The horsepower wars of the 2000’s have been interesting to watch, but what about the top speed wars of the 1990’s? McLaren’s first road car held the record for fastest top speed until the Bugatti Veyron came into the picture in 2005. Aside from the McLaren F1, there were a few other cars racing for the crown that are often overlooked in today’s world of big horsepower cars. The Bugatti EB110, Lamborghini Diablo, Ferrari F50, Jaguar XJ220, and RUF CTR2 were battling to reach speeds comfortably above 200 mph. Of all of these cars, the most interesting one for me is the CTR2.
In 1987, a small shop from Pfaffenhausen, Germany named RUF was made popular by their insane Porsche 911-based car, the CTR (a.k.a. Yellowbird). The car achieved a top speed of 213 mph, which made it the fastest production car in the world at the time. Fast-forward to 1995 and RUF came out with the successor to the Yellowbird, the CTR2. From this CTR2, came 13 CTR2 sport models that were produced between 1995 and 1997. Of course, the top speed was higher than the previous generation. The car was able to hit 217 mph, which made it the second fastest production car of the entire decade.
RUF is a manufacturer, not a tuner. This is something that many people get confused about. Porsche sent unmarked bare chassis called “bodies in white” to RUF in those early days. From there, they engineer their own car from the ground-up. RUF has its own VINs, which officially makes them a manufacturer.
They also do conversions on cars that started life as a Porsche, but those cars never get the same treatment as the flagship cars from RUF. The CTR2 had a production run of 31 cars in total. The interesting thing about the CTR2 is that the car was offered in rear-wheel drive as well as all-wheel drive.
The history of the CTR2 is a very special story. You would never think that a RUF was an underdog, but that’s how underrated these cars are. In 1997, two brothers named Steve and David Beddor went hill climb racing with RUF CTR2 “prototypes” at Pike’s Peak and took 2nd and 4th place in open class where every other car in competition was a fully prepped, stripped-out racecar.
Meanwhile, the Beddor brothers drove their street-legal cars to and from the race and went on to win more than 20 other events, including the Virginia City Hill Climb three times. Their father, Frank, had a black car commissioned in sport trim that just happens to be the car that I was lucky enough to get seat time in.
The CTR2 Sport looks special to a car enthusiast, but the specialness of it doesn’t end there. It feels superior to any supercar that I have ever driven, and even sounds special too. The ridiculous boost shove that you get, well into the rpm range, is the one of the silliest ways I have ever felt power delivery, and I absolutely love it. Somewhere around 4,000 rpm, (not sure about the exact rpm because once it spools, you better be paying attention to the road) you must be ready to hold on for dear life if your foot is planted, because all four wheels WILL spin in second gear. Every gear after that somehow feels even faster in boost. It is a different sensation of acceleration compared to anything else that I have driven, including cars that were lighter as well as cars with more horsepower than the RUF.
Steering feel in this car is so phenomenal that it feels almost telepathic. Rather than pointing the wheel where you want the car to go, it feels as if you’re just gracefully making suggestions to the car and it is listening to you every time. The ride never felt harsh, yet I could just feel everything through the wheel. While on the subject of ride quality, I couldn’t believe how balanced the suspension felt. For being a top speed record contender in the 90’s, I’d say that the CTR2 ride is surprisingly great. The only suspension-related fault that I found was the seemingly unnecessary bad turning radius. Other than that, the car is theoretically daily driver friendly, in my eyes.
The interior of this car in particular is extraordinary. Finished in green leather with analog RUF gauges, exposed carbon fiber doors, floor-hinged pedals, and a modern Porsche radio unit, the inside of this CTR2 sport is a place I want to be. The seats are possibly the nicest bucket seats that I have ever sat in. Aggressive, yet comfortable even for a ‘larger gentleman’ such as myself.
The pièce de résistance is the little metal knob located down by the right side of the shifter, which happens to be a rare Porsche Motorsports-inspired part that allows you to switch torque bias from 69% rear : 41% front all the way to 30% rear : 70% front in the all-wheel-drive system. That means from mainly push to mostly pull! Designed primarily for rally driving, ice racing and practice, the catch is that using this part significantly wears out the transmission, front differential, and rear differential. Rumor has it that only 4 cars were equipped with this part, and what makes it even cooler is that the knob has no label. It’s almost as if the part was being hidden from anyone but the lucky few that got to drive the car.
But wait, there’s more…
More cool hidden functional parts that the untrained eye would not catch when privileged enough to even see a CTR2 sport in-person. There’s an integrated roll cage that is tucked under the headliner. This allows RUF to actually get rid of the rain gutters from the top of the car, which were a structural element, in order to have a cleaner aerodynamic roofline; especially important in the 200 mph range.
Speaking of integrated functional parts, there is a really neat two-level rear wing on the rear of the car with openings at the top and bottom levels; one for air intake and the other for sending air to the dual intercoolers while maintaining functional aerodynamics to keep the car planted at high speeds. The aerodynamic features continue as a theme throughout the rest of the unique wide body panels and bumpers, which create a beautiful shape.
The Bottom Line
This car was something I only thought I’d be able to drive in video games. I never fathomed that I would actually meet my hero car. How does the saying go again? “Don’t meet your heroes,” right? I’m willing to bet that whoever said that never considered a better hero because I finally met mine and it was even better than I could’ve imagined. From being daily drivable to being raw and analog, yet having modern motorsport technology in it, to being beautiful and practical at the same time, to being subtle amongst the average civilian population yet an absolute unicorn to the discerning enthusiast, it is a Swiss army knife of a car and I couldn’t imagine asking anything more from a car.
The RUF CTR2 may just be the most perfect supercar ever made.
Counterpoint by Thanasi Chalkiadakis
I moved across country in October. The common theme with my friends on the East Coast is: “Don’t meet your heroes.” Often, when you meet people you idolize, you are let down. They are not the image that you built them up to be. The CTR2 Sport however was everything and more. My 10-year old self, who idolized RUF would have been delighted.
Sitting inside, the wide wings around the shoulders hugged me perfectly; I could tell that I would be comfortable during all types of driving. However, I was not used to the clutch position. Having never driven a car of this era (Porsche or RUF), I cannot speak to whether this is a product of the car or RUF’s tuning, but it threw me off. I felt as though I had to angle my left foot to push the clutch down. This car is incredibly easy to drive. During town driving, it is well mannered. The throws, while long, are easy to row.
Getting up to speed, the car was solid. I could drive this car cross country and feel refreshed. The suspension tuning is world-class. The CTR2 Sport never falters.
I was reserved with the CTR2 Sport. I was never over 50% throttle, and because of that the boost felt extremely progressive. The sensation of speed is amazing. The boost comes on in waves and feels like it will last forever. The records make sense. The RUF is fast.
Counterpoint by Derek S
My recent experience with the RUF CTR2 Sport began with admiration of its aggressive stance, exaggerated hips, and attention to detail, down to the matching green numbers on the instrument cluster. Upon cold start, a raspy harmonic tone arose from the centered single exhaust pipe of the air-cooled, horizontally opposed, turbo-charged six cylinder engine. After a quick stop at the gas station – scratch that – what should have been a quick stop if it wasn’t for four people coming by to take pictures and chat about the car for 20 minutes, I was off.
The 1-2 shift was effortless as the gearbox felt like a hot knife in butter. Shifting at just below 3,000 RPM through 4th gear, this 22-year old car felt like it just rolled out of the RUF workshop in Pfaffenhausen. The steering was crisp, the suspension was tight, and my confidence in driving this machine was growing by the second. After a few easy miles, it was time to do a few pulls. Merging onto the freeway, accelerating in second gear, the sound of the turbos spooling was equally frightening and exhilarating. Being respectful to both man (the owner) and machine, I upshifted around 4,000 RPMs, well short of where maximum power is achieved which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,500 RPMs.
After a couple more freeway-speed pulls, a smile was now permanently attached to my face. For me, what makes certain life experiences even more joyful is realizing, in the moment, that what you are doing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ll sum up my brief time in the CTR2 Sport in the words of Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up”.
Primary Author’s Biography
Michael Gallardo found interest in cars at around 6 years old. Going to the drag strip to watch NHRA races and riding in his Dad’s VW Beetle were the earliest memories that he can credit his passion to. A year after high school, Michael bought his first car, a 1986 Porsche 944. Ever since then, he has been switching it up and trying to experience all of the cars that he possibly can. Interests include watching Formula 1, going to the shooting range, collecting watches, trying new places to eat, and an occasional round of golf.