The Ruf CTR Yel­low­bird won hearts and minds with its filmed as­sault of the ’Ring. 30 years on, its suc­ces­sor is fi­nally here...

Top Gear (UK) - - RUF: NEW VS. OLD - WORDS: PAT DEVEREUX / PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DW BUR­NETT

The Porsche 919’ slap of the Nür­bur­gring this year might be the fastest of all time. But the best, most ex­cit­ing, put-down-your-tea-and­just-watch lap? That still be­longs to an­other Porsche – Ger­man tuner Ruf’s 1987 promo video of its then-new CTR Yel­low­bird.

Driven by Ruf test driver Ste­fan Roser – wear­ing only pe­ri­od­cor­rect jeans, T-shirt, grey slip-on loafers and fluffy white sports socks, no race suits and hel­mets here – the tuned, 3.4-litre twin­turbo 911 Car­rera rock­ets around the Nord­schleife in 8 min­utes and 5 sec­onds in clouds of tyre smoke, im­pos­si­bly long skids and sev­eral dozen arm­fuls of op­po­site lock.

It de­fifinitely isn’t the fastest way around the cir­cuit. But it cer­tainly is the most en­ter­tain­ing to watch. So much so, it is one of two videos which ef­fec­tively seeded – via pi­rated Be­ta­max and VHS video cas­settes, rather than a shared hy­per­link – and kick­started the whole vi­ral video in­dus­try.

The fi­first was Claude Lelouch’s C’était un ren­dez-vous – ‘It was a date’ – in 1976, which fooled us all for years that it was a dreamy, high-speed thrash through early morn­ing Paris in a Fer­rari 275 GTB, only for it later to be re­vealed as a hoax. The cam­era was on the front bumper of a Mercedes 450SEL, the sound over­dubbed. So it im­me­di­ately lost a lot of its orig­i­nal ap­peal. But there was no doubt­ing the sec­ond, Fasz­i­na­tion – Yel­low­bird’s two laps of the Nord­schleife. One wholly on-board, the other a rather agri­cul­tural cut of in-car, track­side and he­li­copter track­ing footage. If ever there was a fi­film which demon­strated the qual­ity and medium doesn’t mat­ter if the sub­ject mat­ter is strong enough, this is it.

And then there were the test drive num­bers, to add even more weight to the car’s al­ready ex­alted sta­tus. In an era when bed­room-wall poster all-stars like the Lam­borgh­ini Coun­tach and Fer­rari 288 GTO were on their shriek­ing, snort­ing limit at around 180mph, the Ruf CTR sailed past them and on to a barely be­liev­able Top Trumps- win­ning 211mph. so it in­stantly be­came some­thing of an au­to­mo­tive uni­corn.

And there­fore not the sort of car you ever think you might get to drive. I mean, Ruf only made 29 of them, which is fewer than the hal­lowed Fer­rari 250 GTO, so what are the chances of get­ting a go in num­ber 001? In a nor­mal world, less than zero. At Peb­ble Beach dur­ing car week, and on the day of The Quail Lodge mo­tor­sport event? Just an ask away. It helps that new owner, Bruce Meyer,

“Now I’m in the midst of an adrenaline­fu­elled red alert”

quite rightly be­lieves all his cars should be driven, not just gaw­ped at. But still…

So here I am, strapped into 001, the lit rt win-twin-turbo, over bored ver­sion of the 3.2- litre engine – not the Porsche 930 turbo unit, as some peo­ple think – rum­bling gruffly away out back, star­ing over those two fa­mil­iar yel­low front wings. First gear is a dog­leg down to the left, the lever al­most touch­ing the ex­tra bol­ster of the seat. The gear­box is Ruf’s own de­sign, as the Turbo’s four-speeder was con­sid­ered short of ra­tios and the 3.2’s fi­five-speeder in­suf­fi­ciently ro­bust to han­dle the ex­tra power and torque.

Pulling out of the car park, it’s im­me­di­ately clear the fully ren­o­vated Ruf isn’t go­ing to suf­fer any half-ar­sed in­puts. Even with the fuel in­jec­tion do­ing its best to feed the engine cor­rectly, the flflat-six’s lumpy tick­over urges you to get on with it, press the gas and get go­ing. So we do.

Like a cata­ma­ran surg­ing up onto its hy­dro­foil, the Yel­low­bird is al­most im­me­di­ately surf­ing swiftly along the densely tree-lined start in Carmel Carmel Val­ley Road, the leaves al­ready start­ing to blur at the edges. First to sec­ond, sec­ond to third; the heavy clutch bites nicely and the gruff-sound­ing engine starts breath­ing more heav­ily. The tur­bos start to whis­tle. The thrust is sur­pris­ingly lin­ear, not ex­plo­sive. Third to… uh oh. A glance at the speedo in­di­cates per­haps we should back offff a bit.

Boy, this thing is still ab­surdly quick. As it should be, re­ally, with a very con­ser­va­tively mea­sured 469bhp push­ing just 1,150kg. But it’s also the noise and ana­logue sen­sa­tions, the speedo nee­dle rush­ing round the dial, the gear­stick slot­ting neatly through the ra­tios, ev­ery lump and bump tele­graphed up through the seat and steer­ing wheel.

Ah, the wheel. This is what ‘steer­ing feel’ is sup­posed to be like. It’s easy to get lost in a pseud’s cor­ner of sim­i­les and metaphors about how trans­par­ent and di­rect this is, but there re­ally is noth­ing else quite like it. It’s not per­fect, light­en­ing up as you go faster, to the point that it can get a lit­tle dis­tant at high speed. But it’s noth­ing less than a faith­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what’s go­ing on un­der the front tyres.

Which at this point is a large, mid-cor­ner bump... We’ve turned up Lau­re­les Grade, a wind­ing strip of tar­mac head­ing to­wards La­guna Seca Race­way and, just as I’m start­ing to think the Yel­low­bird is a big pussy­cat, it tests me. The wheel jinks hard left and we nearly lurch into the op­pos­ing lane. In a $1.2m car. I was con­cen­trat­ing al­ready, but now I’m in the midst of an adren­a­line-fu­elled red alert.

And that’s what CTR001 is all about – stay­ing alert, en­joy­ing the drive. Not just slouch­ing in your seat, throt­tle on the floor, tick­ing off gears on a pad­dle and the chas­sis sys­tems sort­ing out the han­dling. You have to ac­tively, phys­i­cally drive it. It’s like a 911, only more so. A 911 squared, if you will. A 911 with all the in­puts and out­puts tuned, am­pli­fied and de­liv­ered in a di­rect, no-non­sense way.

I had mas­sive ex­pec­ta­tions of this car and was not in the tini­est bit dis­ap­pointed, which is a huge achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing the decades I’ve had to build my pre­con­cep­tions. But to­day isn’t just about the past; it’s about the present and the fu­ture of Ruf, too. That’s why we’ve also brought along the Yel­low­bird’s spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor, the 2017 CTR.

While it might look at fi­first glance like a hot-rod ver­sion of a 964, that is very much not the case. Look closely and there are vir­tu­ally no Porsche parts on this 30th an­niver­sary Yel­low­bird at all. Only the front and rear screens, the door glass and frames are from the Weis­sach parts bin.

The new Yel­low­bird starts with a car­bon tub and space­frame, which is then clothed in car­bon-fi­bre pan­els of Ruf’s own spec. All of the brakes and sus­pen­sion are new and the engine is a heav­ily tuned 3.6-litre Mezger unit, as orig­i­nally found in the 997 911 Tur­bos. The gear­box is a six-speed of Ruf’s own de­sign.

The net re­sult is an even more ex­treme ver­sion of the orig­i­nal car. Weight is 1,200kg, power now 710bhp, torque a not-in­con­sid­er­able 650lb ft. Which might make it sound like a bit of a hand­ful. But noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Driv­ing it on ex­actly the same roads I’d driven the 001, it was im­me­di­ately much calmer in ev­ery way – sus­pen­sion, steer­ing in­puts, power de­liv­ery.

But, cru­cially, no less in­volv­ing. Some of the way­ward­ness of the orig­i­nal – the bob­bing bon­net, the bump steer – is gone. But the es­sen­tial breathy, ex­plo­sive wave of end­less thrust and crys­tal-clear feed­back is all present and cor­rect. It’s ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect – and hope – a next-gen­er­a­tion Yel­low­bird could and should be.

Yet there is one thing miss­ing. I ask Alois Ruf, who is with us on the drive, if he’s plan­ning to do a re­make of the Fasz­i­na­tion video for the new car. “Ha... prob­a­bly, yeah,” he says. Who would be the driver? “It has to be Ste­fan. He still has the shoes – and the socks!”

In a re­cent sur­vey, 90 per cent of dogs named Ruf as their favourite car­maker Any­one else get­ting more than a hint of De­spi­ca­bleMe min­ion here? Pat treats the ol’ loud pedal to a dou­ble-help­ing of fluffy white sports sock

Bruce Meyer – found­ing chair­man of the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum and owner of Yel­low­bird 001

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