The ‘doctor killing’ Porsche and the driver who loves it
“The cars I drive during the week are capable and refined,” Mead Korwin said. “My Ruf Porsche 930 is at the other end of the spectrum. When the boost hits, it will go in the direction the rear wheels are pointed.”
Korwin, 54, is a driving instructor and product trainer, which means that part of his job is teaching civilians like us to drive on racetracks. So he’s often putting modern performance machines through their paces. That gives him perspective.
“At work I drive high-tech vehicles,” Korwin said. “They have no soul – no raw edges. My Ruf will step out on me. Driving it necessitates an assertive technique. In some contemporary supercars I can reach down and change radio stations while cornering. In the Ruf, I fight to stay on pavement.”
The object of Korwin’s affection is a 1978 Porsche 911 Turbo – usually called a 930 – that was upgraded by the renowned German tuning shop Ruf Automobile after it left the Porsche factory. The aftermarket legend can’t verify when it did the conversion, but has said it reworked this car before it took on the status of an automaker – the point when it started building Rufs from bare body-in-white 911s and assigning VINs to them.
Some owners who had enough money to buy the tail-happy car but not enough finesse to drive it, earned it a “doctor-killer” nickname. Korwin’s car is even more extreme than a stock 930. Ruf upped engine displacement to 3.4 liters, installed racing pistons, Group B cams, dual-plug heads, an adjustable-boost turbocharger and an intercooler. Those modifications yielded a 113-horsepower increase, for a total of 374.
A five-speed transmission replaced the original four-speed. An oil cooler and front air dam also were fitted. Other modifications were subsequently made. A roll cage was installed, along with racing seats, a fire extinguisher system, competition seatbelts and an adjustable rear wing. Brake-force proportioning was made variable, so front-to-rear bias can be altered as weight distribution changes during the course of a race.
Brakes and suspension parts were also upgraded, while road-going niceties like impact-absorbing bushings were eliminated. The suspension is solid-mounted.
“On an imperfect road it knocks your teeth out,” Korwin said.
That bone-jarring ride helped cement this man-machine love affair. It takes a special individual to enjoy a car that beats you up, and that describes Korwin.
Mead’s parents, Marcia and Peter Korwin, were racers, so as a child he sometimes had a sandpile at Michigan’s Waterford Hills racetrack as his babysitter. To keep the kids occupied, Peter would toss coins into the sand and tell his children to find them.
Korwin’s father started racing motorcycles in the 1940s. By the late 1950s he convinced his wife to join the fun, and she raced VW Beetles, an NSU Prinz and a Porsche 356. A ride in Dad’s 356B in the early 1970s kicked off his love of Porsches.
But before Korwin was old enough to get deeply involved in things automotive, misfortune struck in the form of cancer. The doctors saved him, and after he recovered his father asked what he wanted to do with his life.
“I want to race,” Korwin said.
“Good answer,” his father replied.
So they built a Datsun 240Z racecar. Other Datsuns followed, including an all-out 280Z for GT2. Today, Korwin campaigns a Formula 5000 Lola in vintage events.
He doesn’t race the Ruf 930, but he occasionally pushes it hard on open track days at Waterford Hills Road Racing Track, and the car is a regular at a weekly gathering in Birmingham, Mich., called Parking at Pasteiner’s.
That’s where we first met him, happy to be behind the wheel of a car that can knock your teeth out and mow the infield grass.