The last Dutch car I tried driving was the hilari-scary Carver, which carried two passengers in tandem and leaned like a motorbike when you went round corners. I don't think I have ever had so much fun at the wheel of something that could still be described as a car, albeit loosely. But then I had a go in another new Dutch car, the Spyker C8. Just as with Maybach, the Spyker badge has been revived for a ludicrously expensive and powerful modern car - although, other than the name, there is no continuity with the original firm.
The Spyker (pronounced, in the Dutch fashion, "schpyker") looked so outlandish in the photos, with its plethora of scoops and vents, 19in "aeroblade" wheels and Countach-style upswinging doors, that I just had to have a try. So I popped along to one of two Spyker dealers in the UK, in a cobbled mews in Kensington (the other is in Harrogate) where, I had heard, they had just taken delivery of one of the first, proper production cars.
The first things that strike you about the Spyker are its gorgeous, hand-crafted details such as the steering wheel spokes in the shape of propellers, the exposed gear linkage and the sexiest aluminium wing mirrors ever. There is not a blob of plastic to be seen anywhere in this car; nothing is pilfered from other manufacturers' parts bins (like the Volvo air vents in an Aston Martin Vanquish, for example). All is sumptuous Connolly leather, or seemingly hewn from solid aluminium. It is deeply impressive, like a Leica camera or a Vertu mobile phone.
I press a starter button to ignite the mid-mounted Audi V8. Although I knew Cosworth tuning had given it an injection of steroids, I still expected the 400bhp power source to be quiet and refined. In fact it sounds like a dragon gargling, a deep, throbbing, American-car rumble.
Out on the streets of West London, I prod the throttle for the first time and we catapult forwards, the Spyker and I, the former now sounding like a Second World War fighter plane, me squeaking like a guinea pig who has just won the lottery. We don't stop catapulting for the next hour or so until my left leg begins to tremble with the effort of depressing the lead-heavy clutch and we return to the garage.
The noise, the power, the unique detailing and the sheer terror of driving the Spyker put me in mind of a grown-up TVR, an impression that is reinforced when you begin to discover how absurdly impractical it is. Strapped in with the four-point racing harness there is no way the driver can reach the handbrake, for instance, you need to have a co-pilot. You can't see the front of the car either, which makes manoeuvring it rather stressful, and the turning circle - I am not exaggerating - is about the same as a stretch limo's. Also, the steering is way too light, and, oh yes, the brakes don't seem to do much.
Only one Spyker has been sold in the UK so far, but they are aiming for sales of 30 a year globally. That doesn't seem too ambitious, until you consider what else £190,000 will buy you: an Aston Vanquish, Ferrari 612 or Lamborghini Murcielago, with enough change for a decent BMW. But if you already have one of these (as most Spyker owners will), if you have so much money it bores you, if you are looking for a car unlike any other, a car with masses of character, you should definitely take a look at the Spyker. *
It's a Classic Spyker
The Spijker brothers, Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan (renowned in Holland as the builders of the Dutch royal family's golden state coach, which is still used today) built their first car, powered by a Benz engine, in 1898. They changed their name to Spyker, feeling that it would be easier to understand in foreign markets, and went on to build cars that, in their day, were highly regarded, including the 60/80hp model of 1903, which was the first ever car with six cylinders, permanent four-wheel drive and four-wheel brakes. Other innovations included the first streamlined under tray fitted to a car - intended to minimise the dust thrown up when driving - and other aircraft-influenced traits like streamlined bodywork. Spykers were renowned for their reliability and quality, especially after one of their cars came second in the Peking-to-Paris road race. After merging with the Dutch Aircraft Factory NV, they went on to build several notable cars, including one, the C4, with an engine designed by Wilhelm Maybach. In 1925, the company ceased trading.