Catching up with Alois Ruf these days can be almost as difficult as catching up with the Porsches that bear his eponymous green logo. We managed to do so just a few hours after he finally returned home following a series of trips that had him crisscrossing continents: Germany to Bahrain, California to Puerto Rico. We were anxious to learn more about his new 440-bhp, mid-engine, limited-edition wunderkind-the dramatically styled RKcoupe, the car he traveled to California to proudly unveil at its world premiere at the Quail Lodge Motorsports Gathering in Carmel.
Herr Ruf was understandably tired when he returned my call, but, as any true enthusiast, not so tired that he couldn't talk cars. And not just about his cars, or Porsches in general. He has a keen interest in automotive history, one that, he explained, played a key role in the development of the RKcoupe and the RKspyder that preceded it, the first RUF automobiles to be designed outside of Pfaffenhausen. In fact, the first to be designed outside of Germany, as Ruf had joined forces with Alfred Stola of Studiotorino in Turin, Italy, to carry out the styling.
"We met about three years ago," Ruf says in answer to my question about choosing an Italian firm to design cars for a company not only geographically (Pfaffenhausen sits roughly between Stuttgart and Munich) but also philosophically centered at the heart of German automotive technology. "I like the style and philosophy he holds concerning Porsche, and he was impressed with what we do on the technical side. We thought we could do something together."
It was Ruf's sense of automotive history that paved the way for the project. "Remember, the liaison between Italy and Germany has been very successful in the past with the Abarth cars," he continues. "Plus, the coachbuilding tradition of Torino is complementary with our job in modifying the engines and suspension. So why not have a RUF car with an Italian body?"
What really sealed the deal was the history of the man who would be in charge of sketching out the design of the RUF RK series and then overseeing its transformation into a production vehicle.
"What impressed us most was Stola's designer, Aldo Brovarone," Ruf confides. "He is of the old school and has a good feel for the lines of a car like we wanted to build."
The 81-year-old Brovarone retired from Pininfarina in 1988 and works for Stola not as a consultant, but, he says, "as a hobby, to keep me in shape." Speaking of shapes, Brovarone has come up with some historic ones, including the Ferrari 375 America Coupe Speciale that was a one-off made for Gianni Agnelli, the Ferrari Superamerica Superfast 2, and the prototype for the Ferrari Dino 206/246. Before joining Pininfarina, Brovarone worked for Piero Dusio at Cisitalia
Brovarone had done a sketch for Stola in 1999 of a Boxster that had extended the 550 Spyder theme to include a cut-down wraparound windscreen and gill-like air vents on the rear fenders. This was to be the basis for the initial collaboration between RUF and Studiotorino, the RKspyder that debuted in the summer of 2005. The RKspyder was based on a Boxster chassis, although Studiotorino says that only the left front fender panel remains unchanged from the "body in white" as delivered directly from Porsche.
"It is a true roadster; remember, there is no top," Ruf says of the RKspyder. "You can only drive it in good weather." Then he laughs. "We have driven it in the rain and you can stay dry as long as you go fast enough. But in the '50s cars like that existed. Even the Speedster was only slightly weatherproof."