“Consultant” is the new way to say “unemployed.” But, from time to time, it can be quite lucrative to consult on various vague enterprises. Such was the case a few years ago when I found myself with the urge and the ability (temporary, alas) to add something truly outrageous to my personal Island of Misfit Cars. A racing buddy of mine mentioned to me that Spyker was bringing their “demo car” through Detroit. There might be a deal or two to be had. And that’s how I found myself opposite-locking a $296k car across two lanes of Troy, Michigan’s “Big Beaver Road” at the top of second gear, idly contemplating my personal liability in any potential collision while my corporate babysitter clawed feebly at his door like a kitten kneading its mother’s stomach.
A Spyker is like a really expensive, considerably faster Porsche Boxster. But that’s like Car and Driver’s characterization of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spur as “a really bad version of an Eighties Town Car.” The comparison fails to consider the fundamental reason people buy cars in this price range: boredom. A Spyker customer might be weighing the C8′s pros and cons against a motor yacht, a light aircraft, or a high-end tourbillon watch.
The C8 is an entertaining automobile, from its outrageously sexy polished-aluminum exterior detailing to the quilted-leather interior. The customization possibilities humble those of Porsche and Ferrari, exceeding the bourgeois predictability of color-matched seatbelts with such delicacies as “customer-spec widebodies,” riveted fenders, an “aerotail” meant to evoke the Le Mans prototypes of the Seventies, and a $36,500 Chronoswiss regulator watch engraved with the owner’s name and the C8′s serial number.
During a session with my Spyker representative, I settled on a “Double 12 Coupe” with a full glass roof, top-mounted air intake, riveted fenders, long tail, matching LV luggage and a stainless-steel Chronoswiss variant for a neat $377k. Sales tax up front would be $28k, with resulting sixty-month payments of $7,548.77. Yes, there are people who will sixty-month finance your Spyker, but make no mistake: most purchases are cash.
With the sales pitch and catalog perusal out of the way, it was time to drive the C8. Our tester had been driven by Carl Lewis in the “Bullrun.” It had 8,900 miles on the odometer. Despite the relatively high mileage and presumably abusive treatment, the Spyker was easily the tightest, most rattle-free droptop I’d driven, accepting the Detroit potholes with equanimity. “Of course, you will specify your own shock valving,” the Eurotrash-looking rep told me, clearly expecting that I would be impressed. Dude, come on. I specified the shock valving on my Plymouth Neon race car, but that doesn’t make it upscale.
The Spyker is light. Lighter than a Boxster, lighter than an S2000, lighter than a MINI Cooper Clubman. And it has power: 400+ hp from a tuned Audi V8. The resulting punch is outstanding, although not quite up to the level of a modern Viper SRT-10, and the combination of open top, aluminum flywheel, and the Audi mill’s natural desire to rev makes it feel faster than it really is.
There’s no hesitation to the power. Those of us who drive fast production cars on a regular basis have mentally “edited out” the brief pause that a Viper, Corvette, or Lamborghini imposes on you while the ECU figures out the emissions before the torque comes up to match the two-ton bulk of a modern supercar. The C8 has none of that. It feels like an American Iron race car. Press the throttle and move.
And Matt Farah was right, the shifter is “awesome,” as long as you’re willing to trade speed of engagement for aesthetic appeal. It has the weight, feel, coldness to touch, and solid “clunk” of a stainless-steel Colt Gold Cup. Unfortunately, the matching four-spoke aluminum wheel was missing, replaced by a DOT-approved leather model. For an appropriate sum, the original item will be supplied in a leather case for “off-road use”.
The steering has the darting, hypersensitive feel of a 911. The brakes require a firm shove to accomplish anything. At speed, the Spyker’s weight distribution shows in the initial lack of bite followed by a set-and-commit in the rear end. The controls are honest and predictable enough to permit a no-hands powerslide . . . although for the sake of our ride-along minder I didn’t do that twice.
All in all, I was charmed by the Dutch supercar. It’s small and light, which earn it bonus points in an era of two-ton Murcielagos. It looks like nothing else on the road, and it can be customized to a fare-thee-well. It wouldn’t challenge a well-driven 911GT3 on a road course, but to drive this car on a track misses the point. In a world of airbag-equipped Ferraris with five-mode stability control, the Spyker stands apart. For some, it’s enough.