Featured: This RUF CR-Converted Porsche 964 Fits In Perfectly In Japan

This RUF CR-Converted Porsche 964 Fits In Perfectly In Japan

Avatar By Ken Saito
August 5, 2019
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Photography by Ken Saito

We all have a car to lust over and daydream about every time we pass a billboard for lottery tickets, and for Daisuke Sakakibara this has always been a Porsche 911. When he was attending university, the 993 generation of the iconic sports car got him hooked on the Porsche brand and kept him motivated in his studies whenever the idea of sake and sleeping in seemed like a better idea than keeping the books open, and with plenty of hard work and a little luck he was able to buy one of his dream cars. But it took a while.

He started out with a fourth-gen Honda Prelude, an inspired choice for a first car, but a long way from a 911. Still, it was the start of a carefully chosen and tasteful group of cars. Daisuke chose the Prelude after seeing it appear alongside Ayrton Senna in a series of Honda commercials in Japan. He enjoyed the car and still praises the high-compression VTEC-equipped inline-four, but since he moved into German cars he hasn’t looked back.

The first foray was with an E36 BMW 318is, which he recalls buying for its touring car connection: “As a JTCC fan, I purchased the Japanese-spec five-speed manual version.” In addition to his first German car, the 318is was also the first one that Daisuke started to modify, bringing the car to Studie AG, Japan’s first BMW-specialized tuner.

After the 318is, Daisuke stayed with the chassis but upgraded to an M3, which he owned for seven happy years: “There was no dissatisfaction from me,” he says, “it was just a wonderful car.” He enjoyed the stock form, but soon upgraded his M3 with Bilstein suspension parts, a Supersprint muffler, wheels from the M3 GT, and a more aggressive front lip. When the time came to replace his M3, he went on the path of least resistance and got himself the next generation version, the E46. “I owned that car for just one year because it did not match me,” he remembers, citing the overall modernization and enlargement of the body size as his main complaints. “I liked the classic driving feel and the feedback of the E36 more.”

Missing the connected, involving nature of the E36 M3 put Daisuke in the mood to replace the E46, and when he became a manager at the IT company he worked for he had the means to attain a dream car: the 993. He bought a silver example that he drove for over eight years, during which time he says he was completely turned on to the wonder of air-cooled Porsches. Of course, he couldn’t help but add some modifications, in this case a Digi-Tec ECU tune, Bilstein suspension, 18” wheels from the 993 Turbo, a 993 RS front lip, and Turbo S front air ducts.

He was quickly becoming an air-cooled enthusiast, which saw him seeking out a rawer version of the driving experience delivered in the 993. This led to a search for a 964, a search that lasted for nearly five years before arriving at the right car. He tells me that he only really enjoyed his 993 for the first two of the eight years he owned it, with much of the time spent waiting for the ideal 964 to swap it for.

“It was hard to find a good example of the 964 generation cars because many of them were being exported out of Japan,” Daisuke tells me. As he puts it, the 964s that did stay in the country could be as nice as those found anywhere else, but they were being offered for ridiculous prices. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that early 964s were becoming eligible for export to the US at the time, and the demand for these “rest of world” cars was now bolstered by a new market. This was also during the big price bump that buoyed all air-cooled Porsches, and so prices in Japan skyrocketed. It didn’t help that the 964 was becoming more popular among tuners thanks to companies like RWB.

Eventually though, in 2017, Daisuke found his perfect car. We went out for a photoshoot with it recently in Kyoto of all places, the same city where he grew up. Finished in Amazon Green Metallic, this 964 Carrera was upgraded by the previous owner to a full RUF CR specification with the conversion carried out by Japan’s official RUF distributor. The CR spec includes changes to the cylinder heads and exhaust system for a 30hp increase to an output of 285hp, along with lowered and revised suspension.

As soon as Daisuke saw this car listed for sale, he drove down in his 993 from Yokohama to Kyoto to see it in person—about a 280-mile journey each way. That was two years ago, and Daisuke has enjoyed calling the car his ever since. He’s added a bluetooth stereo to make it a bit more enjoyable when he gets stuck in traffic. A common occurrence given this is his only car.

Other additions he’s made include 18” versions of the classic RUF five-spoke wheels, up from the 17s that originally came with the CR conversion—these larger rollers are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber. He’s also fitted Bilstein PSS B16 suspension, an Alcantara RUF steering wheel, a RUF strut tower bar, and a BMC air filter. He plans to add 964 RS engine mounts and stiffer Rennline-sourced transmission mounts in the near future, but for now its just general maintenance that’s keeping him busy.

Being a left-hand drive example, there are some sacrifices to be made when driving it in Japan. Things such as parking ticket machines on the other side of the car, and not being able to see if it’s clear to overtake on narrow two-lane roads. But other than those occasional struggles, Daisuke said the 964 is an easy car to get around in Yokohama and Tokyo when he needs to. Most of the time he commutes to work by train, leaving the 964 for the weekends. Regular drives are held on the famous Hakone Turnpike, wherein around 20 or so take vintage 911s take on the nine-mile stretch of mountain road in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Daisuke says one of the best parts of owning his 964 is being part of this community, as he enthusiastically tells me, “Through social networks and blogs we have increased the number of friends we have all over the country!” There’s big love for 911s of every generation in Japan, but even more so with air-cooled examples which have amassed a particularly dedicated following. Daisuke said since joining their ranks his “enjoyment of life has noticeably increased.”

As we were taking photos of the the 964 parked up next to the posh Ginza Six department store in the middle of Tokyo, we were getting a lot of attention from the crowds passing by wanting to snap photos, have a closer look at the badge, or pose next to it for a selfie—Daisuke didn’t seem to mind the attention it was getting! Ginza is a bit like Sloane Street in the UK: A hotspot for the latest and flashiest supercars that people enjoy being seen exiting under butterfly doors. It’s cool that people could appreciate this older and more understated gem in such a scenario.

Daisuke’s got himself a special 964 to play with, and it’s proof that if your dream car doesn’t fulfill your fantasies, it might be hiding a little further back in the timeline.

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