Rauh Welt Begriff and the Battle for the Soul of Classic Car Enthusiasts
If you’ve gone to enough cars & coffee events or ride nights, you’ve probably seen a lot of the same cars. But go to all of them–or more importantly the right ones–and you might catch a glimpse of a wild looking Porsche 911 wearing the letters “RAUH-Welt” on the top of the windshield. Catch a look at one of those and you are looking at one of the most interesting–and polarizing–Porsches out there. Most of the time said Porsche would be an older 911 (most commonly a 930 generation), sporting a very unique wide-body kit Unlike some tuners that try and make the kit look as seamless as possible, the fenders on these cars often (but not always) have exposes bolts and teams. They typically feature a bold front splitter, and a big rear spoiler. They are almost “meta-Porsches” combining elements form multiple eras of the 911…and they are all the creation of Akira Nakai (also known as Nakai San), and his company, Rauh-Welt Begriff. RELATED: Lunatic or Genius? The Cars of Akira Nakai & RWB
The literal translation of the name in German is “Rough-World,” and Begriff means “Concept.” The name is perfectly fitting of these brutal looking 911s. But Nakai didn’t get his start in the world of rear-engined Porsches. Rather, he started in the JDM tuning world of the Toyota AE86. He was a member of the Rough World Drift Crew. Think of the real-world version of Initial D.
Nakai would eventually delve into the world of Porsches in the 1990s. A damaged 911 rolled into the body shop he was working in and a bond was formed. At the age of 28, he purchased his first 930 Porsche, and set about tuning it. The results can only be described as sinister.
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It is his arguably his most famous work, and it is freaking glorious. Also note the “Stella Atrois” branding on the side. Nakai San is a quirky fellow, and will sit with the cars he’s working on, chain smoking, drinking Stellas, and taking the occasional call on his pink phone. It all just adds to the mysticism of Nakai San.
The JDM drift culture influences are apparent, but Nakai San doesn’t see it as merely grafting drift elements onto a Porsche. He views his work as giving the car a soul. Each car gets a unique look; though many get variations of the rivets and large spoiler, others get cleaner fenders and the iconic Porsche “ducktail.”
It is that unique touch with has arguably drawn the ire of Porsche purists. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more strict group of traditionalists than that of Porsche. When the Cayenne SUV was announced they all scoffed in disapproval, even though that vehicle allowed Porsche to be successful enough to develop better and better sports cars. Think they’ll like a Japanese chainsmoker hacking up their beloved air-cooled sports cars like a kid strapping M80s to toy soldiers? The vitriol was strong with these folks.
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Ever since Nakai San has been around, people have been decrying it as blasphemy. In a sense, they they do have one strong point– there are limited Porsches out there, and as the years go on, there will be less and less air cooled models, thus every time Nakai San gets his hands on one, the number of unmolested old-school 911s goes down.
But heres the thing– RWB’s mods are highly visual. There are no major changes to the frame, so if you truly wanted to get your hands on one and restore it back to originality, you could. In that sense, Porsche tuners such as Ruf and Rinspeed are doing more to damage the remaining vehicles, by making deep modifications that cannot be undone if desired.
But honestly, I’m inclined to side with the Japanese madman than the stuffy Old Guard, and here’s why. My philosophy on classic cars is that there are a handful of owners who have the resources, the knowledge, and the desire to keep a car completely original. Like a museum piece, these cars cannot be just left in storage–there is constant maintenance even for vehicles that never drive a mile again.
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Those owners are “Stewards of the Car,” carrying on the original element as a reference for others. Everyone else who owns that car is free to do with it what they want. Race it, tune it, take it rallying up Pike’s Peak. You spent the money on the car, and if you want to have RWB tune it, then chances are you’re actually having more fun with your Porsche than the owner who keeps it in a hermetically sealed garage and never takes it out.
The work of Nakai San has brought up one of the classic battles for the soul of the automotive enthusiast world, pitting originality against enjoyment. Not just for the car itself but the lifestyle around it. Some have called Rauh-Welt Porsches “caricatures” of their original donor car. They say that like it’s a bad thing.
If you can’t find something to like about Nakai San’s creations, you’re doing the whole “enthusiast” thing wrong.