RUF - It's in the family
My drive on the autobahn from Munich was rather spoilt by traffic so I was unable to max out the snorting Skoda Rapide that I'd been given as a loaner. Despite this setback I was buzzing with anticipation as I arrived into Pfaffenhausen. RUF have built a little empire clustered around the family's original petrol station and this now also includes the main factory, an approved Porsche service centre, a bodyshop and a metal workshop. It's all trimmed by immaculately manicured lawns, a landscaped roundabout and makes me feel as if I'm in a motorhead's vision of Legoland.
As a young boy wandering around his father's workshop, Alois Ruf managed to fall into a large container full of waste oil, he refers to this as his baptism. I don't think there can be a more apt anecdote to describe the man behind the legend of RUF.
After a few minutes in reception, comfortably seated on a 964 leather seat, Alois himself comes to greet me. He explains we will go for a short drive in his own personal RCT (short video of his car here) and then stop in a local pub for lunch with his wife Estonia and some clients that are over for a visit. His car is a perfect combination of a dark RUF green and an oxblood interior and I still can't quite believe that I'm in an RCT being driven by Alois himself!!
So how does the RCT feel? First thing that strikes me is how supple the ride is. The RCT runs Bilstein PSS10s built to RUF's own specifications and Alois explains that he is not a fan of unnecessarily stiffly sprung road cars. A few twisties come up and to prove his point despite the suspension's compliance there is very little roll and the RCT feels very planted. Once warm he opens it up.. this is one very fast 964. The turbo works from pretty low down and the car feels strong from 2000 revs but the real kick comes in at around 4000. And what a kick it is, significantly faster than a 3.6 965 and certainly faster than any 964 I've ever been in! My turn comes to have a drive and the initial experience is unsurprisingly very familiar. The controls are all in the same place, albeit in left hand drive. The cabin is luxuriously re-trimmed in the highest quality leather, with a clubsport style RUF wheel, RUF pedals and RS style door cards. The quality of materials and assembly is fabulous but aside from the integrated RUF roll cage and trim the interior follows the basic 964 architecture.
The interior in Alois' RCT
Interiors are done to the owner's specs.. this one is from the fashion grey car that was featured at Geneva
Pulling off shows the clutch to be pleasingly light and that the gearbox action is much, much nicer than that on my C4. When the RCT first came out RUF engineered their own 6 speed box however they now use the G50/20 6 speed from the 993 as this is more cost effective than modifying the 964 box as they had done previously. The throw is about the same as on my car, maybe slightly lighter and the action far nicer and more consistent, with no notchy second to have to contend with. Being in Alois' personal car and driving with the wheel on the wrong side meant I was somewhat cautious round corners so I can't pass judgement of on the limit handling however at brisk speeds the RCT feels remarkably well sorted. There is a level of stiffness to the structure surpassing that found in normal 964s, no doubt due to the integrated roll cage, which is part of the RCT package. Progress is really fluid due to the flexibility of RUF's own turbo conversion, the slick gear change and the well-sorted chassis. The engine feels really, really strong with all of the 420 Bavarian Horses definitely present and although response is not quite as lag free as modern installations it is way better than a 965 and very good for a single turbo installation. Alois says this is due to the side mounted turbo which enables shorter plumbing and therefore less lag. RUF use a KKK K27 Turbo set to deliver 0.8bar maximum boost. As with other turbo installations maximum torque is delivered at a relatively low 4500 revs so there is not much point wringing the engine through to red line on each gear change. Should you choose to do so it revs willingly enough, I found that out when I mistakenly changed from 4th into 3rd instead of 5th and to hide my embarassment I pretended it was an intentional downshift and put my foot down. I'll put that down to driving with the wheel on the wrong side. Good also to see the flat six character and noise is still present despite the turbo.
The evolution of the 964 started with the BTR, a 3.8 litre car RUF developed from the 965 Turbo 3.6. The problem with the BTR was that there was very little componentry which could be retained, therefore the car was extremely expensive to manufacture. The RCT version was RUF's answer to this. Instead of being based on the 965 it is based on normal 964's (2 or 4 wheel drive) and a lot more of the standard components can be used or adapted. For example the RCT is able to run the standard 964 Bosch Motronic engine management system, albeit programmed to RUF specs. This enables a significant saving over a bespoke or aftermarket system and would not have been possible with the more primitive K-Jetronic system used in the 965. Overall power is slightly down on the BTR but in the RCT RUF have managed to provide very similar performance for a much more reasonable overall cost.
After lunch I meet Alois' son Marcel who takes me on a tour of the factory. About 5 RCTs in various states of completion are in production so I can see the process pretty much from start to finish. Two engineers are allocated to each car and stick with the build until manufacture is completed, this instills a sense of pride and ownership and has obvious benefits in terms of consistency and quality during assembly.
Thomas is one of two engineers who will work on this particular RCT throughout the build process.
It all starts in the smaller metal workshop across the road. Donor 964's are completely stripped to bare shells and the whole roof skin replaced with a genuine Porsche non sunroof panel. While the roof is being replaced RUF also delete the rain gutters as first seen on the legendary Yellowbird. The RUF integrated roll cage is then welded in and the shell transferred back to the main factory to be painted. At the same time a suitable engine is being made to RCT spec and once the shell is ready both are reunited on the main factory floor where the rest of assembly takes place to the client's specifications. Within reason there is almost no request that RUF won't consider.
964's in various stages of transformation. The one below has the new roof panel fitted with guttering delete
The RUF integrated roll cage in the process of being fitted
One of the surprises for me was the extent of classic restoration that is undertaken by RUF. I was aware of the tuning but in fact RUF is also considered amongst the very best restorers of classic Porsches. They have several cars currently being worked on, from 356s to late 911s but for me the stand out car is a 1964 911 which was the 116th to have rolled off the production line, not quite a 901 designation car but hugely significant none the less. This particular car was riddled with rust and simply to return the shell to a solid state has taken over 1000 man hours, but with matching numbers and a detailed history this was clearly a project worth doing!
A wonderful Targa just getting the finishing touches to a complete restoration
The warm welcome and wonderful cars made this a really memorable experience but what really struck me is the sense of family involved in the RUF experience. Not only was I looked after by Alois, his wife and his son while I was there but I also spent time with several clients. Over lunch I spoke to the owner of the Geneva RCT show car who was there for a few days taking in the assembly of two other cars he has ordered. At the same time I met Michael, an American who had his 997 converted by RUF while living in Germany, he now lives in the UK but stores his car at RUF itself and comes over for 2-3 days every time he feels like driving it. It was all so comfortable and natural that at first I assumed Michael was a son in law and had married into the family! Then there was Steve, from Maidenhead. Steve has been involved in Porsche Club GB for several years and drives down to RUF every year to get his C4 serviced. Incidentally his Metallic Slate Grey was one of the first 964s to come to the UK and was a wonderful example of the genre with several special touches like bespoke Konis and RUF brakes.
Steve's car, a very tidy C4 and one of the first into the UK. He brings it to RUF every year for servicing!
I got VERY excited when I saw this but it turns out to be an ordinary car with Yellowbird bumpers and wheels.. not the real deal
As I left I bought a few bits including some gutter smoothing strips for my 964, I'll report on those when Ive fitted them but they are supposed to significantly improve aerodynamics and reduce wind noise at speed. I was also handed a bagful of goodies by Estonia, including some aluminium RUF pedals, which have been given to another W90 member for testing. I came away badly wanting my own RUF, the cars speak for themselves but for me it was almost as much that I really wanted to be part of the family, when you buy a RUF you get much more than just a car.
Small details abound..
Words and Pictures: Jack Pegoraro
For more information please visit RUF Automibile at : http://ruf-automobile.de/