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Spyker C8 Spyder - Airborne

Spyker creates a new breed of supercar.

Les Bidrawn
May 23, 2011

There’s this guy down the street from me. He’s a former Marine trained in electronic engineering. You know the big nose on the F4 Phantom? It houses a great deal of his electronic wizardry.

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Dennis has outfitted his garage with every tool known to man. From multi-axis lathes to precision TIG welders, Dennis has it all. Most of the stuff he makes is wrought from aluminum or titanium. Even simple hinges are beautiful, each part fitting perfectly into the next.

I get the same feeling while I’m driving this new gen of Spyker supercar. Each piece, every bolt, even the tiniest switch is artfully finished, not just for looks but function as well. It’s not uncommon for people to simply sit in the cabin and marvel at the craftsmanship. Nothing this beautiful and complex can actually run, can it? No, these cars must be models. In fact, don’t touch anything; it may break.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Each and every Spyker that leaves the factory is literally as strong as the metal it’s carved from. I learn this after a few attempts to engage the open shifter. It takes a while to become smooth but once mastered, it’s second nature.

Though not as popular as say, a Ferrari, the Spyker nonetheless appeals to a select group who appreciate fine craftsmanship. Each piece appears to have been built by a craftsman who devoted his entire life to master that particular part. Anyone who owns a Holland & Holland firearm, Gerstner tool chest or Leica camera will appreciate the work.

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The pair commissioned on these pages are based on Spyker’s C8 chassis, one a Spyder convertible, the other a hardtop Laviolette.

Although this C8 chassis has been replaced by a newer and longer chassis, this pair still represents what are arguably the finest in mass-produced, hand-built vehicles in the world. Moreover, their Audi-sourced 4.2-liter V8s have been augmented with VF Engineering superchargers, which transform these fast cars into extremely fast cars.

I learn this the moment I poke at the gorgeous aluminum pedal cluster. While a normal Spyker will pin your backside to the seat, these particular cars seem intent to rupture organs. Carly, my 19-year-old daughter, is riding shotgun. Though she was raised in cars like the Viper, C5 Corvette and assorted Porsche 911 Turbos, the pure shock of acceleration turned her eyes wide as saucers. She tries reaching for her phone (I’m sure in hopes of Facebooking the adventure) but can’t lift her arms forward. I let off a bit and the car virtually slams to a halt. It seems I left the handbrake on (it’s hidden at the base in left side of the passenger footwell). We’ll try this experiment again, maybe let her get some video. No such luck. A hard stab of the pedal and the phone is pressed to her face, saucer eyes filling the screen. Should make a good video.

The chassis is set up with independent suspension (horizontal front shocks) and coil springs all round; its frame is set up for the track, F1-style. Michelin tires and direct steering (no power assist) give the driver a firm feel on the road or track. There’s no finessing these brakes. The harder you stomp, the harder they grip. Brakes receive no vacuum assist to help apply pressure to giant AP Racing calipers up front.

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Overall, the car is superbly set up for the racetrack but engine performance left one driver wanting more (see Black Spyker C8 Spyder sidebar). This is where VF Engineering steps in with a 6-psi supercharger system. With a sizable list of successful force-fed cars, VFE has been creating supercharger systems for German motors for many years. They couple a Magnuson roots supercharger unit to a cast aluminum intake manifold and slide in an air-to-water heat exchanger. The heat exchanger (known as an aftercooler) transfers heat out of the air charge to provide improved and consistent combustion performance. VFE neatly integrates a separate water reservoir (authentically matching the Spyker aluminum engine coolant tank) together with an electric pump and front-mounted water radiator to keep the aftercooler circulating with a constant supply of coolant.

The supercharger is driven off the serpentine belt wrapped around the stock crank pulley. The pulley diameter ratio governs the amount of boost the supercharger develops and VFE carefully chose this setup with conservative limits in mind. On the dyno, the supercharger contributes by creating an additional 100 hp and 80 lb-ft of torque. VFE recommends its custom clutch to deal with the extra beans.

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In an era when electronics reign over most performance cars behavior, the Spyker is like mounting a wild thoroughbred. For the first time in several years I actually had to use both feet to heel-and-toe. And with the tremendous torque at the rear wheels, I could simply power my way out of unplanned mischief. It was the most satisfying drive I had since a stint in the Jim Russell Formula 3 cars at Sears Point Raceway.

A shifter cart is the best way to describe a Spyker, a very luxurious shifter cart. I’m pulling so much g-force, Carly has long given up filming the event. She merely hangs on to any grab handle in reach and grins like a lunatic.

We make it to the top of the hill and Carly mentions she’d like to try it. Although she has considerable driver skill, most of it was augmented in a car configured with electronic driver aids. All the Spyker has is ABS and getting it to engage means you’re near death. No, the Spyker is not a car for the average driver, at least not the way I’m driving it. Sure, it’ll poke around town looking like a Rodeo Drive stud but that’s not what its engineers intended. The Spyker is a genuine sports car, something of a throwback in an age where its contemporaries essentially drive themselves.

Green Spyker C8 Laviolette #163

This vehicle was new when supercharged and treated with custom coachwork for a perspective Spyker owner looking for a truly unique piece of jewelry. To address the supercharger whine, VFE chose to revise its manifold design to use the newest sixth-generation Magnuson/Eaton supercharger: the TVS1900. This unit is not only virtually silent but also has a higher displacement and therefore efficiency. The result was a power increase of 120 hp and 95 lb-ft of torque. The test driver’s feedback on the addition of the supercharger was: This is a night and day difference, the Spyker now has the balls to match its looks.

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Orange Spyker #165

This vehicle served as a lavish demo model, spending its time happily at International auto shows such as the Concours D’Elegance in Pebble Beach, Calif, and at dealerships around the country. Spyker chose to also have this car treated to a new paint scheme and then a supercharger. Built with the new TVS1900 supercharger system from VFE and a custom exhaust, this Laviolette announces its presence.

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Black Spyker C8 Spyder

Spyker owner Justice Reed was looking for such a vehicle. Between his ’11 Audi R8 5.2 and Lamborghini Murcilago LP640 Roadster, he was looking for a more visceral experience.

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I first saw the Spyker at Concorso Italiono in 2007, but did not drive one until 2009. Spyker hosted an event at the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel during car week 2009. I drove the Aileron, the C8 Spyder and the Laviolette. The event was first class. I preferred the more raw and visceral C8 Spyder to the Aileron, which appeared aimed at a different kind of driver, with its automatic gearbox.

Very shortly after, I was invited to a Spyker event (Meet the CEO’) at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Spyker flew eight of us out there on a private jet. We drove the various Spykers on the track, had hot laps with pros, as well as a team’ autocross event. Victor Muller (Spyker CEO) spoke to us for about 45 minutes and joined us for lunch. His enthusiasm is profound and contagious. The cars were wonderful and I decided I had to own one. Two weeks later, I bought one from Spyker of San Francisco.

The Spyder was everything he’d hoped for, an undiluted shot of pure adrenaline. And while he could stay with his buddies in the corners, the Spyker was lacking on the straights.

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When I got the car, I was thrilled to discover it could outpace my friend’s Ferrari Scuderia in the twisties. But I was dismayed to discover that the Scuderia could smoke the Spyker on the straights, and resolved to solve that problem. I contacted Spyker since I knew that a few Spykers had been supercharged in Europe, by MTM. The cost of shipping the car to Europe and doing the installation there was not a wonderful proposition, and Spyker suggested VF Engineering. Nik Saran made a great impression and I drove down to meet him. VFE has been supercharging German engines (such as the Audi engine found in the Spyker) for the better part of 20 years, so it seemed like a good fit. VFE was very creative and careful in the development process, eventually trying out three hardware configurations and four different software regimes in the process before delivering 100 extra horsepower at the rear wheels, as requested. The car can now hold its own on the front straight with my friend’s Italian sports cars, no problem. The VFE supercharger has been rock solid, 100 percent reliable. No issues whatsoever.

The Spyker is hyper-engaging on the track. It is like a go-cart in one sense, but in another, it is a challenge. ABS is the only nanny’ on the car, and it only kicks in short of death. No power steering, no power brakes, no traction control, no stability control. The car is very light at 2700 pounds, so it is wonderful to drive on the track. Because there is no power steering, once you load up the front wheels during braking, it can require quite a bit of force to actually turn in. Until you get used to this, the phenomenon can be vaguely alarming. Also, it is easy to overpower the back end exiting a turn, so some time doing drills on the skidpad isn’t a bad idea, till you get the hang of it. The AP Racing brakes are great, once you get the feel for them.

Although Justice has since traded his Murcilago LP640 for the new Lamborghini Aventador, he has no intention of dumping the Spyker.

It really has no competition. The car is rare, classy, and has a wonderful retro feel. There are only 250 or so in the world, so the chances of finding another one parked outside of Starbucks are effectively zero. There are faster cars. There are more expensive cars, but so what? The Spyker is an attention magnet fully on the order of my Murci Roadster. It’s great to drivesounds amazing. Ideal for fair weather excursions, top removed and stored in the garage. Driving it under the stars is amazing. It will remain in my collection for a long time.

Spyker C8 Spyder

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Longitudinal mid-mount engine, rear-wheel drive

4.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. VF Engineering supercharger system with Eaton/Magnuson TVS1900 Roots-type blower, integrated air-to-water induction cooling system, 6-psi manifold boost pressure at sea level at ambient 60-90F

Six-speed manual

Four-wheel independent suspension, double wishbones front and rear, front and rear stabilizer bars

356mm rear vented discs w/ 4-piston calipers, ABS (f)
330mm vented discs w/ 4-piston calipers, ABS (r)

Wheels and Tires
Aeroblade 10-spoke alloys, 19-inch
235/35 (f), 290/30 (r)

MSRP: $209,990

Peak Power: 500 hp @ 5500 rpm
Peak Torque: 439 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.8 sec.
Top Speed: 187 mph

By Les Bidrawn
242 Articles



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