RUF, Rennsport, and an RT Roadster: A Ride with Alois Ruf
A quick cruise and a quick chat with the master of Porsche-based performance
Shake out those car covers, dust off the battery tenders, and give your weekend cruiser one last wash before winter arrives in full force—if it's not too late already. The increasingly chilly weather has us reminiscing on the warmer, sunnier days spent at Rennsport VI in late September.
Months later, it still hangs heavy on our head. For anyone with a Porsche-minded bone in their body, the three-day event was sensory overload. At September neared its close, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca played host to a collection of Porsche road and race cars that rivals Stuttgart's own archives. In the midst of this, industry celebrities and drivers wandered among the crowd, giving attendees a rare opportunity to meet and talk with some of the biggest names in Porsche's history.
In one of these moments, we briefly found ourselves in the driver's seat of a 2011 RUF RT Roadster, one of just three in existence. Riding shotgun was Alois Ruf himself, joining us for a chat about Rennsport, RUF, and its incredible success achieved in the past few years.
Before Porsche brought back the real-deal Targa in 2014 for the 991.1 generation 911, RUF built a handful of these convertibles for well-moneyed collectors. Whereas Porsche engineered a stunning power-retractable clamshell roof for its current production model, the RT Roadster packs a soft rear window, inspired by the zippered rear panels of the 1967-68 911 Targa. "I was always very fond of the '67-68 soft rear window Targa, the way it was designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche," Ruf said. "I am always looking from the emotional side of things, especially with the soft rear window Targa. You hear the engine from the inside in a beautiful way."
The Roadster's bones come from the contemporary 997-based RUF RT, the automaker's best take on a bread-and-butter model. The RT family channels RUF's typical reserved excess—more power, more speed, and more luxury, without ruining aesthetics with overwrought bodywork. Speak softly and carry a big stick, if you will.
Well, most of the time. In the case of this particular Roadster, it's more like, "Scream loudly and wave a big-ass, nail-covered bat," thanks in part to its fantastic pearlescent matte white paint. Even at a venue as colorful as Rennsport, people whipped out phones and cameras as we passed, one couple going so far as to block our path to snap a pic.
According to the man himself, RUF only built three RT Roadsters with combustion engines, the rest being fully electric models in the form of the eRuf Greenster from around the same time. Of the three Roadsters that suck-bang-squeeze-blow, this happens to be the most powerful, offering up 650 hp from its twin-turbo 3.6-liter flat-six.
I'm sure the performance and straight-line speed is borderline abusive. Unfortunately, due to an excruciatingly long line formed at the track entrance, our cruise was restricted to the twisted network of access roads weaving through the Laguna Seca campus. Even at one tenth of the top speed, the RT Roadster feels special. It's unbelievably solid and sure-footed, carrying itself with the confidence of an Olympic power lifter.
This low-altitude cruise allowed the chance for a quick chat. The past two years were monumental for the 80-year old brand, starting with the launch of the new CTR in 2017, and the new platform-sharing SCR in early 2018. During this year's Quail event during Monterey Car Week in August, "The Alois Ruf Reunion" brought together an incredible collection of RUF cars from multiple decades, crowned by the freshly restored, record-setting 1987 RUF CTR "Yellowbird," now owned by mega-collector Bruce Meyer. Prices, admiration, and collectability of RUFs are at an all-time high. "We're now profiting on our own history," he said.
Curiously, Rennsport Reunion's paddock and pits were mostly devoid of Pfaffenhausen's finest. Though completely different, Singer wasn't widely represented, either. You had to go to the fringes of the event to find both RUF and Singer products, showcased at Momo and Michelin display stands in the vendor sections. "This is an event for Porsche. They're celebrating their 70th anniversary, and this is the way it should be. This is not our event," Ruf remarked. "We are known in the Porsche world for many decades, but this was Porsche's time. The Quail, that was our event."
Time's up. We pull back onto the infield tarmac, where Ruf must run off to meet customers, partners, and friends. Before he goes, we ask him which car is his personal favorite RUF from over the many years.
He laughs, and then nods. "Well, my personal car is the RCT, based on the 964. It's nicknamed the Quiet Storm."
Call it a perfect description of RUF's heritage—and from what we can see today, its future.