Darin Schnabel ©2021, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
This Porsche began life as a 1981 930 Turbo coupe finished in paint-to-sample Metallic White with black anodized trim. It was factory equipped with an electric sunroof, black headliner, and a heated and tinted windshield. It was one of 698 930 Turbos built for 1981. In 1987, Dr. Wilfried Eckhardt, a well-respected physicist who split time between Frankfurt, Germany, and Malibu, CA, had the car converted by Ruf in Germany to a BTR. Dr. Eckhardt arranged shipment to Los Angeles in the fall of 1987. Nearly a year after getting the car stateside, Dr. Eckhardt had new seats installed and modifications done to the suspension. Dr. Eckhardt took very good care of the Ruf, evident in the service invoices from 1988 to 1997. The car changed hands at least twice in the early 2000s, remaining in California. The engine was completely rebuilt and a new clutch was installed in 2004 with 43,045 miles. The Ruf eventually found its way to Virginia around 2008. At that point, an Alpine stereo was installed with Infinity speakers. In 2015 the Ruf was acquired by a collector from Michigan, who had the car repainted in 2016. The consignor purchased the Ruf from him in 2018.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1981 Porsche Ruf BTR
Years Produced:1983–89
Number Produced:70–90 estimated total (factory-built and conversions)
Original List Price:$350,000 (factory-built); $125,000 (conversions)
Tune Up Cost:About $3,500
Chassis Number Location:Under windshield driver’s side bottom, tag on passenger’s side inner fender
Engine Number Location:On upright fan support, facing passenger’s side
Club Info:Porsche Club of America
Alternatives:1978–85 Porsche 930, 1982–89 Lamborghini Countach, 1986–91 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC AMG 6.0

This car, Lot 305, sold for $176,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Open Roads, April online auction on April 29, 2021.

Rufs have steadily increased in popularity over the past decade, especially the BTR, CTR and CTR2 models. Next-gen collectors want them, as do old-line collectors looking farther afield for interesting cars.

There is a definite pecking order in the marketplace. Buyers value the Ruf “manufactured” cars more highly than Porsche-built cars that were converted by Ruf or Ruf licensees. Furthermore, Ruf formed its reputation with models that featured the lighter and more aerodynamic narrow bodies. These were the cars that produced world-record top speeds and record Nürburgring Nordschleife runs, and they are thus more desirable than wide-body cars.

A quick history

Ruf Automobile started life in 1939 as a general repair shop located in Pfaffenhausen, Germany, west of Munich. Ruf was involved in bus manufacturing in the early 1950s, then turned to Porsche tuning in the 1960s. In 1974, then-24-year-old Alois Ruf took over for his recently departed father and turned increasingly to hot-rodding 911s. The firm’s skills developed quickly, and in 1981 the German government recognized Ruf as a manufacturer, with U.S. approval following in 1988.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Porsche treated Ruf almost as a junior partner, selling it chassis, engines, gearboxes and sub-assemblies. Porsche’s customization department, “Sonderwunsch” (or “Special Wishes”), would send projects to Ruf for upgrades and hot-rod engines. Although this relationship soured later on, Ruf had by then established its reputation for upgrading Porsche’s turbo engines.

T for turbo

Ruf’s first noteworthy model was the BTR, with about 20–30 produced between 1983 and 1989. Besides the factory-built cars, 50–60 conversions were also made. Unfortunately, production records were lost in a factory fire.

In 1984, a Ruf BTR won the Road & Track “Fastest Car in the World” contest. It achieved a top speed of 184 mph, although driver Phil Hill reported that the car was skittish at high speed.

The big publicity win for Ruf was a follow-up event R&T held for its July 1987 issue. Against competition that included a Porsche 959, Ferrari 288 GTO, Lamborghini Countach and Mercedes AMG “Hammer,” Ruf’s CTR Yellow Bird (two words at the time) hit 211 mph vs. the Ferrari and Lambo at 179, the Hammer at 183, and the other Porsche at 198. And this time, Phil Hill noted that the Ruf was rock-steady at 200 mph.

Then in 1989, Ruf took the Yellowbird (now one word) to the Nürburgring. Test driver Stefan Rozer lapped the Nordschleife in eight minutes, five seconds — a record that lasted until 2005, when it was bested by a Bugatti Veyron. Long before YouTube, video of Rozer’s two laps of lurid slides and wailing, smoking tires became a must-see for car fans and cemented Ruf’s legacy.

Another high-speed run with the Porsche 993-based CTR2 in 1995 achieved 217 mph, again the best performance of the R&T event. Rufs were widely known as the world’s fastest cars until 1998, when the McLaren F1 took the record.

Deciphering the code

The BTR was Ruf’s first model once the firm garnered manufacturer status. Ruf-built cars are thus denoted by serial numbers starting with Ruf’s world manufacturer identifier, W09. Conversions kept their Porsche ID starting with WP0.

For the BTR, Ruf used the customer’s choice of tub, either a narrow-body 911 or a wide-body 930. For the CTR and later models, Ruf-built W09 cars stuck with the more aerodynamic narrow bodies, which produced higher top speeds by 10–12 mph.

For the BTR, Ruf modified the 930 engine with a larger turbo, twin-plug ignition, improved camshafts, new intercooler, custom exhaust system, front-mounted oil cooler and increased displacement to 3.4 liters. The result generated 375 horsepower, with power transferred through a Ruf-designed 5-speed gearbox. Porsche stuck with a 4-speed on Turbos until 1989.

Ruf’s package was completed with a deeper front fascia, Ruf-designed wheels, Recaro sport seats, a custom dashboard and a custom steering wheel. The BTR could do 0–60 mph in 4.3 seconds, cover the quarter mile in 12.5 seconds at 112 mph, and attain a top speed of 190 mph.

A dynamic driver

Our subject BTR was a Ruf conversion based on a wide-body 930 Turbo with a sunroof. As discussed, this is the “least desirable” spec for one of these cars. It’s not a factory Ruf, it uses the wide-body tub, and is based on a heavier sunroof car at that. But if you’re looking for a driver, none of that matters so much — provided the price is right.

While W09 BTRs sell for $350k–$450k, this conversion rightly sold for much less, $176,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $90,000–$100,000. RM Sotheby’s estimate undoubtedly reflected the car’s 52,000 miles, at least six owners, a full repaint, and a CARFAX-disclosed accident of unknown severity.

Did the buyer overspend? Perhaps, especially if the accident was anything more than minor. But for shorter money than a factory-built car, the new owner still has all the Ruf engineering in a nice-looking, driver-quality example. The bragging rights and performance are sure to return high grins per dollar regardless. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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