A pilgrimage to Ruf Automobile in the heart of Bavaria.
Although Ruf Automobile GmbH celebrated its 40th Anniversary at the end of 2013, Alois Ruf has never forgotten any of the cars that went through his hands over the years during this long and fascinating journey. Auto Ruf, his father’s car repair company, was founded in the small Bavarian town of Pfaffenhausen in 1939 where the core building of Ruf Automobile GmbH stands today.
Their association with the Porsche marque began one fateful day in 1963 when the driver of a Porsche 356 brought his car to them for repair. Alois Ruf senior marvelled at the excellence of the engineering and made up his mind there and then to specialise in the marque.
However, it was not until his father passed away in 1974 that the then 24-year-old Alois fully took the helm, and began to steer the firm towards extracting the full potential inherent in Porsche’s 911 model family.
Adjusting to his new role as head of the Porsche repair and maintenance business started by his father, his first big move towards tuning came about in 1977, when Porsche announced their 3.0 litre 911SC with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection.
Although the 911SC was uprated to 204hp for the 1981 model year thanks to a raised compression ratio amongst other things, the early cars had a mere 180hp.
Alois envisaged at least equalling the 210hp of the old mechanically injected 2.7, and set about creating a 3.2 litre conversion using 98mm Mahle barrels and pistons. Developing 217hp, the Ruf SCR had a new front valance with integrated oil cooler and intake ducts that channelled cooling air to the front brakes. It also had a larger rear spoiler to match, a limited slip differential with 40-percent locking action, and uprated suspension with a front strut tower brace.
However, it was the Porsche 911 Turbo with the untapped potential of forced aspiration that was to be the true bedrock of Ruf’s slowly growing reputation. With the spark of genius that the passing years would only confirm, Alois clearly saw the potential of the turbocharged flat-six, and went to work pushing its performance boundaries beyond the line where the factory engineers feared to tread.
Exploring ways of extracting more power from the early 3.0 litre Turbo, Ruf applied the enlarged displacement route here too. Back in 1977, the 260hp produced by Porsche’s 2,992cc single turbo flat-six was a really big deal as it enabled this first factory 911 Turbo to blast to 100km/h in 5.2 sec and top out at 250km/h.
Of course, the opposition from the other side of the Italian Alps claimed even bigger horsepower numbers from engines with bigger displacements, as well as double the number of pistons in their naturally aspirated V12s.
While the reported 351hp and 375hp of the Ferrari BB and Lamborghini Countach made the 911’s output appear puny on paper, real world testing by the motoring press proved that the more overtly styled Italians could only just creep past the Porsche after trailing it slightly all the way to 200km/h. They cost a ton of money more to buy and run, and as was later discovered, also came with a ticking rust time bomb thrown in as standard.
To avoid overstressing the 3.0-litre flat-six motor, Alois decided that a ten percent displacement bump would set the baseline for his conversion. This was achieved by increasing the bore and stroke to 98.9 x 70.4mm with new barrels, pistons and connecting rods.
With 3,243cc, a 6.5:1 compression ratio and a tweaked K-Jetronic system, power output went up to a healthy 303hp at 5,500rpm, with 412Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
It was thus no surprise that the heavily revised factory 911 Turbo 3.3 that debuted in 1978 had 3,299cc from a bore x stroke of 97.0 x 74.4mm. Running a 7.0:1 compression ratio, it was rated at 300hp at 5,500rpm with 430Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. Ruf then proceeded to tune this new factory car, his BTR conversion boasting a whopping 375hp. The rest, as they say, is history.
This first 911 Turbo conversion by Ruf established what was to become a long tradition at Ruf, creating innovative solutions for obtaining more power and efficiency before the factory announced its own round of improvements.
In Ruf terminology, BTR stands for Group B, single turbo, and CTR for Group C, twin-turbo. The latter saw the first use of Bosch Motronic on a 911 Turbo motor with the CTR Yellow Bird, which famously won the Road & Track, Auto Motor & Sport top speed shootout at VW’s Erha Lessien proving ground in 1988. Its dramatic 211mph (340km/h) top speed run beat the Porsche 959, Ferrari Testarossa, and AMG Hammer amongst others.
This and all the other innovative engineering developed since those foundation years has kept Ruf at the top of his game, and acknowledged as a manufacturer by the Kraftfahrt Bundesamt (German Transport Authority) or KBA for short.
Not content to share this KBA status with other manufacturers like Alpina and Brabus, Ruf then worked his way towards full VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie) membership, which put the company on the same level as major manufacturers like Porsche itself. Alpina and Brabus have since followed suit.
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