GENEVA, Switzerland—In 1987, RUF, the German Porsche-tuning-house-turned-manufacturer, sent a bright yellow shot across the bow of the supercar establishment.
It was officially called the RUF CTR and it was faster than everything in its day, including Porsche’s own 959 and Ferrari’s mighty F40. Unofficially, it was called the Yellowbird, because it could damn near fly.
Now, 30 years later, the CTR is back. At the Geneva motor show, RUF unveiled an all-new 2017 CTR. This time the Yellowbird is being built from the ground up by RUF, using a new carbon-fibre-tub chassis developed in-house in collaboration with VELA Performance. Yes, the 2017 CTR is faster than ever, but it’s still not a car for posers or the faint of heart. Roof!
We spoke to Mr. Alois Ruf Jr., president of RUF Automobile, about the new Yellowbird, the state of the modern supercar, and video games (and got intercepted by a surprise guest).
Autofocus: How did RUF begin?
Ruf: I’m second-generation. My father founded the company in 1939. He got involved with sports cars. The first Porsche came to us in 1963. I was a teenager at the time. I first heard the sound of an air-cooled six-cylinder engine in 1964. Actually, it was that white car over there. [He points to a vintage Porsche 911 sitting in a corner of the RUF stand.] I brought it here because that white car is a witness of the beginning, of when I caught the virus.
What did that engine sound like?
It was pure goosebumps, and they never left me.
What does the original CTR ‘Yellowbird’ mean to RUF?
This is its 30th anniversary. [Pointing at a yellow 1987 RUF CTR.] This car was really making waves all over the world, and still does. This car put us on the map internationally in 1987, when [it showed up in] “World’s Fastest Cars Vol.2” by Road & Track. The whole world followed.
How did that article make the CTR famous?
We ran the CTR to a top speed of 211 mph, or 339.8 km/h, since we’re talking to Canada. That was absolute craziness as far as speed was concerned. The closest car to that speed was the newly presented [Porsche] 959, which did 317 km/h.
RUF beat Porsche at its own game?
How many original CTRs did RUF build?
We built 29 cars, which was very conservative. We probably could have built more, but we only geared up that amount.
How much is an original RUF CTR worth now?
These cars today still have a very high collector value. They’re now worth over one million Euros (roughly $1.43 million Cdn). And that encouraged us. We said, Okay, that car is such an icon we must follow those footsteps and make a new version of the CTR, and that’s what we’re presenting today.
What does the new 2017 CTR mean for the brand?
It’s the biggest step we’ve ever taken. If you look at the CTR3 over there, which is still in production, it was the first big step. One half of its structure is RUF, and the front half is a Porsche 997. But for the 2017 CTR we’ve gone all the way. We built our own platform, and that platform will be the future of other possible spinoff cars.
[Kazunori Yamauchi, creator of the Gran Turismo series of racing video games for the Playstation, walks over.]
Thanks to this gentleman, the car [1987 CTR] was re-produced 20 million times.
Mr. Yamauchi, what do you think of the new 2017 RUF CTR?
Yamauchi: I knew Alois was working on something like this, but I didn’t imagine the car would be this perfect. I’m so impressed by the passion to achieve this kind of perfection.
Mr. Ruf, what did having the car in Gran Turismo do for RUF?
That is producing new customers. We see a couple of them walking around now. They are of that age – they used to play the Playstation – and now they are becoming customers. They have the desire to have the real car.
Can you give us the key specs on the new CTR?
It’s 1,200 kilograms, 710 horsepower, so 1.6 kilos-per-horsepower. That’s good. There are cars that have a similar number but a higher absolute weight. And it’s the low absolute weight that makes the performance and the feel of a car. You can’t compensate for extra weight with extra horsepower; it’s not the same.
How much of this car is custom?
It’s not custom, it’s built from A-to-Z by RUF. It’s not a modified car. It has our DNA, which comes from the 1987 CTR. But everything is set up using the new technology we have today. Except we did not exaggerate with the electronics.
Is it the first rear-engine car with a carbon-fibre monocoque?
Are supercars becoming too easy to drive?
Well, this is the reason why we wanted to make a pure analog car. We even went to a manual shift because we realized that our customers have gone through the phase of double-clutch gearboxes — which are of course the most perfect you can have — but now they’re missing interactive driving. They want something more engaging.
Do you think electronics are diluting the driving experience in modern supercars?
There are too many electronics. I’m not so fond of too much electronics in the car. I’m more of a purist. Electronics make it maybe easier for the driver, but very complicated for the technician to keep it alive. If you want an electronic car, buy any other everyday driver, you know? But not a highly characterful sports car. And there’s a market for this now. There’s a market for people who are looking for purity.
What does RUF stand for today?
RUF stands for performance and purity. And, aesthetically, for cars you can appear in everywhere. You’re not being put in a certain corner, ‘Ahh, this is the guy with the such-and-such.’ It’s an elegant performance car. Unflashy. If they need to be flashy, we can do it with colours, but they can be very understated also.
What does the 2017 CTR feel like to drive?
It feels like you’re driving your own pants. The car becomes your clothes.
How many 2017 CTRs will you build?
Of the 30 cars, 15 are already sold. And we have options for the remaining 15 cars. We have people coming in during the [Geneva motor] show. Maybe by the end of the show they’ll all be gone. We’ll see.