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The best car video ever – Faszination – started out as a company presentation

Alois Ruf Jr talks TG through one of the greatest bits of driving ever committed to film

Published: 10 Aug 2023

Alois Ruf Jr is explaining how to pronounce his surname. “Just say it as though it has two Os in it, like Fiddler on the Roof,” he says with a smile.

The briefest of pauses, and he continues. “‘Ruf’, in German, means to ‘call’ – as in, I got a ruf,” he says, “and also it means reputation. If you have a guten ruf, that means a good reputation.”

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It’s a perfect juncture into the most famous car video ever filmed; a video whose ruf has transcended not only generations, but even physical format, premiering first on VHS and then immortalised on YouTube.

Photography: DW Burnett for Top Gear

Faszination on the Nürburgring. A grainy, wild, 20-odd minute epic of one man in white socks and a t-shirt casually sawing away at the wheel of a Ruf CTR ‘Yellowbird’ at frightening, terrifying speeds around a then little known racetrack.

“It wasn’t terrifying for Stefan,” Alois jokes about driver Stefan Roser’s steel-plated confidence in throwing around the world’s fastest car with merry abandon. “He knows the Nürburgring like his back pocket.”

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Another pause. “It’s a funny story.”

Before we get to the funny story, some context. The Ruf business dates back to 1939, when Ruf Sr – Alois’s dad – started a garage in Pfaffenhausen, Germany. A couple of decades later and work focused on servicing Porsches. Following Alois Sr’s passing in 1974, Jr took over the reins and immediately indulged his passion projects: modified 911s. A number of steroidal Porsches began to emerge from his garage, building up a small, cult following, when in 1987, all hell broke loose.

The ’Yellowbird’ had arrived.

It was a stupendously modified Carrera codenamed ‘Group C Turbo Ruf’ – CTR – and nicknamed ‘Yellowbird’ by American magazine Road & Track because its yellow hue stood out against a grey backdrop. It wasn’t the poster car of the Eighties, it was the car that gave those cars a bloody lip thanks to its top speed of 211mph, making it – for a time – the fastest car in the world.

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Fast forward to 1989. “We wanted to make a presentation of our company,” Alois says, “and Stefan said ‘oh we should maybe go to the Nürburgring and make a few shots, that would bring in a little more dynamism to our presentation of the Ruf company’.

“Because most company presentations are so boring,” he laughs, “nobody watches them. And they have this horrible music. So we decided to make some really dynamic shots from the ‘Ring. We’re driving around, we have a helicopter, a cameraman, and while we were there, Stefan said, ‘maybe there are some people that would be crazy enough to see a full lap. Why don’t we make a full lap for them?’

“That became the movie presentation. Those two laps of Stefan driving… that was fascination,” Alois says. Fascinating machine to do it in, of course. Alois recalls one specific element that enabled its build. “For the first time we had Bosch Motronic, so we could build an engine with a digital engine management system, which at that time was very rare.

“The dyno numbers [during the CTR Yellowbird’s development] were very convincing, and we knew it would last because we really tried to break it on the dyno! We put the engine in the car, and a few days later the event [Road & Track’s fastest cars in the world shoot] happened. We came out with this speed of 211mph, which was of course, breathtaking. That really put us on the map.”

Two years after the CTR’s launch, Ruf would put something else on the map. “I think we made the Nürburgring very famous, because at that time nobody knew where it was. We put it on the map for the whole world through that movie.”

A movie that was basically a flat-out, mostly sideways powerpoint presentation showcasing what this little garage working out of Pfaffenhausen was capable of. A garage with a proper guten ruf.

16 minutes 1 second

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