New Cars + New Gear + New Technology
The number of Dutch supercar companies can be counted on the fingers of one finger. Spyker doesn't have quite the heritage of some well-known Italian and German makes, but it's working on it. And there's no better way than taking part in Le Mans and mixing it up with the big boys. Spyker's creditable fifth-place GT2 class 2009 finish there, beating Porsche, gave it more credibility. Although there was also the 2007 season in Formula One, where $100 million went up in smoke. Incredibly, the company weathered that storm to bring a new car to market.
The C8 Aileron Coupe is based on a longer wheelbase than previous Spykers, primarily to house an optional automatic transmission (something prospective customers have been asking for), in this case a ZF six-speeder. It also has the happy effect of not only enhancing ride quality, but bringing harmony and balance to the design's proportions and lines that were likewise missing from early Spykers.
That slight awkwardness has gone, and the curvaceous Aileron coupe looks like a mature sports car from a mature company. Not bad considering this is only ten years on from Spyker first opening its doors. Well, re-opening, because the marque started in 1875 when the Spijker brothers became coach craftsmen (counting Dutch royalty among their clients), then car makers, then airplane builders.
But the Spyker name receded into history, to be resurrected by Victor Muller, lawyer and total car nut. He even designs the cars. Muller's marketing strategy seems to be based on the old joke: what do you get the man who has everything? His typical clients are successful, self-made people who have nothing to prove. They already have the Ferrari, the Porsche, the Bentley, the Aston, plus a few other top-notch badges in their garage, and they're looking for something fresh, something few other people have, yet still sufficiently impressive to be a status symbol. Hey, a gap in the market is a gap in the market.
If anyone was wary of getting a Spyker before, they might like to reconsider the Aileron. It gets all the right reactions, from people in gas stations asking: "What the hell is that?" to everyone else asking: "What the hell is that?" The good thing is, though, the chassis has all the right reactions too.
Some cars feel great, agile and fast on the street, but fall apart at the track-the talent just isn't there (even the BMW Z3 M Coupe was guilty of that failing, it became too soft and wallowy). That's not the case with the Aileron. If anyone actually wants to take a car that costs upward of $200,000 for a track day, they'll find the Aileron an interesting proposition.
Take a set of Bilstein coilovers, mix in a set of Eibach springs and a double-wishbone setup, then get Lotus to whip it all up into a feast of handling prowess. This thing grips. And grips. As one might expect from a company whose knowledge in the dark arts of suspension tuning is recognized and lauded throughout the world. Not only that, there's a tactility to the steering and chassis that conveys to the driver almost everything that's going on with the wheels and tires. A necessary attribute, because the engine takes some containing.
Mid-mounted in a super-rigid aluminum spaceframe is an all-aluminum 4.2-liter V8 made by Audi. From the factory, it develops 300 hp, but an ECU re-flash and optimized breathing boosts output to a substantial 400 hp with 354 lb-ft of torque sent to the rear wheels, enabling a standstill-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 187 mph. In a car that weighs not much more than 3,000 pounds (thanks in part to hand-rolled aluminum panels and even hand-made aluminum pedals), the acceleration is phenomenal. As is the exhaust note when Sport mode is engaged (merely bypassing the baffles, but it provides a great mid-range bark).
Considering the hours that go into making this car by hand, where each model is fashioned according to the tastes of its buyer, a starting price of $214,990 for the Getrag six-speed manual-equipped version isn't so bad. The aircraft-style switches in the turned aluminum dash cost $50 each, and there's plenty of them-including an ignition switch under a red flap, as if the driver is about to power up a jet fighter. There's a pleasure to be had in such rituals. The interior is decidedly ornate, with swathes of fine leather and details only found in a Spyker, like the exposed gearchange mechanism or the hand-stitched steering wheel logo.
Attention to detail is just as obsessive-compulsive on the outside: the company motto, Nulla tenaci invia est via (For the tenacious, no road is impassable)‚ is engraved into the aluminum tips of the twin exhaust pipes. And those 19-inch turbine-design alloy wheels do more than just look good-they have a cooling effect on the AP Racing braking system. Talking of brakes, the Aileron is the first Spyker to have power-assisted stoppers, along with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution.
The whole car is kind of a cross between a Lotus Elise and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Once the options and accessories come piling in, the final price might even make the Sultan of Brunei blink. For $17,500 comes an audio system upgrade from the Kharma (another rare Dutch high-end company) Reference to the Grand Reference. Or how about the Chronoswiss package where the switches and dials are fashioned in the style of this expensive (is there any other kind?) Swiss watch brand? Just $9,500. And there's a bespoke four-piece set of Louis Vuitton luggage for a mere $22,500. For that money, they need to be designed by St. Christopher himself and sewn together by angels. But someone who buys a car from a company that only makes 75 examples a year obviously doesn't mind paying for exclusivity.
A Spyker owner joins a select club where he or she will be invited to various gala events throughout the year like Pebble Beach and the Monaco Grand Prix. Muller seems to know every car the company has built by their serial numbers. He'll talk fondly of, say, 134 like it was an old friend. Strangely enough, cars made by hand do seem to have more of a soul about them.
As wonderful as they are, the big car names like Lamborghini, Bugatti and so on are familiar; we know their design language inside out. A Spyker really is something different. This coupe and the upcoming open-top C8 Aileron Spyder (which will bear a $25,000 premium) could well see Spyker's coming of age, where it takes its place among the pantheon of desirable marques, the car that puts the Spyker name on the general public's mental map. Let's hope that pesky recession passes soon.
A potted history of Spyker
What do martial arts film star Jet Li and the late Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands have in common? They've both been transported by Spyker vehicles. Good Queen Billie waved from a golden carriage at her 1898 coronation (which is still rolled out for special occasions) made by Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker, and leaping Li enjoyed a Spyker C8 Spyder in the chop/kick/shoot-em-up movie, "War." Because, y'know, his character was a shadowy underground figure who didn't want to draw attention to himself and must have thought a Toyota Camry was too showy.
2010 Spyker C8 Aileron Coupe
Longitudinal mid engine, rear-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, 24-valve
Getrag six-speed manual; optional ZF six-speed automatic
Double wishbones, Bilstein coilovers, Eibach springs, Lotus tuning
Brakes AP Racing four-piston calipers (f & r), 14-inch cross-drilled and ventilated rotors (f), 13-inch cross-drilled and ventilated rotors (r)
Length/Width/Height (in.): 180.7/76.8/50.0
Wheelbase: 107.3 in.
Dry Weight: 3142 lb
Peak Power: 400 hp @ 6800 rpm
Peak Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 187 mph
Although they had been an Amsterdam-based coach-building concern since 1875, the Spijker brothers got into the brave new world of automobiles the same year as their golden carriage came out. Perhaps they thought it would be a good omen. For a while, they were right. Early cars (powered by Benz engines) were well received. Spyker (the spelling was changed in 1903 to appeal to a more international clientele-remember, cars were the exclusive preserve of the rich in those days) brought out the first car to deploy a six-cylinder engine. Called the 60 HP, it was a racer and also the first car to have four-wheel drive and four-wheel brakes. Spyker scored some good results in the burgeoning field of motorsport, including a second spot for the 1907 Peking to Paris run (driven by a privateer).
However, 1907 would turn out to be a bitter-sweet year. Hendrik-Jan was on a ferry coming back from England when it sank. His death sent the company into a downward spiral that culminated in bankruptcy. A consortium stepped in, but Jacobus was out of the picture by then.
It was decided that Spyker would expand into aircraft manufacturing. During the First World War, Spyker built 100 fighter planes and 200 aircraft engines. The aviation theme still runs deep in the current company, with a propeller as the dominant element of its logo and the latest model named after part of a wing. Aerodynamic design informed the styling of models as early as the 1919 Aerocoque.
Post-Armistice, things went well for a time. The C4 boasted a new-fangled twin-spark engine (this unit was built by Maybach, with an ignition designed by Bosch). A 1921 example set an endurance record-36 days of continuous driving, racking up 30,000 kilometers (18,641 miles). In 1922, a Spyker C12 took a speed record at the legendary Brooklands circuit in England. British driver Selwyn Edge averaged 73.9 mph.
That wasn't enough, though, to stop the company going under in 1925. It looked as if Spyker was destined to become a footnote in automotive history, but for the efforts of Victor Muller (along with business partner Maarten de Bruijn, who parted ways in 2005). Once a lawyer, but always car-mad, Muller is charming, funny and eminently likable. His passion is infectious. Which is probably how he's managed to get backing from various moneyed sources (including Mubadala, an investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi government that controls five percent of Ferrari), to make the marque anew.
The 2000 British Motor Show saw the unveiling of the Spyker C8 Spyder, a hand-made open-top sports car with lashings of aluminum and a 4.2-liter Audi V8 nestled amidships. The following year marked the debut of a hard-top version: the C8 Laviolette. Then there came a few variations, plus a striking Zagato-bodied model with the VW/Audi/Bentley W12 engine and the LM85 Le Mans race car.
There are plans for the D8 Peking-to-Paris all-wheel drive vehicle (yes, that's its name) to come out in 2010. At $350,000, it will be the world's most expensive production SUV. And with the exchange rate the way it is at the moment, Spyker is considering the Corvette ZR1's drivetrain for its America-bound sports cars.
Every body panel and component of a contemporary Spyker is numbered to identify it as belonging to a particular car. Owners can come to the factory to check on their car's progress, or they can watch online via a webcam. Let's hope Spyker sticks around longer in this incarnation. -Colin Ryan