Yellow Bird Flies Through The Green Hell

Chances are, you think that when I say “Yellow Bird”  I mean an actual bird, a canary perhaps.

You’d be wrong.

What I do mean is the 1987 RUF CTR “Yellowbird”. But first things first.

The Nürburgring.

“For a quick lap at the Nürburgring, you’ve probably experienced more in seven minutes…than most people have experienced in all their life in the way of fear, in the way of tension, in the way of animosity towards machinery and to a racetrack.” —Sir Jackie Stewart

Welcome to Hell.

Welcome to Hell.

The Nürburgring-Nordschleife (as it’s properly known) is the toughest, scariest, longest, most challenging, most dangerous, most intense and most insane race track in the world. It’s 23km long (14 mi). It has more than 100  corners (numbers vary from 98 up to 147, depending on who you ask). It’s so large, entire towns are contained within it. Since opening in 1927, Nordschleife has claimed more than 200 lives and collects between 3 and 12 more every year. Famed race driver Niki Lauda was badly burned after crashing his Ferrari at the left-hand kink just before the Bergwerk carousel. It’s so infamous that Sir Jackie Stewart dubbed it  “The Green Hell”, partly for its level of danger, partly for its verdant scenery. It is so iconic that it has been featured in almost every console car-racing game since 1998.

So it would seem virtual suicide to take one of the fastest, most powerful, most wrongly-designed cars ever and put it on the Nürburgring.

Except that you’re not RUF. Neither, for that matter, are you Stefan Roser, the man who drove this insane vehicle around this insane track, doing insane things at insane speeds. Stefan’s nickname, given to him by RUF owner Alois Ruf, is “Sideways Stefan”, referring to his driving style. When the video was shot Louis expected Stefan to get “bugs on the doors”.

RUF is a tuning company which takes Porsches directly from the factory, strips them down to the monocoque, re-engineers them and rebuilds them.

Pretty bird.

Pretty bird.

Which is what they did for the Yellowbird.

The Ruf CTR “Yellowbird” gained it’s moniker from the staffers testing it for Road & Track, who took note of the contrast between the bright yellow paintwork of the car and the grey skies of the day of the photoshoot. Add the distinctive, high-pitched chirp of the turbocharger blow-off valve, which sounds curiously like a canary’s, and voila! Instant nickname.

The Yellowbird was purpose-built to go faster than 2oo miles an hour (320 km/h). RUF chose the 911, rather than the 930 for the base because of its slipperier shape. Then they replaced the stock steel body panels with aluminum ones. They changed external details, such as replacing the wing mirrors and reducing the rain gutters to reduce drag even more. A rollcage was installed for saftey and rigidity. The engine was bored out to 3.4 litres and for good measure twin turbos and twin intercoolers were added as well.  Suspension, brakes and steering components  were all upgraded and RUF shod it with high-end, lightweight alloy wheels and sticky Dunlop tires. In short, they almost completely rebuilt the car from the ground up.

The result? A car that weighs a feather-light 1,170 kilograms (2,579 lb) and has four-hundred-and-seventy horsepower. What does that translate into?

Really. Bloody. Fast.

It’ll do 0-60 (110km) mph in 3.7 seconds. A quarter mile flashes by in just under 12 seconds at 126 mph and if you press on you’ll eventually hit a top speed of 211 mph (340 km/h). In it’s day it outperformed every other car, including the Ferrari F40, Lamborghini Countach, Lotus Esprit Turbo SE, and Aston Martin Virage. Even today the only cars that are able to outperform it are so-called “hypercars” and it still stands today as a benchmark of automotive excellence.

All this for the bargain price of $223,000.  The best part about this conversion is that if you have a Porsche 911 from that era and you want a Yellowbird of your own, you can still get one.

They did leave out a few things: traction control, ABS, ESC (electronic stability control or yaw-and-spin control), active body control or any other computer-driven safety measures. This wasn’t a car for the Nanny State, the Weekend Warrior or the faint-of-heart. It was a straight analog machine, save for the Bosch electronic ignition system. It was just you, your skill, your understanding of physics and driving, and the machine.

And the machine was very unforgiving.

The problem with earlier generation Porsches is that, well, the engine is where you would usually put your luggage. Eventually you run out of luck, grip or skill, usually all three, all at once. That will eventually result in you exiting a turn backwards. Which makes Roser’s run around the Nürburgring that much more amazing (and terrifying).

This car was the fastest of it’s day and is still considered among the fastest that ever was. The only cars that go faster today are the McLaren F1, the Lamborghini Aventador, Koenigsegg Ager R, Hennessey Venom and the 1001 hp, 16.4 litre, 16 cylinder Bugatti Veyron (and Veyron Super Sport, which has 1200 hp).

Yes, you read that right: 16 cylinders, 1001 horsepower. And that’s just ridiculous.

Without further ado, I present to you the original RUF CTR promotional video, Faszination. Hold on to your ears; we’ve got a live one here.

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