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Top six modified 911 builders on the planet

Porsche’s 911 was made to be customised, and some are doing it better than others. Total 911 investigates six companies renowned for their work on different generations of the venerable Neunelfer, looking at what makes them special – and what we can expect for 2020…

#1: Theon Design

“90 per cent of that car people will never see, but the same level of attention to detail goes right the way through it,” says Adam Hawley, founder of Theon Design. I’ve not seen much of it: photographer Ali Cusick’s seconded Theon’s 911, parked it in a darkened garage and is playing with long exposures. What I did see of it when I arrived looked pretty special, though. 

Backdates, reimagined, recreations – call them what you like – there’s no shortage of companies that can build you one. Hawley’s only too aware of that; indeed, there are a good number within a half-hour drive of Theon’s Deddington base in Oxfordshire, UK. 

What makes Theon different, then? Hawley’s background, for one – he dropped a successful career in car design to set up Theon. The reasoning was as simple as it is brave: a 911 fan from childhood, he wanted to improve them, and on that which was on offer from others, using his training and experience as a car designer. Given the established competition that’s not an inconsiderable undertaking, but the first customer car here, which heads to Germany in a couple of days, looks pretty sensational

The precision and finish of the car is in sharp contrast to the surroundings. Theon rents space in a farm, the workshop crammed full of evidence of the prototyping that Hawley and his team have worked on over the past couple of years.

His team all have previous form in building 911s, Theon’s location coming in helpful in that regard, this part of the UK the automotive epicentre for the sort of craftsmen and women Hawley needs to execute his vision. 

Upstairs in Hawley’s office there’s no hiding his design background – there are CAD models on the computer screen demonstrating this 911 build uses the most up-to-date methods and technology. There’s evidence too of prototype parts, with some naked front and rear bumpers, constructed from carbon fibre and weighing just 1.3kg each, sat on top of some boxes.

Hawley’s background was centred around rapid prototyping and CAD 3D design, and Theon approaches each build in the same way he did when he was involved in creating concept cars and interiors for a variety of global car brands. 

“We approach it from a design angle,” says Hawley. By that you can read, ‘meticulous, to the point of obsession’. Much like an engineer, then, a designer will never be satisfied, but there’s absolutely nowhere to hide when it’s visual, Hawley admitting that he’s determined to make his builds perfect. That detail-driven eye has seen Theon build its own bucks to shape the wings, which are 3D scanned and checked to make sure they’re exactly symmetrical.


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The Ruf CTR Blends The Old With The New

Read the following figures out aloud: 2,750 pounds, a 710-horsepower engine, a carbon monocoque, and pushrod suspension. Those stats alone don’t suggest something with the silhouette of a vintage 911, do they? In the case of the RUF CTR Anniversary, an astounding amount of modern tech is utilized to modernize the experience of its hot-blooded forebear without diluting the driving experience like some modern supercars do.

Just about everything with this supercar in sheep’s clothing is bespoke. From the custom ZF seven-speed, to the integrated rollcage, there’s so much to appreciate in a car which, to many eyes, seems almost subdued—if you can ignore the yellow paint. That’s all part of the RUF charm, as is the way the company blends both old and new in what is arguably the most tech-heavy commemoration project in years.

It’s not only absurdly quick and focused, but it oozes dignified, restrained style. The houndstooth seats, the classic five-gauge layout, and the signature green dials are all facets a well-read Porschephile can appreciate. But rather than try to antiquate the car for antiquity’s sake, RUF incorporated subtle, modern touches within the classic theme. Best of all, it does this without looking futuristic or gadgety. For the detail-oriented and meticulous, there’s plenty to appreciate about the ostensibly bare-bones interior.

On the dash, the classic dials are supplemented by a set of LCD screens to relay more information to the driver.

As Lee points out, many modern supercars offer all the power and chassis dynamics anyone could wish for, but at the cost of a slightly diluted experience. In the case of the CTR Anniversary, the driver still plays a large role in managing the 710 horsepower, wide footprint, and seven-speed manual. It’s another nod of respect to the past and everything old supercars represent, even to the detriment of outright performance. Because so much could be changed—perhaps for the worse—with the carbon tub, pushrod suspension, and modern engine calibration.

Instead of growing dull or overly competent with all the tech present, it is still a lively, fierce, and emotive car. It doesn’t iron out every imperfections in the driver’s style, but it does encourage them to push with a supple suspension setup and a well-mapped motor’s manageable power delivery. It seems RUF have taken a philosophical approach to building their idea of the ideal 911, and that makes it a singular creation which only a boutique builder could make. The CTR Anniversary blends style, presence, grace, performance, and involvement like major marques struggle to these days, and for that reason, it might be one of the most desirable vehicles on the road today.


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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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Porsche 911 Ruf BTR … 700 ch pour le diable !

Encore une Porsche 911… encore une Flat Nose… et encore un missile sol-sol ! Oui parce que cette Porsche 911, elle est née Carrera 3.2 en 1984 avant de passer par les mains des ingénieurs d’Alois Ruf qui pour l’occasion, se sont littéralement lâchés pour finir par en faire le monstre rouge que vous avez […]


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Genève 2019 – La RUF CTR 2017 d’Alois Ruf

Alors que les deux premiers modèles de la RUF CTR Anniversary étaient présentés sur le stand RUF Automobile au salon de l’automobile 2019 et livrées à leur propriétaire respectif, un troisième modèle CTR était présent en-dessous, dans le parking du salon. C’est celui du patron du constructeur automobile, Alois Ruf. Voir deux CTR en une …


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