This is a journey that began in late 2018. It was around that time that rumors about Nakai-san crafting a wide-body kit for the Porsche 997 started circulating. This was always going to be a natural progression for the RAUH-Welt Begriff brand seeing how sought-after 964s and 993s have become.
I’ve talked with Nakai about this on a couple of occasions over the last few years, and he always told me that the idea had been in his head for a while – he was just letting it simmer there until he felt the time was right. Whenever he got going on it, I said I’d like to drop by and shoot as many steps of the creation process that I could, just to see how it goes from an idea to an actual RWB kit.
So it was around this time two years ago that I got a message from Nakai saying something along the lines of ‘I’m going to start on the 997 next week, do you still want to shoot?’ I replied back instantly, making plans to stop by when he began the molding process.
Being Nakai, of course this meant it would all go down at night, and it just so happened that I would be coming back from a ski trip up north on the agreed evening. I had the family in tow, but seeing it was probably 11:00pm when I got there, all the kids were fast asleep in the Alphard.
This gave me a few hours to spend with the legend himself. A legend that ever since I met him many moons ago has remained the same exact person – kind, humble and only concerned about building cars and perfecting his style. Nakai-san definitely hasn’t let success go to his head. Had RWB all happened in the US, he would have his own TV show by now and be called in to do promos at Porsche events and collabs with fashion brands.
Maybe it’s an Eastern mindset, I don’t know, but it feels good knowing that he has always stayed true to his original vision.
The process began with Nakai prepping the ride height and rear wheel fitment of the 997 Carrera 2 Tiptronic that this first RWB 997 was based on. He had also lined up the base fender flares that would be overlapped onto the stock rear wings, and traced out by hand with a black marker a series of points along the circumference.
You’re probably asking yourself, ‘Wait a minute, he already had 997-specific over-fenders made up?’ Well no, Nakai actually started with an old master set he had originally made for the 996.
Do you remember ‘Natty Dread’? If you don’t, you can take a look at the feature I did on it back in 2009, and see how the car’s front flares look remarkably similar to the one he’s holding above.
The reasoning behind this is that Nakai isn’t one to sit down at a desk and sketch stuff on paper. He takes a far more hands-on approach, preferring to start off with something and tweaking it as he goes along.
In a world where CAD and 3D printing are the established go-to processes when tackling something of this nature, Nakai-san prefers to do it the analogue way, trusting his eye and judgement.
That’s why there was a lot of looking, thinking and general concentration. I tried to stay out of Nakai’s way as much as possible, but I could tell he was calculating a variety of possible outcomes for this first stage.
He even told me that there was no plan; it was to be executed via a trial and error approach. Nakai-san would see what it looked like as he went along, and if didn’t look good from all angles he would rip it off and start again.
This laid-back approach was refreshing to see. It fits so well with the persona that the media has crafted for Nakai over the years, but the reality is, he is truly like this, and it’s a big part of why he’s had so much success.
Before we got to the meat of the process – and while Nakai-san was cleaning up an additional extension he had made for the rear section of the flare – I asked him if he could roughly show me where the fender would be cut. You can see here the line he made with his finger.Lining It Up
Keep in mind that what Nakai-san was creating this night, was the first widening step of the 997, with many more widths and styles to follow. RWB ‘entry level’ booty boost? Maybe, but also at this time he hadn’t put any thought into how he was going to widen the front fenders, which he explained would be totally dependent on how the rears ended up looking.
There was a lot refining to ensure that the two leading edges – one onto the side skirts and the other onto the rear bumper – would line up. The rest would then be adapted and shaped.
There’s always such a relaxing vibe at RWB.
Imagine this view at midnight with smooth jazz playing through speakers that are now are so recessed into the ever-expanding decor that you are no longer aware of where they actually are. Nojima-san is off in the paint booth at the far corner of the shop doing his thing, and Nakai quietly paces around the 997, measuring, sanding, testing, and then taking the odd sit down for a quick sip of canned coffee and a drag of the ever-present Winston cigarette. You can feel the creativity in the air.
I’m in awe of Nakai-san’s ability to create an atmosphere so perfect for getting down to work. I also totally understand why he works mainly through the night, when interruptions are minimal.
When he was satisfied with the shape of the two flares it was off again for a final time so that strips of thick masking tape could be applied across the whole surface, onto which the FRP shaping would be done. This is to make it easier to remove it all at the very end.
Underneath it all there was a good 100mm of wheel/tire sticking out, and that needed to be contained by the over-fenders.
Next, Nakai mixed up a small batch of resin and stuck the front and rear edges onto the bodywork.
Some was added to the very center too.
Finally, the flare was secured with duct tape so it could harden in position.Thinking About Shape
Thinner masking tape was then used to carefully shape and follow a larger outer circumference. Nakai took his time with this one as it would roughly trace where the fenders would meet the OEM bodywork.
Hot glue followed to ensure the flare was securely attached to the body.
It’s pretty epic how the shop has evolved over the decades, yet manages to retain a very similar feel about it.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t ever done a follow-up to the original shop tour I did way back. There are a lot of new additions, including a guest room created on a mezzanine for overseas customers to stay when they visit. In the two years since shooting these pictures, it’s been further fine tuned and even decluttered a bit. But we’ll get to that another time.
While I was struggling to keep my eyes open and occasionally heading outside to check on the family as they slept in the heated, self-contained mobile bedroom that is a hybrid Alphard – Nakai quickly did the same on the right-side fender.
That’s when sheets of glass fiber composite came out and were cut up into smaller, more manageable strips.
Resin was mixed up and slowly applied along the edge of the flare, filling up the gap with the OEM bodywork.
The strips of glass fiber were then soaked in the resin and applied to the edge to build structure and thickness, smoothing out the transition from flare to fender.
This was all awesome to see. It was a first for me, and even Nakai said that he was pretty sure nobody had ever shot him working on this particular stage of a kit build.A New Era For RWB?
When Nakai-san was done, this is what it looked like – a pretty rough initial step.
A heat lamp was left on to cure the resin.
Which provided a perfect opportunity to take a break and check messages.
By this point it was hard to figure out how it would look, as the shaping and fine tuning still had to be done. But yet, by squinting at the profile view I could almost make out how it might all come together.
Break over, Nakai turned his attention to the right side of the car. This was my cue to leave; it was way later than I had expected and I was still 90 minutes from home.
Seeing first-hand how Nakai starts his process on the car that could fuel RWB’s continued success for years into the future was a real treat.
Before the final two cars were completed late last year, I was able to stop by the shop one other time, again very late at night, to see the Rough World approach in full effect. Stay tuned for Part 2!
Dino Dalle Carbonare