“Have you driven the new McLaren 720S?” asked Lance Butler before handing us the key to the Ruf-modified 1984 Porsche 911. “It’s that kind of power only without the traction.” His words are still fresh in our minds as we carefully merge onto westbound Interstate 10 in Los Angeles, pulling alongside a white showroom-fresh 911 GT3 RS. The Porsche gods are with us. We do the usual look over. Traffic is light. It’s on.
Feeling for traction, we roll into the throttle, find the carpet, and get our first real taste of the car’s twin-turbo flat-six. Butler wasn’t kidding. This thing is a beast. Gulping 11.6 psi of boost pressure, the air-cooled 3.8-liter flat-six goes off like a small nuclear device above 4000 rpm, revving quickly and pulling hard to 7000. Miraculously, the old 911’s 17-inch Michelins find purchase and, to the surprise of Mr. GT3 RS, we stay with him through third gear and most of fourth.
Some may remember this special G-series 911 from its appearance in the 1989 book The World’s Fastest Cars. Back then it was still in the possession of its original owner, who sold the car to its current keeper in 2015. No, not Butler. He’s the president of El Segundo, California-based Stratas Auctions, an online collector-car auction company that’s been entrusted with this wide, winged, and wicked 911 during the sales process. Identified as a Ruf RSR since the 1980s, it will be auctioned off at some point over the next few weeks. It’s expected to fetch between $200,000 and $250,000.
Like most hot rods, this car has an interesting story. It began life as a Carrera 3.2 in the paint-to-sample color of Tornado Red from the Audi catalog. It was originally purchased in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and was almost immediately shipped to Tore Johnson—Ruf’s United States importer and builder in Long Beach, California—to be upgraded to Ruf BTR specifications. In went a twin-plug turbocharged 3.4-liter flat-six making about 400 horsepower, a Ruf five-speed manual transmission, an X-brace inside its frunk, Recaro seats, racing harnesses, and a Ruf steering wheel and instruments. Also included: a set of Ruf’s iconic five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels.
From there it was sent to Alan Johnson Racing (AJR) in San Diego for its roll cage and wild slant-nose Porsche 935-inspired body, which was crafted out of aluminum. Look closely and 35 years later you can see some of the rivets poking through the top of the quarter panels behind the NACA ducts. An evolution of the RSR, the 935 was one of Porsche’s most successful factory racing machines. They recorded victories all over the world, including in North America’s IMSA series, and scored wins at Sebring, Daytona, the Nürburgring, and at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans. Production ran from 1976 to 1981.
By the end of 1985, AJR had resprayed the car’s red paint and returned it to its owner, who enjoyed it on the street and took it to a few track days, ultimately racking up about 2,000 miles. In the early 1990s, the teardrop mirrors from a 964 were installed, as were Ruf CTR brakes and the company’s new 3.5-liter engine, which promptly ate itself at the car’s next track day. After that mishap, the car was parked for nearly 20 years.
To get the 911 back on the road, its current owner, an Illinois resident, sent the car to Perfect Power, a well-known Porsche shop in Buffalo Grove, which sourced its current engine from Protomotive in Harrison, Arkansas. It’s an enlarged 3.6-liter flat-six from a 993 Turbo, topped with a massive intercooler. It feels pleasantly torquey around town, idling a bit rough when cold but smoothing out as it warms up. We’re told it makes 780 horsepower on race fuel with the boost up, but there isn’t enough traction as it is.
Nail it from a roll in first gear and it incinerates its big 335/35R-17 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sports like a nitro funny car, spiking its tachometer before you can grab the next gear. Anyone who has driven a 911 from this era knows the factory shifter is nicely mechanical yet vague with very long throws. It’s easy to miss third gear if you’re in a hurry.
Perfect Power also had to replace a few parts that had gone missing over the years. The Ruf seats, steering wheel, and wheels were in the wind. More modern replacements from Recaro, Momo, and BBS were fitted. Everything else is from Anthony Michael Hall’s heyday, including the Porsche’s Blaupunkt audio system and that factory power antenna, which rises from the confines of the right front fender upon request. Where’s a White Snake cassette when you need one? Instead, we listen to the machine. It isn’t especially loud but does play an intoxicating heavy-metal mix of race-car rumble and turbo whistle with some blow-off valve noises mixed in as you row through its 993-supplied six-speed.
This modified 911 rides better than some modern sports sedans, cruising beautifully over most surfaces with no harsh impacts or head toss. At a relaxed pace, its manual steering feels alive in your hands and requires less muscle than expected. Its clutch is easily modulated. Start carving corners and its suspension retains its composure with little body roll or unwanted movement. A new set of brake pads may be in order, and its wheel studs have grown rusty, but nothing feels fragile or needy. It’s only been driven about 8000 miles since it left AJR’s shop four decades ago, and the body and paint work have aged beautifully. Its original engine block is included in the sale.
There are a few quirks. Rear visibility is impaired, not only by the enormity of its rear spoiler but also by its roll cage. And the severe width of its rump must be respected. On a mountain road, clipping apexes with the front tires means this 911’s tail is either hung out in the other lane or scraping the mountainside. Otherwise, until you dip into the engine’s power and release its fury, it feels pretty much like a stock G-series 911. And it can be used like one. Soon after its resurrection back in 2017, the owner drove it from Chicago to L.A. to display it at the Luftgekühlt festival. The trip was incident free.
Hopefully its next owner keeps its odometer rolling.
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