The Porsche 911 is one of the most instantly recognizable cars in the world. For decades and across multiple generations, Porsche has kept the same basic shape and the same basic format—a flat-six engine mounted behind the rear axle. But some of the most famous 911s don’t actually wear the Porsche crest. Instead, they’re officially recognized as the products of a company called Ruf, based in Pfaffenhausen, Germany. And there’s a new exhibition celebrating them at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.
If you’re a car nerd, chances are you already know about Ruf. That might be because of Faszination on the Nürburgring. It’s a 20-minute promo video made by Ruf in 1987 and features a bright yellow Ruf CTR, also known as the Yellowbird. Based on the naturally aspirated 911 Carrera 3.2, Ruf seam-welded the chassis, replaced the body panels with lightweight aluminum (or fiberglass for the bumpers), and upgraded the suspension and brakes. Ruf also upgraded the engine, boring it out to 3.4 L and adding a pair of big turbochargers, resulting in at least 463 hp (345 kW) and 408 lb-ft (553 Nm)—well in excess of anything Porsche sold at the time.
Faszination on the Nürburgring also stars one Stefan Roser, Ruf’s test driver. For 20 minutes, he puts on a virtuoso display of car control, hustling the Yellowbird at oftentimes preposterous slip angles around some of the daunting corners that make up the Nordschleife. It’s also a pretty good demonstration of how 1987’s tire technology was not really up to the job of containing all that power. Until the age of the Internet, VHS copies of Faszination on the Nürburgring were traded as prized possessions, but now anyone can watch it thanks to Ruf’s YouTube page:
If you’re reading Ars, it’s more likely you first encountered Ruf in Gran Turismo 2, a racing game once named the best console racer of all time (an extremely unscientific and rather controversial judgement, it must be said). At the time, Porsche was locked in an exclusive license with Electronic Arts, a deal that did not expire until 2016. So the game’s designer, Kazunori Yamauchi, decided that he’d approach Ruf instead, apparently accosting Alois Ruf Jr. in a hotel to secure the brand’s appearance in the game.
The exhibition, called “Pfaffenhausen Speed Shop—The RUF Gallery” opened at the Petersen on May 15 and features a 1990 Ruf CTR Yellowbird, a 2012 Ruf CTR3 ClubSport, a 2007 Ruf Turbo R Cabriolet, a 2016 Ruf Turbo R Ltd, a 2016 Ruf Ultimate, a 1994 Ruf RCT EVO narrow body, a 1994 Ruf RCT EVO wide body, and a 2015 Ruf RT12R.
Listing image by Ian Wood