There are two types of people in this world: those who have seen Stefan Roser's attack on the Nurburgring in the original Ruf CTR Yellowbird, and those who haven't.
Tuning house Ruf was established with Porsche in mind, specifically the 911. Alois Ruf Jr and his team in Pfaffenhausen, Germany began modifying the rear-engined flagship cars from Stuttgart in hopes to one day make a name for himself on the world's motorsports arena. Having spent his childhood years watching race cars like the 904, 906 and 908 churn out victories for Porsche, Alois Jr knew he wanted a piece of that action.
Alois Ruf Sr passed away in 1974, leaving the family business in the hands of his son. Alois Jr's fascination with the 911 prompted him to create his first rebuilt example based on the 3-liter 911 SC: the SCR.
The SCR was unquestionably the granddaddy to the Yellowbird. Over the next decade, Ruf refined his performance-enhancing craft, and in 1987 unveiled the blisteringly fast CTR Yellowbird to compete with the likes of Ferrari's F40 and the new, technology-heavy 959 from Porsche.
RUF Porsche CTR Yellowbird: David Among Goliaths
CTR, an acronym for Group C Turbo Ruf, was the little manufacturer's answer to the best supercars the world had to offer. Thanks to its turbocharged 3.2-liter flat-six, the CTR Yellowbird boasted 463 horsepower and a zero to 60 time under four seconds. With a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour, customers graciously accepted the roll cage that came standard in the Yellowbird.
Of the Yellowbirds gracing the earth, only 29 were produced entirely by Ruf, the rest being customer's Carrera 911s bought from Porsche and converted. At $142,000 in 1987 (or $354,000 in 2022's rates) for a glorified 911, the Yellowbird's price tag was nothing to disconsider. But as the MSRP of the F40 hovered around $400,000 ($900,000 today), the bang-for-buck ratio of the CTR Yellowbird was high.
While obviously heavily based on that generation 911, the Yellowbird had been optimized for racetrack action: the chassis had been designed for maximum aero efficiency, its 17" wheels wrapped in Dunlop rubber and combined with a Ruf-engineered transmission, the CTR Yellowbird easily gave the finger to everything else on the road.
Now, Ruf wasn't just another German 911 tuning company, adding gobs of power and crazy bodywork to one or two examples. The yellowbird, like many a Ruf before it, was born from a body-in-white chassis: Ruf built many of their cars from un-marked tubs Porsche had given them without VIN numbers straight from the assembly lines in Stuttgart.
Why not build off the 930 Turbo platform? Again, Ruf's aim for the CTR yellowbird wasn't blind horsepower but instead a balance between state-of-the-art aerodynamics, weight reduction, and of course the pounding heart of the turbocharged 3.2 Carrera engine. The 930's wide hips disrupt air that would otherwise pass smoothly over a narrow-bodied car, and by doing without away with the rather analog forced induction systems Porsche was implementing in the 80s Ruf was able to save weight.
Made apparent by Roser and the Yellowbird on the 'Ring, the car could still get down and party with any other overpowered 80s machinery. Where the Yellowbird lacked in creature comforts it made up for in smiles per mile. No one cared that the interior was as basic and stripped as the RS (RennSport) Porsche models from Stuttgart when you could hang tail on a trip to the neighborhood Edeka.
Watch Roser demonstrate this in "Faszination on the Nurburgring" on Ruf's YouTube channel here.
The Yellowbird: The CTR Reborn
For the CTR Yellowbird's 30th anniversary, Ruf launched the updated version by the same name, harnessing 700 rampaging ponies.
The 2017 CTR Yellowbird pays homage to the car that made Ruf a household name, down to the matching vivid yellow paint. This time, Ruf has designed every aspect of the car. No more bodies in white. The new CTR is built completely in-house on a carbon and steel frame, and while still utilizing a 911-derived 3.6 flat six, power is delivered through a six-speed manual transmission.
The official "Yellowbird" nickname came from the original car (chassis #001) recognizable by the massive NACA ducts above the rear tires which were added as a way to send more air though the intercoolers but later discovered to have the opposite effect, and made few if any appearances on later cars.
What Ruf did with his CTR Yellowbird has inspired the likes of Singer, Kaege Retro and other Porsche resto-mod companies. While the likelihood of ever acquiring one of the original few are low, they do come up for sale every so often, with one such example selling four years ago for an estimated $1-$1.2 million.
If you're one of the lucky few to own one of the original 29, we'd love to see the 1987 video remastered.
Sources: Top Gear, Donut Media, Road&Track