The Spyker name has had three incarnations: Spyker, Spyker Cars and also Spyker F1. Lets start with the original company.
Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker founded Spyker in the Netherlands during 1880 as a coach-building company – in fact they built the coach that the Dutch royal family still use today. Exports became a big business for the company especially to the Dutch East Indies and the factory was becoming ever more mechanised to support the growth spurt they were experiencing. When they saw cars competing in the Paris-Amsterdam-Paris race in 1898, they bought a Benz and made an agreement to build them under licence as Spyker-Benz. The brothers created a new company to build Spyker cars: Industrial Company Trompenburg.
The first cars shown in 1900 had whopping 3 and 5 hp motors with two cylinders and were based on the Benz Velo and Victoria models. Then in 1903 they created a car with 4 separate cylinders and a 6 cylinder racing car with an 8 litre motor. Not bad for a company developing tiny engines just a handful of years ago. This was something that Spyker became famous for: large capacity engines ranging from 5 to 10 litres prior to World War 1. Most of the cars were 4 cylinder versions and they even developed a couple of delivery trucks as well. They were advanced with a smooth under-tray to stop dust and dirt accumulating and they built the first all-wheel-drive system on a car long before Ferguson perfected their system.
In 1906 Charles Godard, a Frenchman, wanted to enter the Peking to Paris Motor Race. He persuaded Jacobus to pay his registration fee and loan him a car saying that other companies were supporting him – not quite true and he competed by using tricks that Dick Dastardly would have been proud of. The car finished second in the 10,000 mile race with no spares used!
In 1907 Hendrik was drowned in a ferry accident returning from the Dutch East Indies via Britain and the company went bankrupt. The assets were bought by a group of investors and Jacobus was forced out of the organisation. The company continued to build cars until the world started to collapse into conflict and in 1915 the company was sold again and renamed the Nederlandsche Automobiel en Vliegtuigfabriek Trompenburg (or the Dutch Car and Aircraft Company). This company developed aircraft and engines for the war effort and after the war built a reduced number of luxury sports models with names such as C1, C2 and C4. The C4 used a Maybach 6-litre, straight cylinder engine producing 72 horses!
In 1922 Selwyn Edge (the same racer that bought AC) used a Spyker C4 to beat his own speed record by averaging 74.5 mph over 24 hours! Around this time, Spyker needed a smaller model to generate revenues as luxury car sales were starting to decline. They signed an agreement with the French Mathis company to sell their cars with a Spyker-Mathis badge on them. These cars were about a 3rd of the price of a C4 with 1.1 litre motors. This arrangement didn’t save Spyker and in 1922 they collapsed yet again.
This time they were bought by their distributor in Britain who renamed the company Spyker Automobielfabriek. Production lasted a further 4 years until they keeled over for the final time! Jacobus survived to see all of the changes to his baby and he died in 1932. There were an estimated 2,000 units produced over nearly 30 years and only about 20 exist today. Incidentally, in 2005 a group of Australians recreated the Peking to Paris race using similar cars including an Itala (the original winner) and a 1907 Spyker owned and driven by a Dutch industrialist, Stijnus Schotte. His co-pilot was Rob Spijker, a New Zealander who is descended from the Dutch coach-building family. The driver of the Itala was Warren Brown, a cartoonist turned motoring journalist. The race was shown on Australian TV and is now available on DVD. It’s a great story!
In 1999, Maarten de Bruin, a Dutch designer created a lightweight prototype and bought the rights to the Spyker name and logo. His car used a mid mounted 3.5 litre Audi V8. He secured funding from Victor Muller an avid car collector and entrepreneur. The car was called the Silvestris V8 and went into production as the Spyker C8 Laviolette. The C8 moniker was an extension of the C models from the 1920s and Laviolette was the name of a Belgian engineer who had helped the original Spijker brothers.
By production time the 3.5 had been replaced by the 4.2 litre Audi V8 found in the RS4 and other models. By 2001 a racing version, the C8 Double 12R was showcased – named after the endurance record set by Selwyn Edge in 1922. A road version, the C8 Double 12S was also built. The company said that it had its first victory in the Le Mans 24 hour race in 2003 by finishing 10th in class and 30th overall. It was a victory of sorts in that they did cross the finishing line!
In 2004 the company went public and in 2005 the company signed an agreement with an investment firm owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi for further funding. The following year de Bruijn left the company and developed the Silvestris Sports Cabriolet, a 23 foot luxury power boat. After going public, the share price bounced like a yoyo requiring further cash injections. It didn’t help that a big chunk of cash was used to buy the Midland F1 team (see below).
The next road model was the C8 Aileron, an updated version of the original coupe and spyder models. There were also C12 and D12 models fitted with the W12 engine from the VW Group They also planned to build an SUV – the D8 however with all the financial malarkey, it never got into production. The prototype shown looked like a cross between a Cayenne and a 911!
However …. in a bold bid to generate an ongoing revenue stream, they decided to do two things. One was to move production to Coventry in the UK from the Netherlands. This I believe was to get access to new technologies quicker and to be in the heart of a manufacturing centre. The second idea was to buy SAAB from General Motors, who had rejected several bids from companies that had Chinese backing. The deal included GM completing cars that had been built in a plant in Mexico and a cash injection from the European Investment Bank. The problem, probably known to all parties, was that SAAB was bleeding cash and it took a year for the financial artery to run dry and production stopped.
Spyker put SAAB back on the market and announced several times that it was selling the company only for it to fall flat. They did eventually get rid of it to a Chinese consortium. However the rot had set in and the whole company declared bankruptcy. They had been kicked out of the Dutch factory and various suppliers had taken them to court for non-payment of debts. The period from 2013 to 2015 was spent with no production and plenty of court time where the creditors were given small amounts to enable the company to restructure and leave bankruptcy protection.
Spyker were able to announce in 2016 that they would start production again with the C8 Preliator and in 2017 they announced an engine deal with Koenigsegg to replace the Audi motor that Spyker had been using since the rebirth. The Koenigsegg motor is a 5 litre V8 producing 600hp and was apparently specially tuned for the C8. A spyder version was also announced to start production in 2018 and limited to 100 cars with the final three C8 Ailerons being finished.
In 2006 Spyker bought the Midland F1 team and ran it in the 2007 season as Spyker F1. The team was originally the Jordan F1 team before becoming the Midland team and Spyker bought it for $106M – a price tag that clearly would have helped the parent company into financial difficulties. The team ran for one season running Ferrari engines before being sold to an Indian entrepreneur who renamed it Force India. The sale price: $123M, that should have covered the initial purchase and some of the operating costs for the year! The sale was due to the parent company’s financial woes and needing a cash injection.