Up close and personal with Akira Nakai: Malaysia’s RWB #05 restoration


RWB Miyabi (27)Those of you who have been following our RWB updates will know that Nakai-san was in Malaysia very recently to work on Malaysia’s RWB #06 (later christened Karajishi). Build #06 took just two days to complete, much quicker than we anticipated. Some of you will also know that Nakai-san spent an additional two days in Kuala Lumpur, working on a separate project. If you couldn’t already tell, it’s the car above.

Secrets are hard to keep, especially so in this day and age of social media. We know many of our readers are part of the informed many and will have, at some point, heard that Malaysia’s RWB #05 (Miyabi) met with an incident several months back. We won’t get into the details of what led to the incident, except confirm that Miyabi was being driven that morning, the way Nakai-san intended.

The damage Miyabi sustained was thankfully not irreparable and so for many months, Miyabi laid dormant in hibernation, waiting for the return of her maker.

RWB Miyabi (28) RWB Miyabi (26)I spent two days closely shadowing Nakai-san as he worked his magic to bring Miyabi back to life. He seems to be a very private person, deeply intense, always seemingly in thought and with few emotions. But when Nakai-san heard that Miyabi was involved in an accident, his first response was to ask if everyone was okay, if anyone was hurt… and to not worry as the car could always be fixed later.

His workflow is structured, methodical: work, break, work, break, work… then he stands up and announces it is time for lunch. I follow him in to Regal Valet’s customer lounge area, where there is a buffet spread and watch as he piles on some mutton curry and pappadoms onto his plate. He walks over to a small table and happens to glance at the TV that is streaming videos of him, on his many builds outside of Japan.

Is it weird to see yourself on TV?“, I ask.

Yes. Very weird.“, he agrees.

RWB Miyabi (6)Nakai-san eats alone for the most part, with Teoh and Zach swinging by at intervals for a quick chat, or to bring him a drink. He grabs another poppadom and munches as he heads out for a smoke. Then a quick toilet break, before he goes straight back to his cycle: work, break, work, break, work, before he ends the day.

During his breaks, there’s always a cigarette involved. He sometimes checks his phones for messages (Shazam and Gmail app on his iPhone, how normal could he be!?), and we can say for sure that Nakai-san enjoys coconuts.

On one of his breaks, he walks out cigarette in mouth, armed with a coconut in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other. He stabs the coconut and pokes a straw through. Someone asks if he would like some ice to go with his drink. “No, I like it pure. Just like that is good.“, was his response. It was also the longest sentence I’d heard yet from the man.

RWB Miyabi (34)There are many polarizing opinions when it comes to the subject of modifying Porsches, especially when it involves air-cooled models which are both getting incredibly difficult to source and appreciating in value very quickly. Nakai-san has received plenty of scathing critique from Porsche purists, but he simply brushes them off. To him, RWB is his way of personalization; one way to stand out from the crowd. And he truly does enjoy his work.

He may be far from perfect, but Nakai-san is a perfectionist and irrespective whether you agree with his RWB concept or otherwise, you have to admire his ethics. Work starts in the morning as soon as he arrives and can continue into the night, ending only when Nakai-san is truly satisfied with the progress he’s made.

RWB Miyabi (22) RWB Miyabi (5)The aero kit bits are shipped directly from Japan, but won’t fit the car perfectly so panels need to be cut. Nakai-san does this free-hand by sight only, and he never gets it wrong. At one point, he even fashioned his own washers by flattening a metal tube with his trusty wrench, then drilling holes before cutting them to size. He used these washers with the bolts on the car’s fenders. We watched as Nakai took apart Miyabi’s suspension three times, making adjustments each time until he was finally pleased with the result.

When things don’t go his way, you can see the dissatisfaction etched upon his face, but never frustration or anger – I don’t know how anyone can be this patient. Heck, I’ve given up trying to assemble my own IKEA coffee table!

RWB Miyabi (35)Over the course of two days, we see a variety of cars from various makes appear, some from as far as Singapore, fill up Regal Valet‘s compound to watch Nakai-san work. Each time he stops to rest, you can tell there are people who want to go up to Nakai-san, to say hello or ask for a picture. But there’s an unmistakable aura that surrounds Akira Nakai — more often than not, most folks lose the courage and end up just looking from the side.

The truth is, despite being a very quiet man, Nakai-san always responds to a question asked and has never turned down a request for a picture. Just don’t expect to have any form of conversation. Try searching for interviews with him and you will notice his replies are always short and direct.

miyabi_720As Nakai-san puts the finishing touches on Miyabi, he is visibly happy, on the brink of breaking into a smile. He walks around the car several times, scanning with his hawk eyes, making sure all details are exactly how he wants it to be. “Congratulations, again.” he tells Teoh with a grin, shaking his hand… then walks out for yet another cigarette.

The general mood is light and I watch as he is being interviewed. I cannot help but smile when he is asked what he would like to say to his fans in Malaysia. “Hello.“, was his simple response. “Just hello.“, he shrugs. We may have been successful at getting up close with Akira Nakai, but I won’t say we were able to get personal…

RWB Miyabi (15)RWB Miyabi (16)Having spent two days just watching the artisan at work, it feels like the end is all too abrupt as Nakai-san heads back inside to pack his tools. He entertains the many requests for his signature, pausing briefly to have a proper look at the trio of scaled Miyabis by Rikmun. Someone requests for a group photo and I was surprised to see Nakai-san dusting himself off with a few blasts of pressurized air.

A couple of handshakes around the room and just like that, he is whisked away and I’m left wondering if and when I will see him again. We have our fingers crossed for build #07 in the not too distant future.

RWB 05 Miyabi (3)RWB 05 Miyabi (10)Some of you will have noticed that small tweaks have been made to Miyabi; and you’d be right. The biggest change is perhaps the new whale tail which replaces the smaller duck tail from before. The driver seat has also been swapped with a new set of Cobra Seats, and the front canards are now contrasting in black, previously painted the same shade as the body.

Miyabi is still missing a couple of decals but the car looks pretty complete as is and we’re really looking forward to finally seeing it back on the road. Naturally, we ask RWB Kuala Lumpur for some pictures to share with our readers and they are happy to oblige. We hope you enjoy our gallery below.


About Author


From supercar spotting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Won has moved onto the realms of motoring journalism since 2011. He has a keen eye for automotive photography, a penchant for fast cars, and the occasional hunger for munching corners.

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