Raise the Ruf

Story by Tom Heath

Great cars come in many different shapes and sizes, but they’re all at their best with engines wailing at wide-open throttle and tires begging for mercy. After all, watching a Lancer Evo being subjected to a life of grocery-fetching is nearly as bad as seeing a world-beating supercar imprisoned in a climate-controlled garage. Steve Beddor agrees.

He’s fortunate enough to drive a Ruf CTR2, one of the most impressive supercars on the planet. Steve isn’t the sort of guy who would leave this beast to sit while accumulating dust and resale value.

During the past dozen years, he’s been giving the car an unrelenting workout, from snatching up a second-place finish at the 1997 Pikes Peak Hillclimb to chasing down Moby Dick Porsches during the recent Rennsport Reunion at Daytona. And the car has done all of this while sporting a current license plate.

From Fast to Faster

Before owning the Ruf, Steve had an Audi Sport quattro—yep, a real live Group B rally racer. However, despite the Sport quattro’s 489-horsepower Lehmann Motorsport engine, Steve wanted even greater power for his on-track adventures. He decided to seek out a more potent alternative.

Matching, let alone surpassing, the thrills of a Group B rally car can be a tall order, but Steve thought that the Ruf CTR would make a good replacement. The Porsche 911-based Ruf CTR, famously dubbed the Yellow Bird by Road & Track, was an impressive package. Efficient aerodynamics and 469 horsepower allowed this über-Porsche to reach top speeds north of 200 mph. Upon its 1987 release, it was generally hailed as the fastest street car ever unleashed.

When Steve learned of Ruf’s plans to build an even more powerful successor in 1997, he became intrigued. The new car would be based on the then-current Porsche 993 chassis, and the recipe was a proven one: more power and less weight.

Some changes were subtle‚ including the removal of airflow-disrupting bits like the rain rail. Others were more eye-catching, like the addition of a massive intake that fed cooling air to the rear-mounted engine’s intercoolers.

Like its predecessor, the new model used twin turbos. However, this time Ruf promised 520 horsepower from their standard 3.6-liter engine. To maintain the 200-plus mph top speed, Ruf again based the car on a narrow-body 911. Starting a new tradition for the company, an integrated roll cage was standard.

However, Steve wanted his CTR2 to head in a slightly different direction. Armed with race results, a good attitude and a plan, he contacted Ruf to make himself heard. “I really appreciated Alois Ruf’s focus on torque,” Steve explains. “Torque and acceleration out of the corner are the name of the game.”

After six months of Steve’s convincing, Ruf agreed to offer a special CTR2 Sport model that would be better suited to competition. This new model would offer the CTR2’s insane power along with shorter gearing and wider flares to cover bigger tires. It would also receive a downforce-enhancing dual-wing setup and matching front splitter.

There was a trade-off, however: This model would only do about 185 mph. On the other hand, short gearing and a colossal footprint would allow for violent acceleration from corner exits, making the CTR2 Sport much faster on nearly any road course than its longer-legged brother.

Even with this extra helping of purposeful engineering, Steve still wanted more performance. He had his Sport built with Ruf’s engine upgrade package, which added titanium connecting rods and a lightened flywheel along with larger intake and exhaust valves. Although Alois Ruf is notorious for understating his horsepower figures, the car has shown a tick more than 700 horsepower on the dyno.

Steve’s Ruf also received Öhlins coil-overs and Ruf’s own anti-roll bars. Control arm bushings were upgraded to spherical bearings. To go one step further, he had Ruf replace the doors, hood and seats with lightweight composite units. Basically, he checked off all of the boxes.

Venue Wanted

Steve now had his impressive enthusiast car. One question still remained: Where to run it? He didn’t have any trouble finding venues for the car, as it’s been welcome nearly everywhere: Pikes Peak, Porsche club events and, lately, even HSR historic races. “The car has been great,” Steve says. “It’s opened up a lot of doors and allowed me a chance to race against—and compete with—some of the fastest cars in history.”

Its potential for speed isn’t always obvious. Upon arriving at the Rennsport Reunion at Daytona International Speedway, for example, event organizers initially put Steve in the run group that seemed appropriate for a street-legal car. After that first devastating practice session, Rennsport organizer and longtime Porsche racer Brian Redman kicked Steve up to the fastest run group.

“At the time, we were sharing the track with 962s, some of the fastest cars Porsche has ever created,” Steve explains. “By the time we had reached the beginning of [NASCAR] Turn 3 on the very first lap, I had it floored. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God! I’m going to catch a 962—in the straight!’ My cheeks were sore from smiling.”

The fact that the car could then legally and practically drive up the street for lunch just adds to the feat. Steve’s wide range of in-car footage can be found on our Web site at grassrootsmotorsports.com/ruf. Watching the Ruf run down GTP Porsches at Daytona is satisfying in a David and Goliath kind of way, yet a little eerie at the same time.

Ruf: It’s Pronounced “Roof”

Shortly after World War II, Alois Ruf, a mechanic and garage owner in the sleepy little town of Pfaffenhausen, Germany, saw an opportunity to make the increasingly common Volkswagen Beetle even more fuel efficient.

The modified Beetle, along with a passenger bus of Ruf’s own design, generated a lot of success for the small company. This sort of exposure gave his son, Alois Jr., the background to achieve his own success in the automotive arena. The younger Ruf initially earned his stripes restoring and repairing Porsches.

Following his father’s death in 1974, Alois Ruf Jr. took control of the company. They released their first Ruf-enhanced 911 the following year and quickly earned a very good reputation for creating special versions of the Porsche wondercar.

As an enthusiast himself, Ruf recognized that his customers needed special training in order to realize the full potential of these exceptional machines. In the interest of promoting safety, he arranged driver training events at German race tracks.

Consistently outperforming Stuttgart is one thing, but Ruf wanted to show that the factory 911 was just a starting point for the absolute best sports car in the world. His company received certification as a whole vehicle manufacturer in 1981, paving the way for the introduction of the Ruf BTR in 1983. The BTR took the basic 911 shell and added a turbocharged 374-horsepower engine matched with Ruf’s own five-speed transmission—and remember, at the time Porsche’s own version of the 911 Turbo only came with a four-speed box.

The success of the BTR was sweet, but the company was still a small blip on the world’s automotive radar. Success would demand an equally ambitious follow-up: 1987’s CTR, otherwise known as the Yellow Bird.

The American and European motoring press fell head over heels for the CTR’s 469-horsepower, 212 mph performance, and the company’s reputation was immediately cemented as one of the highest in the world.

Ruf has continued to build Porsche-based supercars, and today the company offers their own takes on the 911, Boxster and Cayman; their built-from-scratch, 235 mph CTR3 recently joined the lineup, too. Ruf conversions to current and past models are also available, with each choice tuned and modified to extract maximum performance while maintaining adequate street capability.

The cars of Alois Ruf are not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. They are, however, incredible mixes of capability, flexibility and soul. You can contact Ruf’s U.S. headquarters at rufautocentre.com or by calling (214) 269-1570. Perhaps it’s time to smash the piggy bank.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Knurled MegaDork
1/20/16 6:55 p.m.

I forget whose fault it is, but all I can think of now when I hear about those cars is The Bloodhound Gang.

The Ruf, The Ruf, The Ruf is on fire.

10/23/17 10:36 a.m.

The links on GRM's page don't appear to be linked to anything.

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