Ruf is a company like no other. Whether you know it from an old video of a yellow car drifting around the Nurburgring or as the car from countless video games, Ruf pushes the boundaries of performance in its own unique way. We dig into the history of Ruf guided by none other than the man himself, Alois Ruf.
Alois, Ruf is a company with a rich history. How did the company start?
Ruf started eighty years ago. Back then my father was basically fixing anything that had wheels. During the war, he would improvise and find a way to keep moving forward and keep everything afloat. This signifies one of our family traits in that we always find ways to overcome challenging situations. I was born in 1950 and really grew up in this environment. When I joined the company in 1970 I learned how strong the desire was for this one particular sports car that had an air-cooled flat-six engine in the back. I was obsessed with them as well. To this day I can still remember the sound of a 901, which was one of the few prototypes built to develop the 911, overtaking us on the autobahn. This desire and fascination with that car are what drove the company to what it is today.
The Yellow Bird is a milestone in Ruf’s history. Why was it so important?
The backstory to the Yellow Bird actually already started a few years before it was even built. The real story began in 1984 when we were invited to an event called “The world’s fastest car”. It was a test organised by Paul Frère, who was the European ambassador for the American car magazine Road & Track. I had no idea what the event was. All I knew was that it would take place at the Volkwagen test facility of Erha Lessien. So, I brought along a car we built, a Ruf BTR, which was a narrow-body turbo that stowed two spare wheels in the back. I drove the car to the track myself, and was convinced it could do 300km/h. The next morning I realised what I’d shown up for. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin… you name it were all there. This was a serious test to find out which car had the highest top speed. That first year we won the event with the BTR clocking 306.4km/h, the highest top speed and about 30km/h faster than any car there. This result put us on the international map!
What happened next?
A few years later we were invited to the second iteration of “World’s fastest car”. This time we wanted to arrive more prepared so for the occasion, we built the Ruf CTR. CTR stands for Group C Turbo Ruf. The car was the first twin-turbo flat-six engine to have electronic engine management. Technology previously only seen on the 956 and 962 Group C race cars. That year we beat the competition again by clocking 339.8km/h, again roughly 30km/h faster than the competition. During the test the weather was so poor the photographer was struggling to capture most of the sportscars present, as they were all grey and black. They were happy to see our shiny yellow car flying around the track. One of them nicknamed it the Yellow Bird, that’s how it’s got its iconic name.
You’ve had the car for over 30 years, there must be some great stories you’ve had with it?
There are so many. One that does spring to mind is the time we were driving across California with it. During our trip, we stopped at a lay-by for a little picnic. There, a young man driving a BMW stopped and said “That car looks just like the Yellow Bird”. I swiftly replied: “That’s because it IS the Yellow Bird”. He didn’t believe us. Usually, I would’ve left it at that, but my wife convinced me otherwise. It took a lot of specific details about the car to convince the guy, but he finally believed me.
We’re here in Zell Am See to celebrate a new partnership between Ruf and Motul, what does a brand like Motul mean to Ruf?
At Ruf, we need a lubricant partner that can tailor its products to our specific need for high performance and also has this product available all over the world. On top of that, we’re feeling a really strong synergy with Motul as we not only share the same passion but also both companies have a long and rich history. I’m convinced that together we can make more history.