RUF vs Singer: In Pursuit Of The Perfect “Porsche”
Photography by Ted Gushue
The Porsche 911 needs no introduction, so just mentioning it up here is all I’ll try to do. What I want to talk about is more than Porsche; it’s what those cars dream they could be when they’re tucked in the garage asleep with visions of carbon fiber, and the snarling monsters that populate other cars’ nightmares are just the P-cars’ fantasies of bigger motors, aggressive cams, and maybe a turbocharger or two. It doesn’t matter how pure, raw, distilled, whatever adjective you like, it just doesn’t matter how good you think your car is, because there’s always something that can be improved, for to be perfect is to be telling a lie. But hey, if the weaker links in your dream car help to make it that way, that’s understandable and contains enough logic that almost no one will argue with you about it if you defend your maladies well.
Some people might want to have a word with you though, because for certain enthusiasts, cars that are widely-revered for their show and go are simply the starting place; if you’re Singer, a stock Porsche is more like the easel that holds your painting than the canvas itself, and if you’re RUF, it’s closer to “Oh yeah, sure sure, that was a cool shape, and the engine in the back is exciting. Let’s use that template and do it all better.”
If you really squint at it, RUF and Singer appear to be solving similar problems. And while many of us will immediately start thinking of the marked differences between the two distinct approaches they take, there are some hazy similarities to get out of the way before the name-calling and side-taking fun can start.
So which path do they tread in tandem? Well, it’s pretty easy to sum it up bluntly: they both do Porsche better than Porsche. Whole expanses of exteriors are swapped out for more aggressively shaped composite panels, the motors belch out more power, the interiors are transfigured into true cockpits with new materials, seats, steering wheels, roll cages, and if it’s a Singer, expect to see almost every square-inch treated to their obsessive compulsion toward upgrading everything; plastic pieces that you don’t see unless you’re circus-contorted under the dash? Make those out of metal, and make sure the finish matches the bolts in the engine bay, because if you’re going to do it, do it right.
Now that we’ve established the very obvious fact that both Singers and RUFs are less modified Porsches and more like Porsche-inspired works of mechanical insanity, it’s time to pick favorites. No, it’s not totally fair to compare these as direct competitors—they do focus on distinct aspects of the driving and ownership experience—but it’s not apples and oranges either.
Let’s start with the newest: the fluorescent Geneva show-stopper that is the latest RUF CTR. The homage to the original Yellowbird is obvious if you aren’t colorblind, and the original’s blistering performance prowess has been amply updated along with everything else. With roughly 700 horsepower produced by a dry-sumped, water-cooled, twin-turbo 3.6-liter flat-6, and a frame-twisting torque figure of 649 ft-lbs being channeled through the 6-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels, this new car is fucking fast. 225 mph fast. 3.5 seconds to 60 fast. And unlike its model year suggests, it’s a lightweight coming in at a claimed 2,640 lbs. How’d they manage that you might be wondering? A full carbon fiber body—created completely by RUF, unlike all of their past cars which use at least some amount of underlying Porsche—helps the CTR stave off the poundage of the modern age.
So, in terms of performance, the RUF wins. Singers are no joke though of course with their Ed Pink-built 3.8s and 4.0s, but when you’re comparing them to a motor with two snails and almost twice the horsepower, simple truth comes into play. As for the handling characteristics of each, I can’t comment—though the inboard coils on the CTR might have something to say about that—though I would confidently choose the CTR to win in a straight line every day of the week, and it’s probably the more fun of the two to drive around the ‘Ring (you’ve seen the video that I’m thinking of right now, I’m sure).
This next part will probably be the biggest source of contention between the RUF and Singer factions; the style. I have to admit and preface that I like the CTR more, so take what comes with a few grains of salt. Singer cars are fanatical in the attention to detail given to their creation. We all know this. The bespoke quilted leather lining the underside of the hoods, the positively gilded interiors that could function as a top design firm’s lookbook, the meticulous approach to every visible and invisible piece of the car is just astounding. It really is. There are quality parts, and then there’s the more nebulous overall quality that can only be achieved when everything isn’t just perfect on its own, but perfect as complements to everything else. That’s the beauty of Singer to me, the whole car is a jewel, it’s not a car that feels like things have been tacked on to it, it’s complete. So when it comes to fit and finish and pure aesthetic impact, it’s hard to top a Singer creation.
RUF takes a different approach here, and one that fits the ethos of the car very well. The interior of the new CTR is like a shrine to Alcantara; it looks to me like the kind of cabin that you don’t so much settle into as it is one that makes you settle into yourself. What I mean is that the interior of the RUF means business—once inside, you know immediately what you’re in control of, and you need to ask yourself deep down if you can actually do justice to this thing. The answer is probably no, you can’t drive the wheels off the CTR, but you sure as hell feel like a racing driver all the same, sitting amongst all that seriousness. It’s just different from the Singer, not necessarily worse. They’re made for different kinds of appreciation, but both of them instill in you the same sense that whoever worked on it did so with care and deference to the car’s purpose.
On the outside things follow the same path. The Singer has carbon fiber panels all over the place, the fenders are stretched to swallow the Fuchs-inspired wide 17-inch wheels, and the trim pieces are, as you’d expect after seeing the interior, flawlessly crafted and applied. It really is the modern, no-expense-spared air-cooled Porsche. So where does this put the RUF? The fit and finish is a little worse on this car—which is probably true of almost any that’s compared to Singer honestly—and the look is not what you’d ever call “refined.” The body is all carbon fiber though, and it rests on RUF’s first-ever totally in-house carbon monocoque chassis. The styling is a clear call-back to the 930-era of the original Yellowbird, but keen eyes will notice the contemporary touches like the lighting setups in the front and rear, as well as the 19-inch 5-spoke wheels. All in all, it looks like a resto-mod G-series Porsche, which is not always a good thing, but it works here because, c’mon, it’s all carbon and it’s a RUF. I love it; to me it looks like the first CTR developed a steroid problem and is doing its best to hide it.
RUF has been around a lot longer than Singer of course, and Singer is the one that’s committed to the creation air-cooled 911 paragons while RUF has kept up with the new models over the years, but there is a little crossover too. Neither is really a “Porsche tuner”—RUF is recognized in many countries as a distinct manufacturer—and neither is a cheap way to reach rear-engined heaven. So, with the introduction of the new CTR, what is your ultimate 911?