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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