RUF is known for producing stunningly fast versions of the Porsche 911 as well as lending its expertise towards developing powertrains for cars such as W Motors’ Lykan Hypersport and Fenyr Supersport models. The German company also delicately restores early Porsche models to showroom standard. It’s one hell of a business model.
On the stand at the Geneva motor show, a perennial favorite for designers and attendees alike, is the Irish green-colored SCR, a naturally-aspirated version of the CTR Yellowbird shown last year.
The SCR’s naturally aspirated engine is the last generation Metzer block, a water-cooled flat-six that’s still being used by Porsche in racing today. Its been tuned up to 4.0-liter displacement with RUF induction, pistons and cylinders and delivers 503bhp and 347 lb-ft of torque to the pavement through a specially commissioned six- or seven-speed manual gearbox produced by ZF.
But the icing on the proverbial cake is the fact that the car’s bodywork was created with input from Freeman Thomas, Ford’s recently retired former head of strategic design at the company’s advanced design center in California.
Thomas is known in the design community as one of the designers responsible for bringing the first generation Audi TT design to fruition. But his enthusiasm for the Porsche brand — a company he began working for following his studies at the Art Center College of Design — is also widely known. A co-founder of the R Gruppe, a special-interest club devoted to the modification and preservation of early 911s, his car collection features a series of incredible Porsche vehicles — including an original 356 that competed in the Rallye de Monte Carlo and a 1969 tangerine 911 he had converted into a factory lightweight.
Thomas’ relationship with Alois Ruf and the Ruf family goes back many years. The company has done work on many of his cars (including the factory lightweight conversion mentioned above) and he stores some of his Porsches at their facility in Germany. Thomas says work on the SCR began “a few months ago”, but we’ll take that with a grain of salt.
The SCR pays homage to the original 1978 RUF model of the same name. But while the original car had a large front spoiler with round brake-cooling ducts, a whale-tail spoiler at the rear and was powered by a 3.2-liter six-cylinder uprated to 217hp (up from the standard 180hp output of the 911 G-models), the new car makes use of advancements in technology for even more performance.
The RUF SCR 2018 has its own carbon fiber body that takes advantage of the full carbon tub, which has allowed for basic packaging improvements over a conventional G-model 911 as well as considerable weight savings. The new SCR’s exterior dimensions have also been entirely modified — though you wouldn’t know from a quick look — and the aerodynamic qualities of the car have been significantly improved.
“The overall length is identical to that of a G model 911 (1974-89), but every section has been massaged,” says Thomas.
Besides the obvious headlamps and taillamp changes, there are a lot of nuances in the body of the car. The radius of the body comes over the massive rear haunches into the back of the decklid, the rear haunch has a new air inlet, the handles sit flush within the doors and the car is devoid of drip rails.
“The door section is really important,” says Thomas. “Even though the glass planes are in the same location, the shoulder has an extra 30mm. It’s just a gorgeous section. When you look at the original car it looks almost too flat now.”
That surface transitions all the way down the bodyside. The front axle has been pushed an extra 20mm forward, shortening the front overhang, and the rear axle shifted 50mm further back, allowing for a 70mm longer wheelbase. The track has also been pushed out.
“The width is about what the 959 is,” says Thomas. “And because the door surface is out 30[mm] the transition to the flare is so much more emotional.”
For reference, the 959 is 1840mm wide — 189mm wider than a G-model 911.
The emotional aspect of the surfacing is obvious around the entire car, from the front to the rear. Thomas says he was able to carry out the design from RUF’s own development studio in Pfaffenhausen, Germany, with the help of a clay modeler working on a full surface plate.
Thomas notes that the design process was opposite to convention: “The exterior was done first to get the dimension and mockup and so forth, and then the tub was designed to work with it. It wasn’t the other way around, which would have created a larger car. This was to create the compact dimensions, like an aircraft, where you start from the outside then work your way into the inside.”
All of the exterior body panels are made from carbon fiber, which are placed over the carbon fiber monocoque chassis, and the brakes are carbon ceramic. Because of this RUF’s engineers were able to keep the car’s weight down to just 1250kg.
The cabin has fully adjustable steering and fixed-back hounds-tooth Recaro seats, but there’s a very familiar feeling when you’re inside. It has thin pillars with an integrated roll-cage and airbag systems, which are all hidden from view to augment the visceral driving experience.
“It’s a fully analog car,” notes Thomas. “The only electronics are in the engine management, traction control and ABS brakes.”
Thomas told Form Trends he came down from Pfaffenhausen to Geneva in one of the prototypes and was able to test the car’s top speed on the Autobahn. “On the [Yellowbird] turbo it’s 360[km/h], which is about 225[mph],” he said. “Normally aspirated it’s about 200mph.”
Thomas has clearly been busy since retiring from his corporate role at Ford. Besides his work at RUF, he’s also helping Michelin with the Challenge Design initiative and Summit, and has an advisory role with Chad McQueen and the McQueen family “doing all sorts of fun things”.
“I’m just pursuing passion projects, balancing it between not having too much of a schedule,” Thomas says of his new endeavors. “I’m really enjoying being out of a corporate environment and working with people whose names are on the building. That’s a different feeling. Of course, the place I came from had their name on the building, but there [were] a lot of filters in between.”
Retirement sounds fun…