The story goes that Alois Ruf cut his teeth working on Porsche 356s in his father’s garage. When he inherited his father’s eponymous business in 1974, the sensational 2.7 RS was already rapidly establishing itself in competition. Alois Ruf saw the possibilities of modifying Porsches for owners so that they could go even faster.
improving the naturally aspirated engine
Connoisseur of Porsche’s flat-four and six engines, he knew achieving more power without compromising driveability was not simply a matter of polishing ports and bolting on bigger carburettors. From the outset, the Ruf approach would be characterised by bespoke engineering of such integrity that within a decade it would lead to granting of manufacturer status. The appeal of turbocharging was irresistible and Ruf’s first effort was a Porsche 930 bored out to 3.3 litres, which appeared in 1977, some months before Zuffenhausen’s own 3.3. With his next car, Ruf beat Porsche to it again in 1978 with a 3.2-litre, 217-horsepower edition of the 180-horsepower 3.0-litre SC. This caused a stir among 911 fans dismayed that the Zuffenhausen flat-six had lost 30 horses since the 2.7 only three years earlier and Ruf sold several hundred of his 3.2.
This model also proved he was just as adept at improving the naturally aspirated engine. However, turbocharging had greater appeal in terms of outright performance, which could really differentiate a Ruf from a factory Porsche and also lift Ruf above the status of mere tuner. 1981 saw the introduction of the Ruf Turbo with a five-speed gearbox – when the 930 still had four – and within two years Ruf presented his BTR (Gruppe B Turbo Ruf), a 930 bored out to 3.4 litres with a claimed 374 horsepower. Road & Track’s, Paul Frère drove the BTR to 306 kilometres (190 miles) per hour at VW’s test track in Ehra Liessen, the fastest Frère said he had ever driven. This turned out to be a warm up for the main event. In 1987, Ruf launched the CTR: the further 100 horsepower and better aerodynamics of the CTR made the difference. The Ruf won Road & Track’s world’s fastest car contest again, at a truly impressive 339 kilometres (210 miles) per hour.
These modifications are tastefully
The CTR was no stripped-out racer any more than earlier Rufs: classic 911 enthusiast Frank Hendrickx has kindly lent us his own CTR, a 1987 model, and this is a beautifully appointed car. Selling for double the price of a top-of-theline 930, Ruf was already dealing with a rather different clientele. This CTR is described as burgundy red, exactly the colour Porsche used in its advertising, and the interior is in tobacco brown leather, extending to the dashboard and door upholstery. The seats are black, deep Recaro buckets. Ruf’s changes to the 911 interior include his own instruments, a 350 kilometres-per-hour speedometer and the dominant rev counter, which here goes to 8,000rpm, has the needle working clockwise in the great tradition of competition cars. Ruf also fits his own steering wheel. There is no pretence of rear seats: the plush matching brown carpet extends across the space with an elastic net to hold luggage in place. All these modifications are tastefully carried out as per the Ruf hallmark, and this extends to the exterior.
The CTR is based on the narrowbody 3.2 Carrera, but the rear wings are subtly enlarged to accommodate 17-inch Speedline wheels and 255-width tyres. Also subtle is the removal of the rain gutters, which involves work to the chassis and inside the roof to enhance rigidity. The gutterless look is such an improvement that it is surprising that Porsche put off this change until the 996. The flag door mirrors are replaced by small racing mirrors, again shades of competition 911s. At the front, a deeper valance with the fog lights built in has a neat central plastic grille and the discreet lip at the bottom is reputedly that of the 935s. The rear bumper is similarly modified.
The most spectacular difference
A glass fibre moulding, it is different from the stock impact bumpers and is distinguished by the ventilation slots cut in the sides. This is not done for effect, but to duct airstream to the turbochargers. Twin exhausts complete the changes. The wing is like the 930’s, but set at a lower angle for optimal downforce. The doors, lighter to open despite retaining electric window winders, are in aluminium, as is the engine cover and front boot, a part of the reason why the CTR weighs nearly 200 kilograms less than the 3.3-litre 930. A nod to Porsches of a previous age, the CTR has a sidemounted oil filler, exactly like the 1972 ‘E Series’ 911.
The most spectacular difference is the engine compartment. In place of the stock intercooler is Ruf’s own air filter, which together with the fan dominates the engine bay. The turbochargers themselves are mounted out of sight, down low in the rear wings, their presence indicated by the cooling radiators on each side. Air is fed to these intercoolers in fixed steel pipes that contribute to general stiffness. The Ruf uses single-plug ignition, but twin injection. Out of sight, bigger 98-millimetre Mahle pistons contribute the larger 3,367cc capacity. The whole engine compartment is a model of rational and accessible layout; it is clear this is re-engineering, not tuning. But this does not necessarily mean greater complexity: Joe, Frank Hendrickx’s mechanic, has dismantled and reassembled these engines and says they present no more driver difficulty than the stock Zuffenhausen item.
Frank has owned the CTR since 2004. Its previous Austrian owner, a Herr Eissenstein who acquired the virtually unused CTR from Ruf in the mid-1990s, claimed Alois Ruf told him this burgundy CTR was his personal car, hence the extremely unusual colour scheme. The chrome window surrounds and headlight trim are a conscious attempt to make this CTR look more ordinary at first glance than it is – seemingly an early-‘70s 911 with big wheels. The effect still works today. Frank is the kind of enthusiast who likes to drive all his cars properly both on the road and on a closed circuit. “It had 9,000 kilometres on it when I got it and now it has 15,000, so I average about 500 kilometres a year in it.” At Abbeville Stadium where Total 911 has come to try the Ruf and take pictures, Frank’s CTR surprises other users who see what appears to be an old, chrome-window 911 in their mirrors, only for it to shoot past them.
Rarely has near 500 horsepower been better disguised. Ruf-enhanced or not, this is still a turbo 911, but on wider tyres and with Ruf’s subtle stiffening of the torsion bar suspension, and in the hands of its owner, it can be made to corner very fast. With twin turbos, the boost effect is slightly more gradual and manageable than the single factory application, but you have to remember this is an extraordinarily potent old-school 911, which means rear drive and no electronic catchfencing. Larger brakes than standard help on approach to corners, but the CTR places a very unfashionable degree of responsibility on its driver.
It sounds very much like a louder version of the original G Series 911 on which it is based, and its progress around Abbeville’s 2.3-kilometre lap is punctuated by the whistle of the wastegate as it hurtles from corner to corner. The (unassisted) steering feels very heavy at first, lightening underway, but the clutch and gearshift are heavy. Though nominally a street car, it is not at ease driving around town: “It needs space to breathe,” says mechanic Joe. On the track, the driver has to learn to modulate the CTR’s explosive acceleration, because with a power-to-weight ratio well over 400 horsepower per tonne, the next corner always arrives much earlier than anticipated!