City Survivor - Ruf BTR Slantnose

1/23/2013 9:40 PM



Today brings a car I've been trying to snap a photo of for quite a while. It's strange, with all the people in Chicago and all the cars on its streets, but my morning walk and this driver's commute have crossed regularly.


What you see above is not a Porsche. (Readers who've played Gran Turismo know where I'm going with this.) It's a Ruf. Ruf GmbH is a small German auto manufacturer that buys bodies and components from Porsche, assembles them with their own highly modified engines, transmissions, suspensions, and body panels, and attaches unique badging and serial numbers. While Ruf has close ties to Porsche - every Ruf design to date started out as a Porsche - the vehicles are modified to such an extent that Porsche will not actually allow them to carry the name. It's for this reason that a manufacturer with annual production numbers in the hundreds manages to find fame in almost every racing video game on the market. While Porsche is notoriously strict with product licensing, Ruf, as a manufacturer (not a tuner), can independently grant permission to use its products. As a result, the Ruf brand has become a clever loophole to get "Porsche-like" vehicles into video games. 


This particular Ruf is an exceptionally rare BTR Slantnose. The BTR, manufactured from 1979 to 1991, was inspired by FIA Group B racing. This example is one of the earlier models, based on the "930" model Porsche 911 turbo. In some circles, the 930 is known as the "widowmaker", due to a combination of rear-engine weight bias and turbo lag that could cause sudden, dramatic oversteer. While the 930 could be a dangerous toy for executives of the 1980s, in skilled hands it could compete with any car on any road at any price. Ruf took the 930 Porsche and re-engineered almost every component. The engine bore was increased, the cylinder head ports were enlarged, and the pistons, connecting rods, turbocharger, intercooler, intake manifold, exhaust and camshafts were replaced with even higher performance versions. Because Porsches of this vintage still used air-cooled engines, the cylinder barrels were even replaced with a Ruf design sporting revised cooling fins. While Porsche only sold the 930 with a four-speed manual, citing reliability concerns, Ruf found a way to include a fifth gear without compromising durability. Suspension components were strengthened, and custom 17-inch wheels (9 inches wide in the front, 10 in the rear) were fitted. Allegedly, 17-inch wheels were required because there was no contemporary 16-inch tire capable of handling the BTR's power. For the slantnose, custom aluminum panels were crafted for the front, and the rear fenders were flared and vented. All of these modifications combined to create a 400-horsepower, 200-mph world-beating supercar.


With BTR production numbers only in the low hundreds, there is no way to say if this car is an actual Ruf without checking the VIN. However, all the unique body panels, wheels, and badges look correct. The turbocharged, air-cooled, flat-six engine has a unique sound I can only describe (and this is a compliment) as something between a WWI fighter plane and the world's angriest lawnmower. However, even if it isn't an actual Ruf-numbered BTR, Ruf retrofitted many customer 930s over the years, and even a privately-built tribute car would be an undertaking worthy of serious respect.


Also worthy of respect is the owner of this BTR. Whatever its origins, this is a rare machine indeed, and a demanding one at that. The fact that this car is driven into the city every day, even today when the temperature is in the teens and snow is falling, proves that the owner knows this car well and genuinely loves driving it.


City Survivors are photographed in public places. Every attempt is made to respect the privacy of the owner. License plates, faces and other identifying information are intentionally obscured. If the owner does not want their car displayed, Urban Gear Works can be reached through the contact form. Alternately, Urban Gear Works welcomes any owner who wishes to share more about their vehicle.

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