Will the real RUF NATO please stand up?

I’ve received a few e-mails recently asking about the RUF NATO and I’ve really come up somewhat empty on good hard info regarding not only the spec of the car, but its current whereabouts. One thing is for sure though, there are two cars currently in Japan that have been referred to on various forums as the RUF NATO. This blog post will serve to uncover the publicly available info regarding the original NATO, as well as the two cars in Japan.

The Original NATO:  
According to Joe Rusz article “Ruf Housing” from the Road & Track Special Report published in 1986, we know that the NATO is rather stripped down and was used as a “rolling test-bed” for RUF products. Joe was invited to the Hockenheimring with other RUF enthusiasts for a trackday where Stefan Roser, who was later made famous in the FASZINATION at the Nurburgring video driving the Yellowbird, gave him a wild ride in the NATO after it was fitted with an experimental turbo and intercooler that bumped horsepower up above 400bhp. Click on the photo below for a full-size readable version of the article, where the car is wearing German license plate “MN-04258”, MN standing for Mindelheim, the region in Germany where the RUF factory is.

Bingo Sports:  First we have a car that was being represented by Bingo Sports of Tokyo. To me, this car is far too sterile to be the original NATO. It could have been restored to some kind of standard, although to what level and specification a tuner test-vehicle should be restored to is always questionable, as parts and tuning are constantly being tweaked and fudged with to try different configurations on all major components of the car. Still, this car does make for a pretty compelling “replica” if it isn’t the real thing that’s just been over-restored. Besides its outward appearance with rain-gutters shaved (original had them in place), no roof aerial, and “shark fins” on the leading edge of the rear fenders, the car is configured as a BTR III, the final BTR configuration with Motronic fuel injection. The dashboard in this car is also out of a 1986 or newer with its improved defrost ventilation and larger corner ducts. Since Rusz article was published in ’86, it is possible that the NATO was less than a year old at the time, but I have a very hard time believing Alois Ruf would buy a brand-new 930 to make his test-vehicle and for it to end up looking that “ratty” in less than a year. Still, the dash panel could have been retrofitted to an earlier car, but it’s unlikely, as sheetmetal behind the actual dashpad would have be modified. The final piece of evidence though is the 10th digit of the VIN (I have not posted a pic of the VIN plate for privacy reasons) that is the letter M, indicating the car is a 1991 model year. This also complements the video on YouTube of what appears to be the same vehicle indicating the car to be a 1992, which could be a typo or the vehicle could be registered in Japan as a 1992. My conclusion is that this particular car, while very nicely done, is likely a RUF-built replica inspired by the original NATO.

Old Boy: This particular “NATO” popped up fairly recently in Japan being represented by Goo Auto Inc. of Okayama, and later spotted wearing “Old Boy” dealer license plates. At first glance, it is quite convincing and the VIN info provided by Goo Auto indicates the car is a 1986 model year. Again, the question of why Alois would buy a brand-new 930 Turbo and have it end up in such a state is questionable. Of course, it could have be re-VINed too due to its extensive modification. Anyway, it was very ratty when originally posted for sale by Goo Auto and has since been given a sympathetic restoration and spotted around Japan at various shows. Its right-rear fender is riveted on, it wears a boost-control knob on the leading edge of the dash panel, and its ignition switch is absent from the original position on the left side. Before the car was restored, there was a hole where the ignition switch is, which raises red flags, although we aren’t pointing any fingers or making accusations. Also, the front and rear compartments are both black, indicating the car was originally black. Further details on the interior include a bolted in hump extension between the seats which was necessary to fit the longer transmission after the RUF 5-speed was fitted, a bolt-in rollbar and gutted door pockets/lids. Could this be the real NATO? It’s certainly more convincing than the one for sale at Bingo Sports.

I’ve dispatched an e-mail to RUF in Pfaffenhausen for more details, but have not heard back. If you have any info on the real NATO or on either one of these cars, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at info@rufregistry.com.