My Car Quest

March 2, 2024

Gemballa & RUF At the Drift Nirvana Car Show

by Derek Meluzio –

Relationships with other car lovers and other like minded motorheads truly are what makes the car world so great. Even though the idea that the importance is more on the people and the relationships, and less about the car itself, sometimes a car is so cool or so beautiful that you really do need to take a step back and appreciate it. I had an amazing time recently at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia at the car show held in the infield at the Drift Nirvana event called “Drifters of December”. Drift Nirvana events happen often and this month they held “Drifters of December” which acts as a season ending festival to close out the year. What made it so special was the car that I was parked next to. It is a Gemballa E30 BMW, a true unicorn. More on that car in a minute, first lets set the stage for where I was.

Drift Nirvana Car Show

The event took place over an entire weekend and utilized multiple tracks and layouts encompassing the entire Summit Point Motorsports Park facility. Drifters took to the main circuit which was once home to many IMSA GTO and GTU events featuring drivers like Scott Pruett and Willy T. Ribbs as well as even hosting the Can-Am series in the 80’s. Numerous top name sanctioning bodies host races there now and it is an amazing complex.

The paddock areas were full of trailers and crews servicing the cars. Any car lover would have been in heaven as you saw all sorts of makes like Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Lotus. Also, don’t forget this is a drift event so everywhere you looked you saw many Nissan Silvia/240SXs, BMW 325/M4s/M3s, Ford Mustangs, Corvettes, InfinitiG35s, Lexus IS300s, and much more. You had screaming rotaries (my favorite), chirping turbos, big rumbling V-8 engines, and great sounding 6-cylinder motors all in one place.

I have attended a few other drifting events with my son in the past but they were more on an amateur level. Drifters of December featured multiple professional drifters and high profile cars and drivers. For anyone who loves not only the visual part of cars but also loves the smells and the sounds…drifting is for you. Some cars were professionally maintained and were perfectly cleaned each time out. Other cars were more…well lets say “grassroots” and budget minded but they were all fun to see and hear. Each of them had tire smoke following them as they slid around the corners often times on the rev limiter.

Drift Nirvana Car Show

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the on track action was when the cars would run in tandem. If they chose to, groups of drivers (two, three, four, you name it) would go out and drift side by side in a gaggle of revving engines and burning tires. As a traditional racing enthusiast I kind of shook my head at drifting at first. You think, “wait, thats not the fast way around the track” or “you aren’t going to make your tires last all stint driving like that.” That being true, when you watch the precision the drivers demonstrate or you see their unreal car control it really is entertaining and impressive.

Last year I had the opportunity to compete in the autocross event during the Fiat Freakout national event in Lancaster Pennsylvania. I finished first in my class and my son Justin took the third place trophy in our class. That was a dream come true. I used to attend autocrosses as a kid with my dad and to have the same thing happen to me with my son was special.

The event also hosted a car show that was held in the infield area between the main circuit and the other tracks. I have a love for rare or oddball cars especially if they are from the 1980’s, 90’s or early 2000’s. I attended the show bringing my 2002 RUF RTurbo modified Porsche 996. My son also participated and drove my 2019 Alfa Romeo Guilia Edizione Nero. The car I drove started life as a stock Porsche 996 Turbo and after I acquired it I worked with RUF Automobile in Pfaffenhausen Germany and the Weissach Group in Canada to transform it into a factory modified RUF RTurbo spec Porsche 996.

RUF is it’s own manufacturer in Germany and they create their own ground up designed and built cars with their own VIN numbers. They also have produced their own RUF W09 VIN’ed cars built from “bodies in white” that they purchased from Porsche. You can also ship your Porsche to them and have them convert it into a RUF. Lastly, if you have a Porsche and a coachworks facility and repair shop that has assembly and paint and mechanical capabilities you can work with RUF to have your car factory modified, which is what I did. I contacted Translog for Porsche which also has a division called Crucible Coachworks and they were able to complete everything. Translog has had multiple RUF customers and had worked with RUF in the past.

Drift Nirvana Car Show

The stock turbos were removed from my car along with the ECU/DME. They were both shipped to RUF Automobile in Pfaffenhausen to be enhanced and tuned. They were returned and installed along with a full RUF exhaust and muffler. A RUF front aero bumper, RUF aero mirrors, RUF wheels, carbon fiber rear spoiler, springs, and a strut tower brace from RUF were also installed. The interior was altered with RUF pedals, floor mats, and door sills as well.

Multiple aesthetic work was done to bring the car to more typical RUF RTurbo spec such as removing the rear wiper, matching the interior trim to the exterior color as well as matching the seats belts, in this case RUF green, to match the calipers. The car is estimated to make about 520 horsepower and drives like a rocketship. I love it. Even knowing all that, one car and the car owner that I met at the event made my jaw drop.

Featured in the show alongside my car was a 1986 Gemballa E30 BMW owned by my friend Dominick. I met Dom at the Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals when we had his car on display in our RUF gathering as a special guest.

1986 Gemballa E30 BMW

Nothing gets rid of life’s stress like spending a day at the track with a fellow car lover and good person. Again, for as cool as Dominick is, his car gives him a run for his money. His Gemballa BMW E30 is a custom one off built by Gemballa on special order for a Japanese customer. Gemballa back then, much like RUF, took a body in white and completed the modifications before shipping the car to the customer in Japan.

The car has a solid one piece fiberglass body. The rear fenders are a whopping 15 inches wider than a standard E30. The car rides on special bespoke Panasport magnesium rims while the heart of the car has a built engine with a stroke and bore as well as a cam and some other goodies to bring it up to 200 horsepower. The car lived a pretty calm life in Japan for almost 30 years before it found its way into the United States. The current owner bought it in February of 2022 and has done a wonderful job of showing it and sharing it with enthusiasts all over. The car has done it all from winning a First Junior National award with the Antique Automobile Club of America and attending Concours in New York City to being the feature car at multiple cars and coffee events and as mentioned before, it was highlighted in our RUF gathering at the Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals as a guest.

The Video below was created by “In My Garage”.

About “In My Garage”: Justin Reyes and Tatiana Rivera came up with In My Garage during the pandemic when all the TV studios and Movie sets were shut down. Justin comes from a long line of car enthusiasts and mechanics so he knows how to act behind a lens and also while turning wrenches. Tatiana joined with Justin during the pandemic downtime and created In My Garage to capture the same feelings you had when you got your first car and fell in love with the automobile. Since then they have been documenting not just vehicles but the people behind them who help make the magic happen. Check out In My Garage on social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Derek Meluzio grew up in a car loving family in Central, PA. He still lives there with his wife, daughter, and car loving sons. Derek is an amateur autocrosser who attends track events, Concours/shows, and Cars and Coffee events all over. He has an appreciation for all cars but especially anything Porsche.

RUF Porsche

Gemballa & RUF At the Drift Nirvana Car Show
Article Name
Gemballa & RUF At the Drift Nirvana Car Show
Drift Nirvana events happen often and this month they held "Drifters of December" which acts as a season ending festival to close out the year.


  1. Thank you as always to Mike for letting me post here. The Gemballa BMW really was so cool and different. The owner refers to it as being “Horrendously Beautiful” and that is the besy way to describe it. If you are a fan of 80’s or 90’s tuner/exotic cars you will love it.

    I also love cars that have a back story or have traveled and this one has and has done both.

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