Most photographers get their Rauh-Welt Begriff – or RWB – card stamped by earning it. Usually they take great photos or turn out great content. Me, on the other hand, got the invite because I’m getting old and hurt my back…
I can’t make this up and I wish I could. A few months ago I hurt my back, so I went to see Dr. Marcus Wong at True Health Studio. Turns out, my chiropractor is into cars and his friend Kelvin at Speed Projects Laboratory in Richmond was having an RWB built to promote his new shop. Well, I think he was mostly having the car built because he really likes RWBs, but the promotion part of the situation was an added bonus.
This wasn’t my first experience with RWB or its Japanese founder, Nakai-san. I was actually in Vegas covering the SEMA show the year RWB made its North American debut. There was plenty of buzz in the air around Nakai and his custom Porsches. It was a different time for the widebody scene – before SEMA earned the nickname “Over Fender Nationals.” The North American market was about to open the pandora’s box that is RWB, which might explain why the first American-built RWB was named Pandora One. Debuted in 2011 and owned by Fatlace‘s Mark Arcenal, Pandora One made the people go nuts (myself included).
In 2012, I found myself at the Fatlace Paddock in California – which used to double as RWB USA’s headquarters. It was arguably a weird way to spend my honeymoon, but my wife’s a good sport.
I’ve always approached RWB as a tourist and never an insider. This outside view has kept my opinion on the brand pretty unbiased.
A lot has changed since RWB took North America by storm. Many pocketbooks have opened and opinions have divided. Just last year, it was reported that RWB turned out 60 cars and that could be considered high output for a build that’s always had an air of exclusivity. Seeing as Nakai has a hand in every build, it’s also a lot of fender-cutting and kilometers traveled for just one man. As RWB has grown in popularity, so too has the criticism attached to the brand.
For every car built, a clean chassis must be sacrificed to the Over Fender’s God. And the surgery involved in creating a custom RWB Porsche has some purists in a tizzy. Then you add the internet to the mix, and you find just a half-opened can of jaded. Complaints range from the lack of aesthetic variety in each build to overexposure. Others long for 2010, before RWB became more accessible in the US and Canada.
On the other hand is where you find RWB enthusiasts and insiders. Nakai has reached celebrity status in these circles, securing his presence in the latest Need For Speed game. His work is met with endless praise on levels that should land him his own exhibit in an art museum.
The truth is I land somewhere in the middle of these two very opposing views. This probably seems like a cop-out and maybe it is. These days, I find myself almost indifferent to Porsches – maybe because I’ll never be able to afford one. Also, the sheer number of 911’s to choose from is too overwhelming and leaves me dumbfounded. That being said, I still think RWBs are neat.
I don’t spend too much time thinking about how Nakai’s work affects the secondhand Porsche market or if his aesthetic has become repetitive. It’s not that I think these questions aren’t worth asking, but I’m definitely not the guy for that job. Realistically, there’s probably someone reading this article right now making a list of everything wrong with RWB and someone else getting ready to put RWB on a pedestal.
My takeaway from being around Nakai and the RWB gang is that their scene is like any other tuner scene, except it exists in a different tax bracket. Staring through your computer screen at these cars from afar just obscures that fact with pre-conceived notions of the cars and the people who own them. At the core of what’s actually going on, you’ll find car enthusiasts who are genuinely enthralled by what’s unfolding in front of them.
Kelvin told me he’d always wanted to open an ECU tuning shop that specialized in German cars. Having Nakai come to Vancouver to build his RWB gave him the perfect excuse and opportunity to pursue his dream. So, he built one of the most aesthetically interesting shops I’ve ever been in and made it happen. If being part of that community or owning an RWB helped Kelvin realize his dream, then it seems like money well spent to me.
I will probably always be an outsider – a tourist – in this world. I mean, my friends only recently traded PBR for good beer during their garage hangs, and I don’t see craft beer and S-Chassis’ being traded for Jack Daniels and Porsches anytime soon. RWB or not, my time at Speed Projects Laboratory was essentially just another garage hang. And spending time with people who are super into the thing they do will always be fine by me – unless that thing is murder or another heinous crime.