As I was looking through my bookshelf today, I noticed one of my favorite issues of Hashiriya Battle Magazine laying out. It was a special AE86 issue from 1997, and even though there were always lots of AE86s in BM in general, they somehow figured out how to stuff more AE86 issues in there! God bless you, Takahashi san (BM’s henshucho, or chief editor) and Battle Magazine. Battle Magazine has brought joy to my life.
Many of you might roll your eyes after reading that statement… but seriously, if it weren’t for BM and my other favorite Japanese mags, the only publications my friends and I would have been able to flip through all these years would be the American “import car” magazines, which always featured bright colored, custom stereo-with-neon, non functional rollcage-having, widebody-without-wide-wheels showcars on their covers. (The US magazines have improved a little bit since then… but just try to dig up an old import magazine from 1997 and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)
Anyway, this particular AE86 special issue of BM is one of my favorite magazines in existence because of a feature on the legendary AE86 crew, Rough World. Of course, I couldn’t read the text, but what was presented to me in color photographs really messed my head up. I didn’t even know what it was at first; I just thought the cars looked so cool. At that point, I hadn’t even figured out it was because of the perfect blend of camber, stretched tires, wide wheels, and slam that made the cars look so cool.
Let’s remember… we’re talking 1997 here. People didn’t even run wide wheels on their Corollas back then. Back then, a wide wheel was a 15×7 (+0 offset) Panasport “For Racing Purpose Only” with the 3 inch flat outer lip, and people were complaining that their 195/50/R15 tires were rubbing when they went around corners! LOL
So imagine you’re in a time machine, and you’ve been taken back to 1997, and you encounter an AE86 Levin that looks like THIS! If that doesn’t make you salivate, I really don’t know what to tell you. The zenki Levin 3-door that we see here belongs to none other than Kei Nakai, the leader of Rough World, and the man who created the infamous Rauh Welt 930 widebody Porsche 911 that just about every car guy with internet access has been jocking.
Interestingly enough, in this photo, Nakai san’s car seems to be rocking some pretty wide 14 inch tires – I’m not too sure if they’re 196/60/14 or possibly 205/60. They look closer to 205/60/14 because, just by looking at the stance and the lip in the photo, the wheels appear to be 14×8 (-6 offset) RS Watanabe Type R. This was considered to be pretty damn wide back then – 1997! (I remember I didn’t even get my first set of 14×8 wheels (SSR MarkIII) for my AE86 until 1999 or 2000, when drifter Lance Feliciano’s uncle Bill got a used PAIR from Japan for me, and they came with 215/55/14 Bridgestone tires.) Either way, these tires aren’t stretched by any stretch of the imagination.
Another thing to notice was the hood spacers that Nakai san was rocking. Back then, it was a trend for grassroots drifters to use hood spacers (nothing more than washers, really) to vent hot air out of the hood, and just because it looked cool.
I suppose the other thing I’d mention is the fact that zenki Levin hatchbacks are rather rare to find nowadays, wouldn’t you say? Due to the fact that the popular aero kits that have been produced for AE86s (Goodline, Run Free, J-Blood, etc) typically use kouki bumper lenses, I hardly see zenki Levins around nowadays… I dunno. Is it just me, or have the rest of you 86 fans noticed this too?
I think I mentioned before that I’m normally not a fan of blue cars… especially OEM blue AE86s. However, every once in a while, someone puts together an AE86 that’s just so well done, I can’t help but applaud. Such is the case with this particular blue AE86, which was owned by none other than Kazuhiro Tanaka from Team Orange! That’s right, I’m talking about the same guy who you currently see in the D1 Series, driving an orange Subaru Impreza.
Back in the day, Tanaka was all about AE86s. Just look at how dope his kouki AE86 looks! This car is rocking 15×8.5 SSR/Modex Dori Dori wheels with white faces, and from the looks of it, his tires are 215 or 205/50/R15. I can’t tell just by looking and the magazine doesn’t say. And I don’t feel like calling him in Japan right now, because if I calculate the time correctly, he’s currently in the car, practicing for this weekend’s D1 Grand Prix event at Ebisu Circuit.
Tanaka’s AE86 is classic “late 90s style,” which is my personal favorite AE86 style of all. It has the OEM kouki bumpers with zenki front chin spoiler, OEM sideskirts, Bandoh aero mirrors and a TRD rear wing. And let’s not forget, the big Rough World sticker on the windshield. DOPE.
Here’s an old school group photo of the Rough World crew. These guys hailed from the Ibaragi prefecture, but gained notoriety and respect all over Japan for being the kings of Mt. Tsukuba, the local touge closest to Tsukuba Circuit.
That’s Nakai san standing by himself, all the way on the right, and that’s Tanaka in the “Where’s Waldo” red striped rugby shirt, LOL.
They may not look intimidating or “Rough” in this photo… but just wait until you meet them on a winding road in Japan in the middle of the night. Then you’ll understand.
Here’s what Nakai san looks like nowadays – check out the Bruce Lee-ish poofy hair and tanktop! Nakai san doesn’t smile much, and is a man of few words; when he speaks, people listen. He is highly opinionated about cars, and doesn’t make any excuses if his style or his point of view have offended you. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem. Too freakin bad. He is what he is and he says what he thinks. Bad ass.
This photo was taken in August of last year, when I was in Japan to take photos for my Speedhunters story on Nakai and Rauh Welt. Actually setting foot in the shop where Nakai san masterfully creates his RWB masterpiece cars was very humbling. I suppose I’d liken it to Star Wars buffs visiting the birthplace of Yoda or something like that. As I stood within the house of Rauh Welt, I was dumbfounded and starstruck… and that never happens to me! What the hell! I had so much I wanted to ask him… but so little time.
Unfortunately, I was constantly reminded that we were there on a work trip that was being paid for by the corporate EA Games mothership, and had a strict schedule to adhere to. So even though I just wanted to sit and chill with Nakai san and ask him endless questions and hear his stories of the many battles he and his crew had fought at Mt Tsukuba… it would have to wait. I had to walk outside and take pictures of the cars, while someone else from the team rattled off questions about the specs of the cars – what kind of cams, what kind of turbo, what kind of brakes, etc. In my head, I was thinking, “screw the car’s specs! That’s not the important part here. What was really important (to ME anyway) is the story of WHY and HOW Rough Style came to be, and the philosophy behind it. WTF!”
The exact specs aren’t even important to Nakai san himself, which was pretty obvious when he was prodded about it during his ‘interview.’ In fact, Nakai san even told us that he doesn’t know how much wider than stock his overfenders are! “30mm? 45mm? I don’t know,” he explained, “I just put the wheels on, and then the overfenders, and trim it until it looks good.” So as I walked off towards the cars in the back lot, I silently shook my head in frustration, figuring I’d just have to come back and hear Nakai san’s amazing stories another day. After all, I made up my mind that this wasn’t going to be the last day I’d see Nakai san anyway. So we rushed through our photo shoot, without time to properly set up lights or stage shots of the 4-5 cars at the shop, and then left in a hurry so we could head out. To a Toys R Us in Ibaragi. … Yeah. I know.
On Nakai san’s desk at RWB (which, by the way, means Rauh Welt Begriff, or Rough World Evolution), I didn’t see much AE86 stuff. Instead his walls were filled with the images of what’s on his mind nowadays… Porsches and Beer. And music?! How many CD covers can you spot? I see Jackie Brown and Bob Marley’s Legend album… at least he has good taste in music!
Although Nakai san, the leader of the Rough World crew started out with AE86s, it seems that he’s since moved on to European machinery. Here’s his flat black Mercedes Benz (SL500?) roadster, sitting on some aggressive fitting Work Meister S1 wheels.
Not all of the Rough World members are now rocking European cars. One of the youngest original members of Rough World, Rauh Welt’s painter Nojima still has a few AE86s. He has a red Trueno set up for drifting and a red Levin set up for time attack. Click this link to check out the full feature on Nojima’s time attack hachiroku Levin that I shot and wrote for Speedhunters.
All in all, I’ve got to say that actually being able to meet Nakai and Nojima, and roll my Pelican lens case into Rauh Welt was pretty amazing. I have to remind myself sometimes that some people will never in their lifetime experience the things I experience all the time as a result of my chosen profession and lifestyle.
For this particular trip, I have to give big thanks to Kazuhiro Tanaka from Team Orange/Rough World for finally calling Nakai san and setting up this meeting. (I had been bugging Tanaka about wanting to meet Nakai since 2004.) I also need to thank my good friend Kenta Ogawara (Tokyo Drive Productions) for taking the train up from Tokyo just because I asked him to come along to translate. Kenta has a new magazine coming out soon, so stay tuned to MotorMavens for info on his magazine soon!
Last but not least, I really should thank Electronic Arts mothership in Vancouver for financing our Speedhunters world tour last August. Vancouver to Frankfurt to Nurburgring to Munich to Porsche Leipzig to Spa Francorchamps (Liege?) to Nurburgring again, then Brussels by way of Holland, then Brands Hatch, then London, then Tokyo, then Ebisu Circuit, then Tsukuba, then Honjyo, then Suzuka, then bullet train to Tokyo, then Ebisu again, and back to LA… that was a pretty baller status trip, and let me just say, the Motor Mavens HQ sure doesn’t have the deep pockets that the EA Games/Speedhunters HQ does! Whew!
Wait a minute… this started out just as a simple “Papercuts” story about a magazine I had. How the hell did it turn into a trip story…? I always go off into a random tangent. I need to get offline and get a drink!
Rough World FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! RESPECT!
:: Antonio Alvendia
Nojima’s Rough World AE86 Levin on Speedhunters
The “Legend of Nakai” story on Speedhunters
YES!!! so phresh, awesome stuff
Hell yeah! That’s the shit! ROUGH WORLD.
Damn, thanks for reminding me how much I miss Japan. It was so badass hanging out @ RWB that day.
This is dope!!!What else you got locked up in your vault??
@Mike G: Dude, you said it. We both should just forget about all this California stuff and go back to Japan!
real fresh stuff.
“What was really important (to ME anyway) is the story of WHY and HOW Rough Style came to be, and the philosophy behind it. WTF!””
I stumbled upon the RWB story (and the speedhunters blog, and then Motormavens) doing some Porsche searches late last year, and it really struck a chord…great pictures and story, again!
Whether it be AE86 or 911, the style is unmistakable – Rough World!
^^ +1 Huy
Awesome write, you sir are a badass.
@WolfsburgRS: thank you for the compliments! i’m flattered that some people have followed me from speedhunters over to this new site! i highly doubt you could have found MOTORMAVENS late last year though! the site was only started a few months ago? hell, Andy Sapp didn’t even know about MotorMavens last year, and he’s the one who made and designed this site LOL Either way though, we’re very glad to have you as a reader!
@Josh, Teddy, Rich, Kid Karola, MaydayJohnP, om1kron, OMGodzilla, and the RISKY DEVIL crew…
I’m so glad you guys dig this stuff. Your comments are proof that we need more of this type of content out there! Stay tuned to MOTORMAVENS.com, because we have more in store! =)
cell phone pics of magazines are so IN.
LOL @BH, my iphone has a crappy camera, these were actually from my point n shoot, late last night. grainy because of the high ISO and hand held magazines. haha
Hold on… I gotta link something from MY camera…
More shots of the Flat Black SL !
Very Nice Antonio!
sooooo, soooo proud of you. I KNOW this was something true to your heart. It screams ANTONIO.
Rough World = kings.
great write up Antonio! Rough World is the shit!!
@ Antonio Alvendia – Hahaha, yeah sorry I didn’t mean I found this site last year, that’s when I found speedhunters. Come to think of it I think I found MM through twitter? Anyways, I made the connections between the two after I read a few features =) …either way, keep it up!
I love hearing and reading about this stuff.
I know you have tons and tons and tons of old 86 related pics/articles.
Show us sneak peaks of your treasure chest!
nice read antonio.
Now this is a cute story. I was looking at the pic of the random stuff in pics with the marley cover and did i notice a box of san miguel on the bottom shelf? Anyway these guys were my influence as well I didn’t know anyone other than Antonio who rocked mismatched rims too. Like when you bought that red 86 from Cir, the dude who worked at TRUE, that 86 came with the black advans up front and the xr4s in the rear. I don’t often rock the mismatches but because I still have fresh tread I do.
awesome article! need to go back and find out more!
@Antonio: Cool man!! It’s nice to be educated of the history that the Motormavens Team have witnessed! Break out with more!
Great stuff Antonio! RWB articles never fail to impress; I still have that alleway shot of Nakai san’s 930 from the Speedhunters feature on one of my desktops and it never gets old!
This is the stuff i wanna read in mags. good ish!!
this is the shit right here man, this is why i love reading car blogs, so much in-depth information and way more passion than you get in a magazine. ill be honest antonio, some of your posts on speedhunters used to irritate me, but im honestly loving your content on motor mavens, seems like you’re much more comfortable here and it shows in your content, awesome stuff. motor mavens = the realness!!
I think it is safe to say that I would never tire of hearing about Nakai san or Rough World.
Great stuff, Antonio!!!
Commented on the link you posted, Antonio, and figured I’d post here. This stuff is great, man. Can’t get enough of the classic AE stuff….shows how different the scene has gotten from then. Think things will go “back to basics” at some point, or do you think it’ll stay with the current trend for a while?
@anth: thanks for the comments and honest criticism, man. i think i understand what you’re saying! and yes, you’re right… i AM more comfortable here. we can write/post whatever we want, and it’s great. sorry i used to piss you off! lol
@Brendan: thanks man! yeah, the scene HAS evolved, hasn’t it! i think honestly that there will be a “back to basics” grassroots movement. hell, it’s already started. however, professional drifting in the USA? well, as you can probably already tell, it’s getting more and more nascar as we speak. all the dope cars we used to jock in the days of “Ueo vs Taniguchi” are no longer competitive in the current state of Formula D competition.
I wonder if it’s time to make classes for professional drifting? Sort of like how JGTC/Super GT have a GT300 and GT500 class. It would make things MUCH more fair in my opinion, especially when you have guys like Taka Aono, Tommy Suell, and Matt Powers straight up KILLIN IT with their AE86s (and S14) but they just can’t compete with the big torque of the 700-1000hp V8s that are currently plaguing the series today. Oops, did I say plague? Someone’s gonna flame I’m pretty sure…
So Fresh to Death! Thanks for bringing the OG stuff to the plate.
I’m wondering why Antonio moved to Motormavens…..ummmmmm
……One year later and you still mispelled Honjyo…..it’s Honjo.
(don’t look only at the pics Antonio, take some Japanese classes….in your career, you might need it).
@Alex: Thanks for following MotorMavens too. Glad to see you on here as well.
I think even if they made separate classes it would end up like D1GP and D1SL. The high-horsepower cars would still dominate. Fortunately MSC and US grassroots events are there to keep us sane and help us remember the true spirit of drifting.
I’ll never get tired of hearing about “Rauh Welt”.
Haha, hope you do get to meet Nakai someday. Love to hear the story from your perspective….
wooo! nakai rocks!
i wonder what if his trends start to shift again. from ae86’s evolving to porsche’s. i wonder whats the next level? porsche’s to ?????
Didn’t Nakai-san build/tune some pretty radical time attack Silvias? Can’t remember if it was under the auspices of Rauh Welt or Rough World, but they were very intimidating.
BTW, how about a feature on the 2001 JGTC BP Kraft AE86 (The Espelir/PMU liveried AE86 that was tossed midway through for an MR-S)? Haven’t seen it featured on Speedhunters, and it’s damn near impossible to find out much about it on the Interwebs. I only specified the ’01, b/c the ’99 and ’00 are fugly, IMO.
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Considerably, the post is actually the freshest on this topic.
just signed up and wanted to say hello while I read through the posts
this is just what im looking for, looks like i have a lot to read.
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