Spyker 60HP

Could Spyker really have replaced Rolls-Royce as the top quality car manufacturer that set the standard for everyone else? Yes it is possible.

The business was formed in 1880 in Hilversum, northern Holland, by two brothers named Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker. They were coachbuilders who wish to move into car manufacture eventully.

In 1898 they moved to Amsterdam, where they had been given the job of building a golden coach for Queen Wilhelmina's coronation; this turned into a bit of a fiasco since the Queen announced that she did not want to have any gifts on that day. The coach was intended to be a gift from the people of Amsterdam, and so she had to receive it on the following day, and put it straight into storage!

The coach had to wait for its first outing until 1901 when the Queen got married (and it is still actually in use for Royal occasions to this date) but the publicity did the brothers a world of good and they decided to go into car manufacture in 1899.

Initially they produced a few quite conventional cars but in 1903 they not only changed their name from Spijker to Spyker; a more internationally recognisable one; but they brought out possibly the most innovative car of the day, the 60HP.

This was the first ever car powered by a six cylinder petrol engine – in this case a massive one of just over 8.8 litres! With 60 horsepower it was probably the most powerful engine available at the time with a top speed of a reported 80 mph. On hill climbs it was pretty near unbeatable.

Having a car with as big an engine as this created it's own problems; it needed a heavy chassis to support it. This meant that the brakes had to be absolutely top-notch so for the first time ever the car featured brakes on all four wheels.

For rally racing and off-road driving it is a huge advantage if a car has four-wheel-drive; the 60HP was the first vehicle to have this capability.

Then, in 1907 came catastrophe. Hendryk-Jan was on board a steam ferry called the SS Berlin travelling from Harwich to Hook of Holland when at 5 AM on Thursday, 21 February, it hit the breakwater at the entrance of the Hook New Waterway in heavy seas, which prevented lifeboats from getting near her. The ship sank and out of the entire complement of passengers and crew there was only a single survivor.

Following Hendrik-Jan's death the company went bankrupt. Production was restarted by a number of investors but the other brother, Jacobus, no longer wanted to be involved. The company had lost the two innovative brains that had made it so potentially successful.

Spyker had a chequered career from then on with new innovations alternating with financial difficulties; but the inevitable end came in 1926 when the coffers finally ran dry.

A new company has taken the rights to the Spyker name and is manufacturing sports cars although it has no other links whatsoever to the original company. Most of the early cars have been forgotten but the original 60 HP remains as their masterpiece.

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