Ruf Automobile is one of the giants of the tuning industry. The company-produced documentary "Ruf: Love at the Red Line" traces its 80-year history.
What eventually became Ruf Automobile started out in 1939 as an ordinary garage in Pfaffenhausen, Germany, opened by Alois Ruf, Sr. His son Alois Ruf, Jr., would eventually grow the business into a Porsche-tuning powerhouse thanks to one driver's misfortune.
In the documentary, Ruf Jr. explains that one day in 1963 a Porsche 356 overtook his father's bus and crashed. His father brought the driver to the hospital and repaired the car. This started Ruf, Jr.'s love affair with Porsches and a steady business fixing and maintaining the sports cars.
1987 Ruf CTR 'Yellowbird'
Ruf began selling its own modified Porsches in the late 1970s, in response to Porsche's curtailing of the 911 lineup in favor of the 928. Porsche wanted to replace the 911 with the 928, and while that didn't happen, this created a niche for Ruf's tuned 911s.
Shortly after that, Alois Ruf, Jr., began concocting the car that would earn Ruf Automobile lasting fame—the CTR Yellowbird. The project started in 1979 as the 945R, with plans to use a 450-hp twin-turbo flat-6 derived from the engine used in the Porsche 935 race car. The actual Yellowbird launched in 1987 using a 911 Carrera 3.2 body shell and a 3.4-liter twin-turbo flat-6 making about 460 hp.
The Yellowbird became world famous by winning a 1987 Road & Track "World's Fastest Cars" competition, beating the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini with a 211-mph top speed. Its only prior high-speed shakedown was a run on a German Autobahn on the way to the test, Alois Ruf, Jr., said.
In 1989, Ruf followed that up with the video "Fascination on the Nürburgring," again starring the CTR. In-car footage and some spectacular drifts made this arguably the first automotive viral video, but in those pre-internet days it was distributed on VHS.
Another key component of the Ruf mystique is the "Gran Turismo" video game series. In 1998, producer Kazunori Yamauchi tracked down Ruf Jr. at a Japanese hotel to secure permission to use Ruf cars in the games. Yamauchi said he wanted to include Ruf because of the brand's heroic status among car enthusiasts.
Ruf gradually branched out to other Porsche models, and even a Volkswagen van, before taking on the challenge of building a car from scratch. The 2017 Ruf CTR looked like the original Yellowbird, but with a bespoke carbon-fiber chassis tub and bodywork. Ruf has continued that theme in recent years with other retro-looking cars, and restomods of some of its 1990s models.