Back in 1987, Alois Ruf stunned car enthusiasts all over the world with the sheer speed of his CTR Yellow Bird. Seemingly from nowhere, the underdog blew away the fastest factory supercars in the famous Road & Track Top Speed shootout at VW’s Ehra Lessien test track, where it was clocked at 211.5mph or 338.4km/h.
However, the real speed event that catapulted Ruf to worldwide fame was the video he commissioned entitled “Fascination Nurburgring Ruf CTR Yellow Bird”. In an epic piece of driving, Auto Motor & Sport test driver, Stefan Roser, pedalled the CTR round the world’s most challenging race track sideways through every bend, and sometimes sideways along the straight bits too.
I have known Stefan for over 20 years, but in all that time we never really talked about his history in the business. So a few months ago, I asked him if he could meet me at Ruf Automobile to be re-united with his steed and do some reminiscing.
It sounds like he is joking when he tells you this, but Stefan really did learn his car control craft in an old 30hp VW Beetle on ice and snow when he was 18. “As it is also rear-engined, the 911 handles very much the same only it is far more powerful”, he said with a totally straight face.
“I had read about such driving when I was in school in the early 1960s, and bought books on rally driving and read about the so-called Scandinavian style”, he explained.
“When I got my driving licence I started to try out these techniques in deserted car parks in Stuttgart during the winter months. Of course I had to do this at night when there was nobody around or I would have been in trouble with the police. It was a lot of fun”!
“At the time some of my friends had the new Mini Cooper, which had 70hp and front-wheel-drive”, Stefan continued. “The car handled incredibly well and I simply could not follow them on a twisty road or even down the straights. But on snow and driven the Scandinavian way, the Beetle had even better traction than the Mini, and on snow tyres it would happily chug up hills on its mere 30hp”.
Stefan’s next car was a much more serious driving machine, but he had only owned the BMW 1602 for three weeks before it was stolen. “This was really annoying as I had installed bucket seats and a Momo steering wheel, and I suspect that it was stolen for those parts,” he said. “With 85hp to play with, I could do on dry roads what the Beetle did in the snow”.
The BMW’s replacement was a Porsche 914, which Stefan modified with a 200hp 2.3 litre 911 race motor fed by two big Weber carburettors with no air filters, and factory S camshafts for improved driveability and reliability.
This car also had uprated torsion bars, a limited slip differential and lightweight interior, and was as fast as the more powerful but heavier 911 Carrera RS 2.7. “It weighed under 950kg with a full fuel tank, and was a really amazing car that delivered a full-on race car feeling,” said Stefan fondly reminiscing.
“At this point I started my first year at the university in Esslingen studying mechanical engineering, but I clearly could not turn up in the Porsche, so I sold it and bought an Innocenti Mini Cooper, which had a 64hp 1,275cc motor".