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RUF CTR Anniversary driven

“The Yellowbird is a car that made us internationally renowned from one day to another. We were the world’s fastest car – all the big companies were slower. No matter if it was 20 years ago, ten years ago or just yesterday, everybody talks about this car.” These are the words of Marcel Ruf, who talks with passion and pride when I ask him to describe what the RUF CTR of 1987 did for his father’s company.

It was that 3.2 Carrera-based ‘Yellowbird’ which put RUF Automobile on the map. A real-life David versus Goliath moment, it was faster than Ferrari’s F40 and Porsche’s 959, inspiring an entire generation of automotive fanatic. Those three letters responsible for building it became an alluring brand synonymous with engineering precision and purity henceforth.

We’re here on Rufplatz to celebrate 80 years of a company which has been integral to the culture surrounding the 911, a sports car we all – RUF included – admire greatly. RUF has always found a way to improve on Porsche’s recipe, consistently evolving the 911 years ahead of Zuffenhausen.

It led to RUF becoming a certified manufacturer in its own right by the German authorities in 1981, and since then we’ve been on the road to this very moment, a dream Alois Ruf Jr has harvested for decades: to build a complete sports car from scratch. That car is the new RUF CTR.

Revealed in 2017 – 30 years since the original – the latest CTR has undergone further testing, tweaks and even a name change. The CTR Anniversary, as it is now known, is at last approaching the finished article, and is a fitting way for this family-run business to celebrate its 80th birthday.

Putting the festivities to one side, this new CTR is arguably the most important RUF creation in years. Times have changed, and now there’s much stiffer competition for ultra high-end, Porsche-inspired craftwork, most notably from a well-known company some 5,000-miles away in north Hollywood.

Looking more inwardly too, the fact this is the first RUF to be built completely from scratch carries a significant cost. Company sources tell me it could be between €12 to 15 million to develop the CTR, all of the investment coming directly from RUF itself. It’s a statement of confidence to say the least, the carbon fibre monocoque at its centre forming, we are told, the basis of RUF cars of the future as well as now.

On paper the CTR Anniversary’s credentials (we’ll come to those later) have well and truly resonated with the uber wealthy, so much so that all 30 cars of the initial build run were sold within a week. I say initial build run, as off-the-bat demand for the CTR Anniversary caught out not only RUF itself, but owners of the first CTR, too, who simply didn’t react quick enough to bag the latest example.

“We felt it was important that those owners of the original CTR were given the opportunity to have an Anniversary, so we spoke with the 30 buyers of the new car and asked how they felt about us increasing production to 50 cars to solve the problem. Thankfully they gave their blessing, so we were able to offer the extra 20 spaces only to those who had a CTR1,” Marcel Ruf explains. A potential sticking point dealt with efficiently and calmly – how typically German.

Production of the CTR Anniversary is set to run until 2022 (by which time the company will also have started building its new, naturally aspirated SCR) with deliveries beginning later this year. A handful are very near to completion, these being assembled by hand on the factory floor during our visit. However, sitting outside and resplendent in the house colour of yellow, there’s an example ready for the road – and we’re going to be driving it.

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930 v 964 v 993: air-cooled Turbos

This is the story of an action hero: one who starts as a trigger-happy maverick, becomes all-powerful, then ends up going straight. Well, that’s the Hollywood version at least.

The truth about the air-cooled 911 Turbo – from 930 to 964 and 993 – is harder to sum up in a sound bite. So dim the lights, grab some popcorn and settle in for a saga of sequels without equal.

Posing outside the Paul Stephens showroom in Essex, our Turbo trilogy makes for a great movie poster. They’re The Expendables in four-wheeled form: brimful of testosterone and bulging in all the right places.

The 964 Turbo 3.6 has the most visual clout, crouched like a coiled spring on dished Speedline split-rims. It’s one of the most aesthetically aggressive 911s, on par with the 993 GT2 and 991.2 GT2 RS.

The 930 isn’t far behind, its fulsome hips and signature spoiler immortalised on a million bedroom walls. And the 993 Turbo is equally iconic, albeit smoother and more urbane.

The 964, built in 3.6-litre guise for the final year of production only, is also our A-lister in terms of price. At the time of writing it was offered at £224,995 – enough to buy both the 930 and 993.

Is it the big-budget blockbuster those looks suggest, or does the sweet-spot of this air-cooled 911 line-up lie elsewhere? I’m childishly excited to find out.

I start with the 930. ‘The Widowmaker’ shares its epithet with a movie about a nuclear submarine, and its presence feels equally forbidding. However, it could have been much wilder.

Inspired by the on-track success of the turbocharged 917/30, the prototype 930 was a back-to-basics road racer – effectively a Carrera 3.0 RS with forced induction – and just 200 cars were planned. Porsche’s sales and marketing department had other ideas, though, envisioning the 911 Turbo as a luxurious super-GT.

In the end profit triumphed over purity, and the Turbo debuted in 1975 with air conditioning, electric windows, a rear wiper and a four-speaker stereo. Climbing aboard, this flagship 1987 911 still feels well-appointed today.

There’s supple leather, deep-pile carpet and even heated seats. Only the boost gauge, nestled within the rev counter, offers a clue to its added oomph. Well, that and the four ratios etched atop the gear lever – the SC had switched to five-speed back in 1978.

The original 3.0-litre 930 served up 260hp: a modest 63hp more than a contemporary Carrera 3.0, and Golf GTI power today. Even so, edgy handling and all-or-nothing power delivery made it a challenging steer.

Le Mans-winning Porsche racer Tony Dron said: “Frankly, it demanded too much skill, even from an experienced driver, and that made serious driving hard work… I was far from convinced that selling them to the public was a good idea.” An upgrade to 3.3-litres and 300hp in 1978 also included beefier 917 brakes and a more stable chassis. This had “better handling, but was still something of a monster when driven really fast”, noted Dron.

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Porsche 911 Cabriolets: G-series v 964 v 993

Yorkshire dry-stone walls have a very useful application that was never intended by the original builders several centuries ago. In addition to providing the unique signature style that is the Yorkshire landscape while also containing livestock over the centuries, they also make a superb surface to echo back the bark of an air-cooled 911 engine. Combine that with the final days of a long, hot summer and a trio of Cabriolet 911s – all with the hoods folded as they truly should be – and we have the perfect recipe for a great day’s driving and a chance to investigate the appeal of the open-top 911 experience. Will we enjoy a day in the sunshine, or will the bumpy Yorkshire lanes highlight the compromise of 911 body stiffness?

Heading out of the market town of Malton, I’m at the rear of the convoy in the 993 Cabriolet. The air is filled with the bass burble of air-cooled exhaust tones at low RPM, the whiff of that unique 911 aroma of hot oil and burned hydrocarbons from the two cars ahead spilling over into the interior, the sun providing a warmth on my face that is still pleasant so late in the summer. Good times.

Turning left down some of our favourite B-roads, the sunshine dapples the tree-lined road ahead… it’s time to increase the pace. We’re staying away from the vast, open moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors today, instead staying on the lower ground of the Vale of York and the twisting, turning B-roads that keep hands and feet busy as the road snakes between those ancient dry-stone walls. The three cars span an eight-year period of 911 evolution, from the torsion bars and impact bumpers of 1989, through the transformation of 1990 with power assistance and coil springs, to the final development of the air-cooled Porsche 911 in the 993.

Without a doubt everyone will have a personal favourite. Indeed, as we gather the cars together for photographs, the debate commences even before photographer Alistair has rigged his first flash head. The most visually arresting is the 1989 Super Sport in Guards red. For me this car is the epitome of that period of Porsche sales. The hedonistic period when excess was encouraged and every businessman and city trader in the City of London had to have a giant Motorola brick phone, expensive Italian shoes and matching briefcase, plus a Guards red Porsche 911. For the full-on effect it had to be the Turbo body, Fuchs alloys and the whaletail spoiler. And if you really wished to be publicly on display through the city streets, then the Cabriolet ensured that you shared your cellphone conversation with everyone around you as you discussed the day’s share trading at the traffic lights.

So how does the drive compare almost 30 years later? We hand over the keys to the 993 that we arrived in and swap to the cream seats of the Super Sport. Instantly I’m missing the powered steering as we shuffle back and forth to leave the photo location, the non-standard steering wheel not helping with its smaller diameter, though once rolling along the country lanes it’s much less of an issue. The road is initially bumpy, and several things become apparent. Firstly there is indeed that flex and shake from around the windscreen area that I recall from previous drives. Secondly, despite there only being a few years between the registration dates, the 1989 car does feel as though it’s from a much older generation of Porsche.

That’s not to say it’s a bad car – far from it. And as the road smooths out and widens we’re able to enjoy the bark of the 3.2 engine and use the echo board of Yorkshire’s dry-stone walls to enjoy some rather delightful pops and crackles on the downshifts. Through the avenue of trees we return to our location, and I swap into the black 964.

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New 2019 Porsche 911 revealed

We’re in San Francisco, California, in an underground parking garage of a hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s busy outside, the countless tourists distracted by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and all the other amusements the City By The Bay offers. In the garage is a fleet of Porsche’s new 992, along with the odd Cayman and Boxster; Porsche’s engineers are in town, but they’re seeking a different kind of amusement. I’ll be with them for a day of testing, joining a convoy of four Carrera Ss undergoing some final checks prior to the board coming out for a final sign-off drive.

Porsche will launch the new 992 with the Carrera S and 4S Coupe in PDK form, with the Carrera and Carrera 4 following in 2019, its introduction also adding manual transmission to the entire line-up. The Cabriolet will join in 2019, while Porsche is also apace with its development of the GT and Turbo models. They’re not discussing those today, the team doing its best to distract attention from the prototype Turbo that’s lurking elsewhere here underground. As-yet-unconfirmed rumours suggest the Turbo S will deliver in excess of 650hp. The world’s gone mad.

Back to reality, though, the 992 Carrera S I’ll be jumping in the passenger seat of will be heading out of the city to the mountain roads around San Francisco. This part of the US is used due to the sizeable elevation changes it offers, the predictable climate and, in Alex Ernst’s words: “The aggressive local driving.” That relates specifically to the abrupt stop-start traffic, the on-off-on the throttle nature of freeway driving and the terrible, combed concrete surfaces on those freeways. That Porsche sells a considerable number of its annual production in California is no bad thing, either.

Ernst is very familiar with all of it; being the team leader of testing he’s been involved in every 911 since the 996. Joining his usual team of engineers today will be Matthias Hofstetter, director, powertrain product lines 911/718; Andreas Pröbstle, project manager, complete vehicle model lines 718/911, and ‘Mr 911’ himself, August Achleitner, vice president, product lines 911/718. And Total 911, of course.

It’s no surprise that the 992 is instantly familiar, the disguise fooling nobody. Porsche isn’t about to mess with the winning formula. The detailing is different, the camouflage doing little to mask the cool recessed structure of the rear lights, a red strip spanning the entire rear of the Carrera. That’ll be a feature on all, and it’ll be the same width, Achleitner saying that all Carreras will feature a wide body. Dimensionally the new Carrera and Carrera S will
be the same width as the outgoing 991 GTS. They’ll be some 5mm higher, and 20mm longer at the front – the latter for styling purposes. The rear track will match the GTS, though Porsche has upped the front track by 40mm.

That change, says Achleitner, “allows us to transmit more loading forces without a stiffer stabiliser. It enables us to lower the stiffness of the roll bar on the rear axle to transmit higher forces for accelerating out of a curve.” Filling the rear wheel arches in the Carrera S will be a 21-inch wheel with 305/30/ZR21 tyres, the front axle getting 20-inch alloys wearing 245/30 section rubber, the 992 being the first series Carrera to wear staggered wheel sizes. The body is lighter, too, Porsche using aluminium for the panel that begins at the A-pillar and runs over to the rear, it previously being steel, the doors and front wing being made of aluminium, too.

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PROJECT GOLD: THE TRUE STORY

It’s a fascinating venture which has stirred up sizeable interest, partly because we never thought this could happen: we’re in the year 2018 and Porsche has just built an air-cooled 911, some two decades after its last. Incredibly, the car has just sold at auction for a whopping $3.1million too, so it might well be the ultimate collector’s Porsche 911. But what do we really know about it? 

Okay, so it’s a remake of the 993 Turbo rather than a brand-new model, Porsche giving Project Gold, as it’s been dubbed, a chassis number following directly on from the last 993 Turbo rolling off the production line in 1998. Finished in Golden metallic, the car is modelled as an air-cooled version of the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition, this 993 built by Porsche Classic using its enviable itinerary of some 52,000 genuine Porsche Classic parts.

There is an air of cynicism surrounding this project, though. Porsche says the car was built from the last remaining 993 Turbo shell it had ‘laying around’; emissions regulations mean it can’t be registered and thus driven on public roads, and those same reasons are precisely why the car won’t be present at its own auction lot at RM Sotheby’s Porsche sale at PEC Atlanta – in fact, it won’t be in the US at all. Then there’s the spec: Porsche states the Turbo’s flat six produces 450hp, which means it comes with the coveted Powerkit, standard on the Exclusive-built 993 Turbo S. The optional side air intakes are Turbo S-spec, as is the carbon dashboard.

In fact, Project Gold is a set of yellow calipers away from being a fully loaded 993 Turbo S rather than a mere Turbo. However, Porsche has opted against branding it as such, likely because that would have left the 345 owners worldwide of the 993 Turbo S extremely upset that their investment-grade collectible had lost a modicum of rarity. It certainly smacks of marketing fanfare, but is this fair? Uwe Makrutzki, manager at Porsche AG’s Classic factory restoration team, and Philipp Salm, sales and marketing manager at Porsche Classic, have joined us at Rennsport Reunion to dispel the myths.

We ask first about that lone spare shell. “It’s not unusual to have spare parts when you change from one generation to another. In the case of the 993 to 996 we had a spare 993 Turbo shell – only one – which was stored in an outdoor hall in a town called Möglingen,” Uwe tells us matter-of-factly. “We’d known about the shell for years but didn’t have the desire to do anything with it. Then we were asked to do something for the 70 years of Porsche celebrations.

For the full exposé on Project Gold, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 172, in shops now or available for direct delivery to your door. You can also download the issue, which features bonus image galleries, to any Apple or Android device. 

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