From the November 2013 Issue of Car and Driver
Frayed around the edges, its bright-yellow paintwork chipped and crazed and covered in insect corpses, the Porsche is parked among modified 911s from all eras. To many, it would appear to be just another 911 worked over by one of any number of tuners and tinkerers you’ll find all over Germany. But we’d argue that this is the iconic tuned 911. Even at first glance, it looks as exotic as any supercar that came before or after it. And the strangest bit about this story is that this tiny, narrow-hipped 911 isn’t actually a Porsche at all. This is the Ruf CTR, one of just 29 made, but you may know it simply as the “Yellowbird.”
For those who think Sesame Street when they hear the name, here’s a brief synopsis: In 1974, Alois Ruf took over his father’s enterprise, Ruf Auto, a successful bus-manufacturing firm. But young Alois was more interested in sports cars, specifically the 911. By 1977, Ruf had built a reputation for adding power to the then-new 930 Turbo. Since Porsche offered Turbos with only a four-speed transmission, Ruf built its own five-speed gearbox in 1981. The same year, German law recognized Ruf as more than just a Porsche tuner; the company was redesignated a manufacturer.
What made Ruf a star was its participation in Road Track’s top-speed shootout in 1987. Ruf brought its new model, the CTR (Group C Turbo Ruf), to Volkswagen’s test track at Ehra-Lessien, Germany. There, a rather ordinary-looking 911 (except for its yellow paint) murdered all comers by topping 211 mph. Photographer John Lamm, now a member of our staff, was on-site and christened the car “Yellowbird.” On its way to that outrageous top speed, the CTR recorded zero-to-100 mph in 7.3 seconds.
The modified, 211-mph CTR put Ruf on the map. Bottom, left: Fender-mounted NACA ducts feed the 469-hp, twin-turbo 3.4-liter flat-six.
Today, the unassuming (well, except for the fact that it’s yellow) 911 with its 3.2 Carrera shell—narrowed, shorn of rain gutters, and fitted with a single 935-style side mirror, all for aero—is warmed up and the key sits waiting in the ignition. NACA ducts cut into the fiberglass rear fenders feed the 3.4-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six, and a subtly wider Turbo-style tea-tray spoiler adds high-speed stability. This is the very car that did 211-plus mph and starred in Faszination, a video Ruf made in the late ’80s of the CTR sliding around the Nürburgring. It’s the Debbie Does Dallas of car videos—groundbreaking, enthralling, and influential.
Inside, it’s old-school 911 with a stripped-back RS-style twist. Like all air-cooled 911s, it feels narrow and upright, and the floor-hinged pedals are a little awkward. It sounds fairly ordinary when it fires up. There’s a busyness to the sound, but no hint that 469 horsepower and 408 pound-feet are hanging out behind the rear wheels. Ruf claims that it weighs just 2579 pounds, which would give the CTR a better power-to-weight ratio than the 2014 911 Turbo S.