The new Ruf Rodeo is a concept that celebrates the long rallying history of the Porsche 911, a car that originally wasn’t even meant to go rallying…
It never crossed anyone’s mind to go rallying with a 911 – in the late 1960s Porsche was just making the step into the premier sports car racing class, fighting with V8-engined Fords and V12 Ferraris for outright victories instead of just class wins and an upset here and there.
It was a Londoner from Peckham that changed the fate of the 911, and convinced Zuffenhausen to take rallying seriously. Vic Elford won a lot, even before he met Porsche’s racing boss Huschke von Hanstein in a Cannes hotel. Elford had had enough of his Cortina and fancied a go in one of these newfangled 911s. Over lunch by the side of the hotel pool Von Hanstein explained the issue – there was no rally department in Stuttgart, much less any plans for rallying a 911. The most Elford could coax out of the German was a loaner for the 1966 Tour de Corse, just to get a feel for the potential of the 911.
In Corsica Elford’s 911 duly showed up for the tour of the island, known as the ‘Ten Thousand Turns Rally’. Von Hanstein sent only a car, without any spare parts, and Elford covered the entire trip out his own pocket. There was no recce car either, so Elford had to rent a French Simca for a 10-day reconnaissance drive to prepare for the 30-hour rally. With no support at all his borrowed 911 finished the Tour de Corse third – convincing enough. Immediately afterwards Von Hanstein set up a 911 rally programme for 1967. And that’s how the 911 went rallying.
It wasn’t until recently that the world seemed to notice, however, that the Porsche 911 has a long and dusty history on the stages. A ‘Safari’ 911 is the latest ‘in’ thing, diverging wildly from the usual tuning trends to denote a car with a jacked up suspension, plenty of spot lights and if you got ‘em, some big mudflaps behind all-terrain tyres. These days every Cars & Coffee has one with a crowd gathered around it.
The trend finally has enthusiasts acknowledging Porsche’s rally history even if the 911 never did actually win the fabled Safari Rally. Back in the day this was a five-thousand-kilometre epic run through East Africa, the toughest rally on the planet. Local knowledge prevails in the Safari with Kenyan driver Shekhar Mehta holding the record with five overall victories, best known for his exploits in a Datsun 240Z. Porsche’s failure to secure a win in East Africa wasn’t due to a lack of trying – a 911 finished the Safari four times in second place.
Which finally gets us onto the subject if you’re still here – Ruf Automobile, the company classified as an independent car manufacturer in Germany but better known for tuning Porsches, has decided to get in on this whole Safari thing with a 911 concept of its own. Except you don’t call it a Porsche, because unlike every other Safari out there this isn’t based on an existing 911. The Ruf Rodeo concept features an in-house designed and developed carbon fibre chassis with composite panels all around, packing a Ruf flat-six engine worth at least 510 horsepower – if that’s not enough you can eschew natural aspiration and ask for the turbocharged option with 700 horsepower.
So far Ruf says the Rodeo is just a concept car but enough demand will persuade the Pffafenhausen company to do a production run. Ruf, privy to the Safari demographic, took inspiration from LA’s Rodeo Drive, the glitzy and expensive paparazzi haven in Beverly Hills. This is why you get a bull-bar covered in the finest leather up front and a lot more natural grain hide inside the car. In fact they’ve straight up gone and fitted leather mudflaps.
To back up the look the Ruf Rodeo features all-wheel drive and beefy off-road tyres, long-travel suspension, plus a knob you can turn to adjust torque split. Oh, and a shovel on the engine lid. And it’s all thanks to old Vic.