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Yellowbird

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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The Full History Of Ruf

The guys at Donut Media are nothing if not excited. A car doesn’t make anything so pedestrian as horsepower, they make HRSPRS. If those HRSPRS are especially stacked(preferably due to a steady diet of love and oats), they become #BUFFHORSES. 1987 isn’t just a year, it’s 8 years BPM (Before Post Malone). Anything worth saying is worth yelling. Creepy animations are always invited, and product placement is as likely to appear on the host’s body as on film. These are some truly enthusiastic enthusiasts, and this is what they think of Ruf.

Ruf has existed in one form or another since the 1950s, but emerged in the form we know today in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the SCR, BTR, and CTR. Between crushing supercar royalty in a 1987 Road & Track top speed test and creating the first great video of a street car on the ‘Ring, Ruf has been cemented in the popular consciousness for more than three decades.

Over the last two years the brand has taken their manufacturer designation to new heights, creating their first all in-house cars in the marque’s history. These re-imagined takes on the CTR and SCR may look like 911s, but are virtually all-original creations.

Though the video does have some minor errors (and we do mean minor, like asserting that Ruf added dry-sump oiling to a 911 when creating the SCR), it’s still an enjoyable watch laden with off-kilter humor and commendable enthusiasm.

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Ruf Automobile: a tour of Pfaffenhausen

Rufplatz, Pfaffenhausen. A roundabout in the middle gently guides local traffic in an anti-clockwise fashion, the buildings around the outside playing home to an automotive showroom, service centre, main production factory, panel beaters and paint shop belonging to one of the world’s most renowned car brands.

Sound familiar? The set-up is not too dissimilar to that at Porscheplatz some 180 kilometres away, yet Rufplatz, like the Ruf Automobile company itself, has always liked to do things its own way. Founded in 1939 by Alois Ruf Sr, ‘Auto Ruf’ was originally a general vehicle repairer. Alois Ruf Jr arrived in January 1950 and immersed himself in his father’s business as he grew up, though it took a bizarre accident for Ruf as a company to become involved with Porsche vehicles. “My grandfather was driving his bus when a Porsche 356 Karmann shot past,” says Marcel Ruf, third generation of the Ruf family dynasty. “The driver lost control during his attempt at passing and put the 356 in a ditch, rolling it twice.”

“My grandfather stopped to check he was okay and explained he owned a garage who could repair the car. A few days later he ended up buying it as salvage. Once repaired, he was driving the 356 through Munich when a man stopped him and my father at some traffic lights and offered to buy the car. A deal was done, and my grandfather realised he was on to something: for years he had been dealing with customers who offered trade-ins or wanted to haggle for cars, and yet here was a guy who wanted to pay good money for the car at the side of the road!”

From that moment on, Ruf became intertwined with Porsche cars, enthusiasts of the 911 turning to Pfaffenhausen for performance upgrades in the 1970s as Porsche hesitated in its development of the Neunelfer. “In 1978 the 911 SC was detuned at 180hp. Our cars were capable of 230hp,” Marcel says, clearly proud of his family’s past achievements.

The culmination of this came in 1981 when the German Federal Motor Transport Authority recognised Ruf as a vehicle manufacturer in its own right, something which has separated the company quite spectacularly from its rivals in the tuning sector ever since. By 1983, the first sports car with a Ruf chassis number was born in the Ruf BTR, a turbocharged car with 374hp and, significantly, a five-speed gearbox. Porsche meanwhile would continue to use a four-speed gearbox on its 911 Turbos for another six years.

Ruf’s seminal moment came in 1987 at the Nürburgring with that video of Stephan Roser dancing the Ruf CTR ‘Yellowbird’ at speed through the hazardous Green Hell. Later posting a monumental top speed of 342kph against its rivals for a magazine test at Nardo, Italy, the Ruf Yellowbird was duly crowned the world’s fastest production road car for 1987.

Iconic creations with wonderfully acronymed names such as the Turbo R, RCT and RGT have all followed since, each one a breathtaking and often record-breaking feat of automotive engineering. Even in our contemporary world where specialists clamber to offer backdates of the Singer-inspired variety, Ruf still remains wholly relevant to an audience as loyal as it is large, as proven by the release last year of the all-new CTR 2017. A 30-year celebration of that first Yellowbird, it came equipped with a monstrous 700hp and a mere 1,200kg mass. Unbelievably, it sold out within a week.

Pleasingly, despite such prolonged growth and continued success, Ruf remains a family-run business, spearheaded by Alois and his wife Estonia, while son Marcel oversees day-to-day operations. It is Marcel who takes us for a tour, informing us the company has some 60 employees at Rufplatz, with an impressive 30 hand-built cars rolling out of the factory each year – more than one a fortnight.

Stepping onto the factory floor itself reminds us of more traditional times up the road at Porsche. There’s no moving production line, employees instead busy working around individual cars wearing braced overalls in the customary dark green of Ruf. Everything at Ruf is hand built, so there are no robot arms whizzing panels and components from one station to the next. It’s a breath of fresh air and goes some way to explaining how Ruf can offer an unrivalled attention to detail in so many aspects of its builds.

Ruf enjoys a close relationship with Porsche, the extent of this being the opening of a Porsche Service Centre on Rufplatz some nine years ago. It means the company can oversee the care and maintenance of factory Porsche cars as well as its own. “It’s good for everybody,” Marcel says as we take a look at both new and old 911s gracing the ramps.

Ruf is proud to be a manufacturer in its own right though, the fruits of which can be found with both the CTR and recently revealed SCR, which
uses a carbon-monocoque chassis for the first time. It’s a huge investment for a company of this size, but there are plans to use the chassis as a base for other projects going forward.

As well as its SCR, built to commemorate 40 years since the birth of the original SCR in 1978, Ruf has worked hard on the evolution of its first Yellowbird as we’ve previously mentioned. Very much a modern-day take of the original, the CTR 2017 has a 7cm-longer wheelbase than the Eighties car, despite its overall length being the same. The car is 3cm wider each side, noticeable at the base of either side of the windscreen, while an extra 2cm of body has been added to either side of the front bonnet. “Its appearance is more muscular,” Marcel himself says. “It’s as if the CTR has been to the gym.”

Production of both these breathtaking cars is already in earnest, making Ruf an ever-more busy and exciting place to be. The company will celebrate its 80th birthday next year, a quite remarkable achievement for a company used to creating, well, the remarkable.

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Diamonds in the Ruf

You’ve seen the tape, right? Stefan Roser, a 1987 Yellow Bird and a VHS cassette at the Nürburgring. The footage from that record-breaking drive is perhaps the first viral video ever created. As a result, most motoring enthusiasts know about the CTR ‘Yellow Bird’ and RUF Automobile, the ingenious company that created it. Like the Yellow Bird nickname, that Nürburgring video lap sensation wasn’t planned: it just happened, catapulting the hitherto relatively unknown manufacturer firmly into the consciousness of car fans the world over.

Technology would again play into RUF’s hands, its manufacturer status seeing it being included in Sony’s smash hit PlayStation game Gran Turismo 2 when Porsche itself wasn’t. That gaming exposure further cemented the small, bespoke manufacturer’s status among petrolheads, but for all the Yellow Bird’s 211mph achievements, RUF still flies under the radar.

Deliberately so, RUF remains something of an enigma. We know it produces its own cars, having had manufacturer status since 1981, but, really, few know anything else. The Pfaffenhausen-based company opened 78 years ago in 1939 with Alois Ruf Sr, a talented engineer repairing, improving and building vehicles. However, it was his son, Alois Ruf Jr, who would indulge in his passion for sports cars – and specifically the 911 – within the family business.

RUF attracts a different audience – a discerning clientele, who appreciate the engineering, the subtleties that define RUF’s models. Sure, a yellow, 469hp, turbocharged narrow-bodied 911 that monstered a performance test for American magazine Road & Track’s 1984 and 1987 ‘The World’s Fastest Cars’ features doesn’t exactly describe that, but then you don’t humble contemporary Ferraris, Lamborghinis and, yes, Porsches, without next-level engineering capability and skill.

It is that which defines RUF, that exacting attention to detail, with the focus on integrity rather than simply beautifying. If form follows that function it’s a bonus. RUF is about hand-built, small-volume vehicles, built as Alois and his family like them, and by family, that also includes its loyal customers.

US-based Arling Wang is among them. A long-time Porsche enthusiast and owner of LA specialists Rstrada, he’s also had a close relationship with Ruf for over six years now. Even better, he personally owns four RUF creations, and has visited Pfaffenhausen on countless occasions – so he’s better qualified than most to comment on Alois Jr’s enigmatic concern. Wang begins describing it, “With RUF it’s much more about a personal relationship. Every car you buy, you get to know them more.”

Wang buys into that relationship as much as he does the cars themselves, adding: “Ultimately the RUF package speaks to a certain owner, somebody who likes to have different things. For me, it’s about being low key, yet more sophisticated. If you know, you know; with a RUF it’s very much for you, it’s not for other people.” He adds: “It’s such an interesting company, all they do in-house is essentially run a family business, they don’t really care about what people say about their product, they only care about the people who believe in them.”

For the full article on Ruf Automobile’s incredible 911-based creations, pick up a copy of Total 911 issue 160 in stores now or get it delivered to you via our online shop. Alternatively, download a digital copy to any device via Apple Newsstand or Google Play

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RM Monaco will be the most unusual Porsche 911 auction ever

Monte Carlo, home of the rich and famous, sees its fair share of unusual and exotic automobiles. In one month’s time though there will be even more incredible cars making their way to the Mediterranean principality for the tenth edition of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique.

As part of the event – running from Friday 12 May to Sunday 14 May – RM Sotheby’s will hold their annual Monaco sale on the Saturday evening and, looking at the list of consignments it includes some of the most intriguing Porsche 911s we’ve ever seen.

None are more unusual than the 1965 Porsche 911 race car and it’s not hard to see why. In 2009, the FIA-spec historic racer was handed over to famed industrial artist, Peter Klasen, for a full makeover, the German creating one of the most bizarre art cars ever.

Photo Credit: Tom Gidden ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

Photo Credit: Tom Gidden ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Klasen, who once painted a 993 GT2 that raced in the French GT Championship, entitled the project “007”, displayed the car at a retrospective of his work in Lille during late 2009. Offered ready to race with an FIA HTP, the next owner will have to decide whether this car belongs on track or in a gallery.

Possibly even more extraordinary though is the silver 1997 Porsche 911 GT1 Evo offered for sale at Monaco. Rather than one of the road-ready Straßenversions built by Porsche for homologation purposes, this is a genuine racer, entered in the 2001 24 Hours of Daytona.

Chassis 993-117 was built around a new shell, supplied by Porsche Motorsport, to Bytzek Motorsports in 1997, making it the only ‘new’ Evo (the rest were upgraded 1996 cars). It enjoyed considerable success in the Canadian GT Championship, a series it won three times.

Photo Credit: Chris Wilson ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

Photo Credit: Chris Wilson ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

However, in 2014-15 it was restored by Lanzante Motorsports in the UK and is now the only road legal GT1 race car, complete with all the necessary UK paperwork to prove as such to any disbelieving policeman.

It speaks volumes that, of three cars we’ve highlighted from RM Sotheby’s Monaco sale, the 1988 Ruf CTR is the least remarkable. The fastest car in the world upon its release, this particular CTR was built in period from a 930 3.3 donor car.

Genuine Ruf CTR’s hardly ever come up for sale, especially in such stunning condition. But, with a host of other curious Porsche 911s for sale at Monaco 2016, we don’t know which one we’d choose. Maybe, we’ll have to take them all…

Which Porsche 911 would you choose at the 2016 RM Sotheby’s Monaco sale? Join the debate in the comments below, or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages now.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Green ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

Photo Credit: Jonathan Green ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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