“If you build it, they will come.” This famous quote from the movie, “Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, referred to a baseball field constructed in Iowa’s golden corn belt.
Iowa is pretty far from Pfaffenhausen, Germany, but when your name is Ruf, and you are a legend in the automotive world customers will beat a path to your door.
Never saying never is a big part of the visionary Ruf mystique, and is what propelled Alois Ruf to create legendary cars like the original CTR Yellow Bird of 1987 and all the other ground breaking models that followed in its wake.
It is also a major ingredient in the process that creates and builds a bond between Ruf and his customers, who frequently become serial Ruf owners as well as long-term friends. It was certainly what led Alexis B, as he wishes to be known, to sign up with Ruf on his first visit.
A total petrolhead and a long-term customer of Porsche Exclusive, Ferrari and other brands, Alexis had run into a roadblock with the level of individuality he could squeeze out of the special wishes departments of these major manufacturers. No matter what they claimed to offer at the outset, at a certain point he had always run into, “No, we cannot do this within our automated or manual production work processes.”
A friend of Alexis who knew Ruf suggested that he set up an exploratory meeting to see if the Pfaffenhausen-based family-run manufacturer could offer the right answers. So he made an appointment and drove up from Switzerland with his girlfriend, who works for the agency handling Porsche’s 918 Circle.
“We showed Alexis some of the cars we had in stock along with a wide range of possible styles and samples of materials,” recalls Alois Ruf’s son, Marcel. Exposure to all these possibilities really got Alexis going, and after discussing several ideas for a bespoke 911-based car that were becoming more creative by the minute, he suddenly went quiet, looked at his girlfriend and said: “Have you realised that within the last half an hour they have never used the word ‘no’?”
“At Ruf we do not say no to a new idea,” Marcel explained. “Rather we calculate if it can be achieved, and if it can then how much it will cost. Apparently this not only impressed Alexis, but also made us aware of a part of who we are that we had never consciously thought about or promoted before.”
“The Ruf team is brilliant, they are like a big family with the kind of relationship with customers that my father experienced when he bought his first 356 and 911 back when they were new,” said Alexis. “At Ruf it’s an old style personal relationship. The client is important and respected, which is really refreshing in this age where corporations exist just to make money and your salesman can be gone by the time your car is delivered. Beyond that there are not many companies who can do what they do to this level. Their craftsmanship is peerless and they won me over with their enthusiast, ideas, and attention to detail.”
“My first 911 was a 997 Gen 1 Carrera S, and the second a Turbo Gen 2 PDK,” said 46 year-old Alexis whose comprehensive Porsche collection includes a 918 Spyder, Carrera GT, GT2 RS and 911R, a 1976 Carrera, 356 and a 550 Spyder.
“Although the new 911s are totally practical for daily use I wanted to build a reliable new-old classic 911 with real one-off character,” Alexis explained. “I like the analogue feel of the G-Series model and decided that this would be the basis for the project.”
With the search on for a suitable donor car Alexis soon found a 1987 Carrera 3.2 for sale on Instagram. The car had a widebody conversion and was white with stripes like the GT3 RS 4.0. It certainly looked great in the photos.
Alexis flew up to Malmo in Sweden to see the car where it became obvious that while it looked good superficially it had been modified badly. “The exterior and carbon-fibre wide wheel arches looked okay, but the engine was badly modified and the interior was a disaster. On the other hand it was only going to be a donor car, and we were going to strip it and start from scratch.”
Alexis bought the car and drove it 16 hours all the way to Ruf where it was left for work to commence. When Ruf’s bodyshop specialists stripped the car, removing the paint and the rain gutters they found a multitude of sins committed by whoever had worked on it before. Luckily the bodyshell was largely good with only minimal rust requiring attention.
The original plan was to paint the car white. Then Alexis thought about a friend’s gold 991 Gen 1 and asked him what colour it was. “It was Lime Gold metallic, and once the shell had been de-seamed, fitted with proper steel wide wheel arches and the Integrated Roll Cage (IRC) and painted in this colour it looked really fantastic,” he said.
“We needed to call the car something, and Marcel jokingly said what about Goldfinger?” Alexis recounted. “I liked the name and it stuck, becoming the official name for the project, and applied to the door sill plates and rear bulkhead carpet. Ruf even had a ‘Goldfinger 3.4’ badge made up for the engine lid grille, so if I ever sell it people will know the car instantly.”
A lot of thought went into making sure Goldfinger looked right. “Styling cues are important and as my cars are made for me I don’t care what others think,” said Alexis. “Unlike some purists I have no problem with rear wings as such, but I was after a classic 911 line, and the combination of wide body emphasising the line of the car and the powered 964 rear spoiler that leaves that line unbroken when the car is at rest works for me.”
“The car had RSR style bumpers when I bought it,” Alexis recalled. “Alois and Marcel tried to get me to swap to Ruf bumpers, which had to be done at the rear anyway to accommodate the new exhaust.”
While the bodyshell was undergoing its transformation the engine was completely stripped and rebuilt, incorporating the legendary Ruf 3.4 litre conversion for the G-Series 3.0 and 3.2 litre flat-six.
As Alexis liked the look of the early ‘70s 911 racecars exhaust and wanted the car to sound distinctive, Ruf built a custom system based on the original 3.2 Carrera muffler housing with new internals feeding the two exit pipes. With less backpressure than the stock exhaust this helps the motor reach its 270hp output.
As it was designed to handle over 300hp the G50 gearbox did not need to be touched , but a fast-road/competition clutch was fitted, and an additional oil cooler located in the nose under the front bumper.
Despite having two condensers the original factory air-conditioning system from that era is not very effective. Because one condenser is normally located in the nose of the car where the Ruf oil cooler now sits, and the other underneath the grille of the rear lid where Ruf installed the 964 electrically- powered rear spoiler, this required a radical rethink.
“We swapped the two factory condensers for a larger unit with a blower and positioned this in the left front wheel arch,” explained Marcel Ruf, “We also re-integrated the heating system with OE heat exchangers and a new heating/cooling unit in the dashboard .”
The factory torsion bars were matched to a set of Ruf dampers set up for comfort on the road , while stopping is taken care of by the Ruf CTR brake system with its large diameter drilled vented discs, uprated callipers and adjustable brake balance.
One extravagance was the set of replica Fuchs-style alloy wheels that go a long way to establishing the cars place in the 911 timeline. The base car was originally a narrow body Carrera 3.2 with its original rear trailing arms that required massive spacers so the wheels could fill the wide carbon-fibre add-on arches. This shortcut put a lot of stress on the suspension and wheel bearings.
Alexis agreed to Ruf commissioning the one-off set of 17-inch diameter wheels that were custom made to the correct offsets for the car. These are 9.0J x 17 (ET0) in front and 10.0J x 17 (ET20) at the rear, shod with 235/40ZR17 and 255/40ZR17 Toyo Proxes rubber. The wheels were expensive but look period and minimise undue loading on the suspension and wheel-bearings.
Seeing well at night was another priority. “The lights on my 550 Spyder, 356 and 1976 Carrera are shockingly bad, and in winter especially at twilight they are really dangerous,” said Alexis. Ruf recommended state-of-the-art LED light units, which rival any modern set up and incorporate a DLR bar. This is perfect for countries like Switzerland and Italy where cars without DLRs are required to drive on dip beam in the daytime. The clear indicators were changed back to orange for a more period look.
A lot of thought went into the interior look, colour, and materials. “As with the exterior I wanted to combine various 911 generations into the interior treatment,” Alexis explained. “My 911R and GT2 RS have Pepita seats, which I like and Marcel found this beige white black Pepita. This is my homage to the modern R and it works in all generations of 911.”
The headlining is gold Alcantara, and a second layer of perforated black Alcantara above the brown water buffalo leather of the dashboard provides an anti-glare effect. The door panels feature a diamond pattern with gold stitching on their brown leather lightweight panels with Pepita fabric for the door pouches. Gold stitching outlines the bespoke door grab handles and this colour is used for the lightweight door opening pulls.
The lightweight carbon-fibre folding seats are trimmed in brown water buffalo leather with brown/white Pepita fabric centre panels with integrated seat heating. Ruf’s carpenter tailor replaced the rear seats with a wooden storage box that can house a pair of tailor made soft bags fashioned from the same materials as the car’s interior. The flat area above the box supports two matching tailor made suitcases.
The retro-look RUF entertainment system fits the DIN size slot in the dashboard and offers, radio (FM/DAB), navigation, Bluetooth hands-free and iPhone/USB connectors for charging and playing music. As Alexis wanted a TOMTOM charger cable to be integrated and connected to the cars power circuit a fixed cable was routed to appear from the dashboard top just below the windshield
“I visited Ruf more than three times during the build, changing a few things along the way,” Alexis recalled. “Marcel, who was in charge of my project, was incredibly accommodating and I really enjoyed watching my new baby come together.”
“I wanted something unique that was classic, reliable, and fun to drive and I am happy that Ruf helped me achieve this. Would I change anything? In an ideal world I would drop in a Metzger 4.0, but of course that motor is water-cooled so it is not feasible.”
Goldfinger had just been completed when I drove it so the engine was tight and limited to 4,000rpm. However, it was clear that the cars low weight and larger engine displacement delivers inherently good response and tractability.
Ruf set up the suspension for reasonable comfort in daily use so even with the big wheels and wide track you don’t feel the stiff ride that some modern supercars with ultra low profile tyres inflict on their occupants.
The non-assisted steering is pure old school 911, writhing gently in your hands as you conduct this totally analogue car down the road. With its wide track Goldfinger’s corners very flat, and the revised front and rear aero arrangements make for improved stability at speed over what was current in 1987.
However, the real attraction of Goldfinger is its delicious combination of old and new 911 visual attributes that are a testament to the imagination of its owner and Ruf’s ability to realise his dream.
What I did not say at the beginning was that I was at Ruf that day for a retrospective photo shoot of the Ruf CTR and CTR2 Sport. But my excitement and enthusiasm when I saw Goldfinger in the car park led to Estonia Ruf making a phone call to Alexis, who kindly agreed to let me drive and photograph his pride and joy.
This is not the end of the Goldfinger adventure, however as there is a sequel and more. As you read this Goldfinger 2 has been finished, and Alexis and the team at Ruf are already plotting a third chapter. Watch this space!