A Car Nerd's Guide To JapanAn insider look at car culture in Japan.  

As I got closer to the infamous RWB HQ in the quaint town of Kashiwa just north of Tokyo, the smell of barbecue filled the muggy air. It was night before the grueling Idlers 12 Hours race held every year at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, and I had joined the RWB guys as they prepped to head up to the track.

Every year RWB founder Akira Nakai-san, Japan’s most famous Porsche tuner, invites his cars’ owners from all over the world to take part in the Idlers 12-hour endurance race. Held for the past several years now, it’s a giant party, rally and track event for RWB owners from all around the world—Japan, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

This meet and greet was a chance for everyone to get to know each other before the race, all under the warm neon lights that lit up the RWB workshop. It’s very much a family reunion and like most family reunions, there was even a film crew there to capture all the moments.

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I was along thanks to an invite from Chern Wong from RWB Australia, who I met on my trip to Melbourne earlier this year. Chern has that lovely light pink RWB 930 down under but is also helping out with photos for the race. He literally landed the day before and had a six-hour drive up to the RWB HQ earlier in the day thanks to traffic. These guys are hardcore.

I can’t say I’ve ever been to a barbecue quite like this; everywhere I looked around the workshop there were RWB cars and amazing knickknacks and collectables decorating the walls and ceiling. The posters and skateboards were some of Chern’s work.

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There’s a massive difference between the RWB workshop which feels gritty and grungy, representative of their cars, and the much larger and shinier Liberty Walk headquarters complete with its own cafe and merchandise shop.

You can still buy RWB merch here, but it looks more like a literal garage sale than an actual store. It’s amazing even after all these years and a cult-like following, the RWB HQ has remained largely the same. Most companies would’ve moved to a bigger and fancier place. Not RWB, and I think that’s what’s kept their underground coolness.

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It’s very much Nakai-san’s “man cave”, and shows off all the stuff he’s accumulated over time. There are bumpers and fenders hanging from the ceiling, stacks of Works Wheels boxes in one corner and memorabilia from all the various cities he’s built RWB cars in.

Looking around the workshop you notice more that these guys live and breathe RWB. Hell, there are even toothbrushes in here.

In between the slices of beef and fish, the cars were getting prepped with stickers and numbers for the race. About 12 RWB cars showed up but ultimately only seven would enter the race. Others have just come for moral support.

Nakai-san even made some last minute repairs to the white 930 which arrived late. The dedication to prepping the cars just right for this race shows how serious these guys are taking this.

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It’s not a publicity stunt, this is exactly what Nakai-san envisioned his creations to do. While most of Nakai-san’s creations do end up as showpieces, the Idlers 12 Hours is a chance to show everyone else otherwise.

The 12 Hour Idlers has been going on for well over a decade now and RWB have always been a key part in the race, participating every year since long before RWB became the household name it is today. If you want to see a lot of RWBs in one place then the New Year’s meet at the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi during the Tokyo Auto Salon week is your best bet. This year about 20 showed up to that.

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When everything and everyone was ready to go, it was time to start the drive up north to Motegi. In true Japanese fashion everyone left the RWB HQ at 9 p.m. on the dot and I caught up with them at their first stop outside a convenience store literally just down the road from the workshop. It was the first of a few stops.

The drive itself doesn’t take long, but with 12 RWB cars in convoy and about half a dozen support vehicles, it’s quite easy to get split up. At the first stop it was a chance for a driver’s meeting and handing out passes to the track.

As luck would have it a typhoon was passing through Japan tonight so every now and then we’d get a massive downpour with gale winds. In race-prepped Porsche with zero driver aids it must’ve been quite an experience.

For me, I was in a boxy kei-car getting blown around and struggling to drive at the 100 km/h speed limit, let alone keeping up with the RWBs.

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After 40 minutes of some of the sketchiest driving I’ve done, I caught up with the convoy at the first motorway service area stop. It turned out I wasn’t the only one held up by the rain as the other support crew showed up later as well. Seeing all the bright and colorful RWBs parked in the rain together was pretty special.

There was a rally feel to the drive up—maybe it was the quantity and quality of the cars. Or the fact they’d just disappear off into the distance while I tried to keep up in an asthmatic car. But the constant stops and motorway driving felt reminiscent of the Pagani rallies. Except of course, for the monsoon and the kei car.

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We arrived at the last service area stop for the night where everyone had their final fill up before the final drive to Motegi. Every good rally needs its own petrol station takeover, and this was no exception. These RWB guys drove better than most other rallies I’ve been on despite the terrible weather.

Once everyone had their final fill up it was a waiting game until the gates at Motegi opened at 1 a.m. Everyone went inside to take shelter from the rain and chatted to pass time. The plan was to get there when the gates opened, sleep in their cars or in the pit garage then wake up early to set up for the race.

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As inviting as that sounded, especially during a typhoon, there was a hotel bed waiting for me. I’d regroup with them in the morning and see what the Idlers 12 Hour race was all about.

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