Like the dogs we are... RUF! RUF!

Here in cobblestoned Europe, the word RUF does things to performance-minded souls. Families are torn apart. Single women loved and left. Autumn leaves heaved rudely into the air by 177-mph German two-seaters in the hands of swarthy playboys. A shambles in their wake.

The Porsche transmogrifier from Pfaffenhausen has just burnt another hole in my Euro-trash jeans. Does a 414-bhp "spyder" bodied 987 with a supercharged, 3.8-liter 997 engine mounted rear-midship get you hard, ladies and gentlemen? It do me, by crackee.

Look at this magnificent sled. It's the RK Spyder from Studio Torino and RUF. That 414 bhp lunges from the 3.8-liter engine enhanced with a RUF compressor ("RK" stands for "RUF Kompressor"). Only 49 will be built and they're available now. In Yankee dollars we're talking around $250,000, a far cry from the 987 Boxster S's MSRP of $53,100 and the 986 Boxster S 550 Special Edition at $62K. But then there are only 49 of them, RUF has executed a comprehensive and fail-safe 138-hp/96-lb-ft upgrade on the 987 chassis, and Studio Torino and Toora in Italy have redesigned and engineered every damned bit of the exterior and interior. The workmanship is on a level that would please Leonardo da Vinci, James Dean or Enzo Ferrari, were any of them still with us.

When the twin-lobe RUF supercharger is working at 100% capacity via the custom intake manifold, the sound from the Porsche 356-influenced rear cooling screen above the engine is like a Russian jet fighter passing overhead. I'm convinced that the 4.5 seconds to 62 mph (100 km/h) quoted by Alfredo Stola at Studio Torino and RUF is just a safe underestimate and that the true timing is more like 4.0 flat. Top speed is limited to 177 mph, and at that speed the RK Spyder is more stable than the Budweiser Clydesdales. The wind buffeting the open cockpit is suitably noisy but not violent.

Alfredo Stola sold a large part of his legendary family engineering business in Turin to a group of shareholders in mid-2004 and retains around 15% of the company at this point. Soon after this 2004 divestment, he began Studio Torino to get back to creating highly crafted limited-run cars in the true Torinese tradition.

This showpiece RK Spyder is the first official product. Aside from the clear influence of the original Porsche 356 in the body just behind the cockpit, the painted fender accents in the rear and milled alloy gas cap peeking through the hood are directly from the 550 Spyder. Also in the 550 spirit, there are no external door handles and you need to reach inside to open. In front, the unique headlights help create a distinct Carrera GT look. As Alfredo Stola told me, "Only the left front fender is shared with the Boxster S. Every other piece of the exterior needed to be completely redesigned and engineered in steel, aluminum or carbon fiber to fit our vision."

And this truly is a vision. All of the new bodywork reminded me more of a roofless Cayman S than a modified Boxster S. Particularly in the redesigned front end, the RK Spyder seems a much more mature sports car than the Porsche on which it is based. Alfredo Stola is planning on creating a hardtop version for 2006 and it will be interesting to drive that against the planned Cayman RS edition.

RUF has taken the 350-hp 3.8-liter flat six from the 997 Carrera S and added its own twin-unit, 0.5-bar (7.2 psi) supercharger on top. In addition, the intake manifolds themselves have been switched to RUF's specifications to provide more direct air feed. RUF also mounted new more rapid fuel injectors, racing catalytic converters and, of course, new engine-mapping software and circuitry. To keep the all-important air supply as cool as possible there's a high-volume watercooled intercooler fed by a compact pump mounted behind the gorgeous larger front spoiler.

Sitting in the RK Spyder is extremely comfortable. First, the effect of the spyder body, with the brilliant shaved side windows, elevated rear wall and lower and thicker windscreen frame, leaves you feeling fully embraced by the coachwork. Toora in Italy has created all of the body parts, as well as the two fully electronically adjustable carbon-fiber racing seats covered in orgasmic red leather from Italian furniture experts Poltrona Frau. The diamond-stitched padded leather covering the rear wall of the cockpit hearkens back to Ferraris of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and this helps a lot in deadening all noise reaching the driver's ears. Even the rear upper brake light body and side-view mirrors have undergone custom transformations here-nothing has been left alone. The amount of thought and care in the craftsmanship is incredible.Though the RK Spyder retains the 987 Boxster S's 95.1-inch wheelbase, both the front and rear tracks are now 60 inches wide rather than the standard 58.5-inch front and 60.2-inch rear. This has been done primarily to improve the overall stance of the car visually, but it also has the effect of making the RK Spyder completely unwavering during hot driving sessions on curve-a-plenty roads. This solidity from the 3,086-pound sports car on pavement (dry weight; 2,965 pounds on the Boxster S with six-speed manual) is further accentuated by the low-profile, 19-inch, Z-rated Fulda tires mounted to custom wheels produced by Toora. These five-spoke alloys are forged in three pieces and held together by titanium bolts for a very low rolling weight per wheel.

The drive, in case you're incapable of assuming, is on a level with the best of today's super GTs and roadsters. Steering response from the slightly weighted front rack and wider front axle is immediate, and you get used to this go-kart-like reaction. Response from the accelerator pedal during throttle blips on downshifting was sometimes slow in this prototype, but RUF is on the case already and transitions will get faster. Listening to the engine's voice change at 4000 rpm and then again at 6000 rpm is a fun game to be played frequently. By the end of the day, I wanted to take the RK Spyder for a trans-alpine run into Switzerland or France-because I just didn't want to get out of it.Brakes and suspension have been tweaked to both stop the faster-moving added weight and make the ride more rigid, but they essentially carry over from the 997. Likewise for the transmission, which has already been designed by Porsche to take these levels of power and torque.

Congratulations to the new Studio Torino, RUF and Toora for bringing this new roaring baby Porsche to life. The RK Spyder will be sold through RUF; even though North American sale is still debatable you'd be smart to place your deposit now if this masterwork gives you the itch.


Drivetrain

Longitudinal mid engine,rear-wheel drive

Engine

3.8-liter flat six, dohc, four valves per cylinder, superchargedand intercooledRUF twin-head supercharger w/new-gen intercooler, RUF intakemanifold, racing cats and software

TransmissionSix-speed manual

BrakesBrembo GT assemblies

Wheels and TiresToora custom alloys, 8.5x19 (f)
10x19 (r)
Fulda Extremo, 235/35-19 (f)
265/30-19 (r)

Exterior

Custom aluminum and carbon-fiber panels by Studio Torino

Performance

Peak Power: 414 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Peak Torque: 332 lb-ft
@ 5500 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 177 mph

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