me over to follow the first ever RWB triple build. Meeting the ever-expanding RWB family is one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most in my role as a photojournalist, as has seeing the RWB brand grow at the beginning and explode in the last few years. So I had to be there. At the same time it was a chance to explore the vast and unique car culture that exists out in the UAE, but more on that later.
With a pair of 993s and one 964 lined up before him in a pit garage at the Dubai Autodrome, Nakai silently took on the challenge. It’s not easy to synthesise six days of shooting into a story, so I’m splitting it into two to give you guys a look into the process. And that process as I mentioned starts off with Nakai prepping up a big box with all the parts necessary for the conversion and sending it over from Japan ahead of time. He also sends other bits he needs for the build, stuff like the black silicon paste that he uses to seal the panel gaps, the Allen bolts to fix the fenders in place, lots of masking tape, and the aluminum tubes used to mount and support the kit itself.
On of the first things he got working on was the aluminum grilles for the three front bumpers, the satin white 993 belonging to Sheikh Khalifa, Abdulla’s blue 993 and Marwan’s 964. The process is straightforward, or at least Nakai makes it look so after years of doing it. He cuts each grille out to size for each of the air intakes, outlets and air dams, hits it around the edges where the glue will be added, and prior to fitting it all sprays it in black. Step 1, done.
There is so much preparation that goes into each and every car, but you rarely ever see it so it’s easy to assume that it doesn’t happen. But if you hang around and watch Nakai work, you will see him remove the aluminum impact bars from bumpers, the Zachs rubber impact cylinders behind them (for slow speed impacts), and various pieces of metal and mounts that aren’t needed.
He was beautifully systematic in his process, doing everything piece-by-piece on the 993s that he would build together, and saving the 964 till the end (coming in Part 2). That said, he did prep the bumpers and fenders all at the same time, sawing off by eye the excess material that he knows won’t be needed for that perfect RWB hippari fitment. He then mounted the bumper mounts, again measuring up everything by eye and not taking one second to ponder anything. Truth be known, he can probably do some of these steps with his eyes closed.
And then, all of a sudden, the first visual transformation occurs, the fitting of the front bumper. It instantly sets the dimensions for the fenders that have to follow and reminds you that the car in front of you won’t ever look the same again.
There was a constant flow of car guys dropping by to have a look, curious to see a RWB car in the midst of a transformation. And car guys in Dubai all seem to rock some pretty mental rides, everything from the latest and most sought after supercars to the odd curious older collectable like the 930 Turbo that is – or was – in line to receive the RWB treatment later in the year. Ever since the story went live, the owner has had a rethink and decided not to use this beautiful and unmolested classic as a base. Instead, he’s already sourced another more ‘regular’ donor 911. It seems like all you guys that commented here on Speedhunters may have helped to change his mind!
The first thing I noticed about life in the UAE is timing. When you live in such hot climates you tend to shift the day towards the night, so lunch tends to roll around in middle or sometimes late afternoon, and dinner is way later at night. It seemed to work well with Nakai’s work schedule; he’d get to the track at just before midday, nicely refreshed and work 10, 11, and sometimes 12 hours straight. Aside from a short break for food or the odd cigarette there was no stopping the man. You could tell he was challenging himself and he had a concrete plan in his head that he needed to stick by. Nakai hardly uttered a word during the day; he was in the zone.
The extended RWB family flowed in from every corner of the world, including the US, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Poland and Germany. Above you can see German TV superstar Sidney Hoffmann from Sidney Industries and RWB Deutschland talking to Sheikh Khalifa. He was documenting the build for his TV show as well as his YouTube channel, and you can see his four-part vlog right here. Note: it’s in German, for the most part.Making The Cut
With both 993s prepped and the inner edges of the overfenders cut and sanded down to a smooth finish, it was time for what everyone was waiting for.
The steps prior to ‘the cut’ is as straightforward as most other steps in Nakai’s process. He lines up the flares onto the bodywork – in this case the right-hand side front wheel arch, secures them in place by screwing down three screws, and then lays down a thin strip of masking tape that tells him where the joint line will be.
He then removes the flare and begins the cut – freehand.
Like a boss he just relaxes, sometimes running the saw blade in and out to help him trace the cut line. On some points, and depending on the corner of the car, he pulls out knowing that oil lines or a tank may be hiding behind. No stress though, Nakai knows these cars inside out.
The owners are then passed the saw and given the opportunity to make a cut on their own cars.
Carrying the cut stock fender away is like a trophy, a welcome into the world of RWB.
The fenders get signed by Nakai and the various members of the RWB family present, and then either held onto as a very special piece of memory or passed on as a gift to guests that have made a trek to witness the magical moment. It all adds to the family feel; it’s nice to see and to witness and in some way or another be part of it.
Nakai seamlessly returns to work, unfazed by the commotion and overall feeling of joy. His concentration is far more important to him, but you can bet that seeing his customers so ecstatic at witnessing the transformation taking place is what gives him that little extra energy to push on.
At the end of day two, he quickly passed over to the green 964, which I jokingly nicknamed Kermit during the built, to fit the rear spoiler. It was probably a way to mark the end of a step on the white 993.Day Three
Day three and the sealing around the joint lines starts.
It’s the coolest and fastest thing that Nakai does; he lays down two parallel lines of thin masking tape, shoots a stream of the rubber compound out of a silicone gun along the joint line, and instantly rubs across it with his index finger. Done. Tape is removed and the result is like an OEM-quality finish. It blows my mind every time!
Then it was over to the blue 993.
Abdulla, the owner and the man behind RWB Emirates, is so passionate about Nakai’s work that he knows the name of every RWB ever created.
He helped Nakai cut each of the fenders on his car, before doing the last bit of work on the rear right one.
The shop that painted and prepped the three cars dropped by with the custom-sprayed Fifteen52 wheels, the first to arrive being Outlaw 001s with orange detailing for Abdulla’s car. With his fenders in place and the wheels test fitted, the car instantly transformed before our eyes.
I was personally loving the girth of the Nittos at the rear. Prior to Nakai’s arrival, each of the cars had been fitted with KW Variant 3 coilovers which would give the adjustability to set the ride height just right. This however called for the removal of each of the dampers on all three cars so that the helper springs and their perch could be ditched, allowing enough room for the damper and main spring to do their job.
Once the self-tapping guide screws are removed, Nakai fixes the overfenders in place with more presentable black and round-headed Allen bolts.
Those thin aluminum tubes we saw at the beginning are used as mounting brackets, cut to length, smacked flat and drilled at each end, and then fixed into place. It’s a simple and effective solution which does the job rather well, and they’re very easy to replace if they’re damaged.
It’s then back to the trusty silicone gun and the magic rubber bond to add the final finishing touch.
It’s applied all around the car, right down the side skirts and across the front bumpers and headlight/fender line.The RWB Rubber Lip
It struck me that there was still one part of the process that I had never seen – the black rubber front lip. It’s a defining piece on any RWB car that runs it, and helps give the impression that the car sits even lower at the front. The lip can scrape the ground and fold underneath on the steepest of inclines, all the while preventing the lower section of the actual bumper being damaged (within reason of course). I was actually quite surprised that he glued three strips together to create the entire wraparound piece.
Once the glue dries, and it’s very quick, Nakai cuts a small curved section out of the center part. It used to be straight the whole way, but this curve is something he’s started doing lately.
The magic glue is then used to fix the whole strip onto the lower section of the bumper. Again, everything is lined up by eye and does it all himself, often using all four limbs at once!
The rubber lip wraps around to the inside of the wheel arch on the bumper part, but it’s actually two pieces cut to fit and follow the contours. It’s all then sanded down to a smooth finish.
Late that night, the second set of wheels arrived for the white car, again Fifteen52 Outlaw 001s but this time with a matching white finish on the center discs.Canards & Fender Wings
Another day, and it was time to add a few final touches to the 993s. And what would an RWB be without canards?! The owners each specified different front ones, the white car receiving a narrower and shorter canards compared to the big daddies that were attached to Abdulla’s car. It makes sense as the blue 993 is built more for track use, has a slightly more stripped out cabin (when finished), and the looks to match.
Both cars also received rear fender canards.
But my favorite part was seeing the fitting of the fender wings that sit on the rear flares.
I found it almost comical that Nakai has to cut his own RWB fender extensions to fit these, a second moment of no return if you will.
Nakai lays down the paper guide, masks around it and then just makes the cut. It’s all rounded so there’s a lot of smoothing and refinement that has to be done afterwards. He then lays a grill onto the vent, hitting and shaping it from behind. When he’s finally happy with the shape, he takes it out it, paints it, and then glues it back in place.
Then comes the lining up of the winglets themselves, over the newly opened and grilled fender vent.
And just like that he bolts them down in place. A slap of aggression where you thought it was impossible to add more!
With the 993 pretty close to completion, Nakai’s attention was shifted onto Marwan’s 964. I’ll document this car’s transformation and the finishing touches to the other two in the final post next week.
Until then, you can all go off and dream about what your own RWB would look like. I know I did just that every night of this special triple build!
Dino Dalle Carbonare