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Spyker C8 – When a Car Becomes Art

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By Chris Pollitt

The Spyker C8 is, as an example of performance car engineering, wonderful. It is, after all, based on the Audi R8 and that is not exactly a poor performer. The C8 has over 400bhp at its disposal, it handles with accuracy and a keenness that makes other cars in this class blush. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, a true driver’s car. Yet, that’s not why you buy one of these Dutch oddities. No, you buy it because visually, it is the most captivating machine imaginable. The Spyker C8 might have the mechanical credentials to make it stand out, but truly, it’s the build, the drama, the sheer lunacy of the design details that pull you in. Frankly, it could have the engine from a Volkswagen Lupo, it would still receive more attention than any other so say supercar. 

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Spyker is not a modern name. In fact, it began way back in 1880 after being founded by a pair of blacksmiths. And their heat-worn hands did good work from the off. In 1898 Spyker built the Golden Coach for state ceremonial use, which was an impressive early gig for the company. It was also a company of firsts. For example, Spyker rolled out the first straight-six engine back in 1903, but not only that, it was fitted to the world’s first four-wheel drive car. Oh, and Spyker was the first to offer a car with four-wheel braking. It was a clever, forward-thinking company. And if that wasn’t enough, it also built planes after merging with the Dutch Aircraft Factory N.V. in 1914. It was at this point the company adopted the motto of Nulla invia est via which in Latin translates to for the tenacious no road is impassable. And for a while, Spyker’s tenacity seemed to be paying off. It built planes for the military, and then when the war passed, it made light passenger aircraft as well as returning to the construction of cars. 

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In the end though, tenacity could not overcome financial constraints. People simply weren’t buying Spyker’s cars, despite it making thirty-seven different models over its life. In the end, Spyker sadly went bankrupt. The company’s British distributor bought Spyker and tried to keep it going, but in the end, come 1926, funds ran out and the company was no more. 

So how then, do we have the Spyker C8? That would be thanks to Victor Muller and Maarten de Bruijn, who gave the company new life in 1999. But the grand tourers of old were not on the agenda. Instead, the pair wanted to take on the big boys and show the world what a supercar should be, hence their first production offering, the C8. 

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Spyker is not a company that does things by halves. The C8 is not a car you just look at and mull. It’s an assault on the eyes and the mind, there is so much to drink in, so much to understand and figure out, and so much to question. The C8, even when just parked up outside the glamorous showroom of Kaaimans International, is an event. Before we teased it outside to allow our lens better access, it was at amongst giants. Testarossas, an Aston Martin Vulcan and a brace of Rollers. Cars that would normally snap necks in the name of a longer look. But they were cars that, in the presence of the Spyker, were left to seem muted and dull. The Spyker C8 stole the show. 

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Outside, we get a chance to explore this over-engineered machine in more detail, and details are in abundance. The doors open upward with a dramatic swing that ends with the car looking twice as big. With the doors pointing skywards, we get our first proper look at the interior. And this is where you see that Spyker’s designers were left to play. There was no consideration here for mass-production or keeping costs down. Instead, they were told to pour their imaginations into the C8’s innards, and pour they did.

There’s that long, exposed gear linkage, polished to a high gloss, that runs the length of the cabin before disappearing through the rear where it meets up with the six-speed transaxle. Then there is the knurled aluminium dash, complete with hand-turned knobs and flight-esque switchgear, no doubt chosen as a nod to Spyker’s aeronautical past. Deep in the driver’s footwell (which, unusually, is on the right hand side of this particular C8) are the pedals, but even they are are a work of art. They look to have been teased and chiselled from a solid block of aluminium, such is their beauty. Beautiful pedals. Honestly. 

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Opening the C8’s front end is another event in itself. As it tilts forward we were greeted by more aluminium. The fan housing is not there as an important element of the car’s cooling system, it’s also there as a work of exquisite detail. Every rivet placed with care, every fold of aluminum formed with clear consideration for how it will look when finished. The inboard suspension is another treat for the eyes, but one that also serves to point out that while visually extraordinary, the Spyker C8 has the engineering to make it a genuine contender in its class. 

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Externally, the subtle black body only serves to highlight the C8’s unique details. There are the 19-inch ‘aeroblade’ wheels, another nod to the Spyker’s skyward past. The side vents that feed the 400bhp Audi 4.2-litre V8 with air are more than just vents. Each one is a precision crafted part, with the one on the left-hand side of the car also playing host to the fuel filler. The billet wing mirror housings again serve to show how the designers were left to run free with their ideas, ideas that were permitted to come into full fruition. 

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Spyker’s modern history has been just as dotted as those early days. It was great at one point, owning Saab. But then it sold Saab. Then it went bankrupt, but then the bankruptcy was overturned. It’s been a rollercoaster, but unlike the company’s first outing, at least that rollercoaster sees Spyker still in existence. Though there hasn’t exactly been a flurry of activity in recent years, sadly. 

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But looking at this, the C8, you can’t help but understand that Spyker is a brand unlike the others. It’s one led first and foremost by passion and ideas, rather than streamlined company policies. It’s the giddy mind of the motoring world, the one that wants to do whatever it pleases, without care or consideration for the grown-up practices of running a business. And while that’s a stressful way to be for the shareholders, it’s a wonderful way to be for the motoring world as a whole. Cars like this are needed, cars like this take us to a place of purity and of fun, a place without constraint. The C8 shows what a car can be when there are no restrictions or rules, or at least, what a car can be when those restrictions and rules are largely ignored. 

Spyker, Spyker C8, C8, supercar, Audi, V8, classic car, retro car, motoring, automotive, carandclassic, carandclassic.co.uk, kaaimans International

Huge thank you to Kaaimans International for letting us shoot this immaculate, right-hand drive, 3,000 mile Spyker C8. A car that could be yours for a mere £249,975!

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