Far From the Mainstream: Donkervoort

Today we peer again into the world of marginal car makers. In this instalment we deal gently with Donkervoort.

1981 Donkervoort S8: source
1981 Donkervoort S8: source

There are 15 Donkervoort cars advertised at mobile.de and above, a 1981 S8 is the cheapest at €19,950 with a mere 52,000 km up. Next is a similar roadster from 1988 for €24,000. A 1998 2.0 Zetec-powered D8 costs €36,000. From 2001 an Audi-powered D8 costs nearly €50,000. So, who are Donkervoort?

2001 Donkervoort D8 Audi 180
2001 Donkervoort D8 Audi 180: source

The company website explains it as follows: “The combination of appealing styling, ultra-light weight, high power output and fantastic road holding like a racing car, has created a sports car that makes the hearts of countless car enthusiasts beat faster.” There is one car in two flavours: the D8 GTO and D8 Bilster Berg Edition.

2016 Donkervoort D8 GTO: source
2016 Donkervoort D8 GTO: source

Donkervoort have built 1,100 cars since 1978 at Tienhoven and then Loosdrecht and the Lelystad. Another factory operates in Bilster Berg which is to driving what a golf course is to thwacking white balls. From 1978 to 1999 the engines came from Ford. After that they have been sourced from Audi.

The firm´s website
The firm´s website

The first cars stemmed from Colin Chapman’s Lotus 7. Joop Donkervoort discovered the kits he had bought did not have Dutch type approval so he decided to build his own cars instead (obviously closely modelled on the Lotus). Today’s cars follow a similar formula and thus include no roof and very little by the way of creature comforts. There’s a nice detail reported in the history of the firm: in 2003 Donkervoort’s UK chassis supplier declined to match the required quality needed and also declined to invest in production improvements. Donkervoort thus decided to do that part themselves.

The GTO is made from carbon fibre, weighs 770 kilos. Pushing that mass along is a 2.5 litre, five-cylinder engine with an output of 340-380 bhp. Is this the world’s only five-cylinder track car? It is at least the first of these non-mainstream cars that is not either terrible or tiny and underpowered.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “Far From the Mainstream: Donkervoort”

  1. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I once though seriously about buying a Caterham 7. I don’t know why, since I’m far too puritanical to go off and enjoy myself at track days, so I’d just have ended up commuting in it and behaving badly on roundabouts. So I’d probably feel silly driving one of these, but another part of me still wants one and, actually, although the Caterham is the original, this seems a worthy enough tribute to exist in its own right.

    I assume that Donkervoort’s chassis supplier, if they are still in business, is one of those companies expecting things to improve greatly after Brexit, once they are free of all that unfair foreign competition, with their poncey un-British ideas about quality and stuff.

  2. Very interesting Richard,

    I do like hearing about these niche small production manufacturers, and how they manage to keep the lights on. I quite liked the Peter Monteverdi story, especially the deal he struck with Ford allowing them to take the name ‘Sierra’.

    I maybe entirely wrong, but isn’t the Donkervoort brand also associated with high end passenger motor coaches???

    Probably something sounding very similar.

  3. When passing the Donkervoort factory/ showroom in Lelystad (they’re right on the motorway in the middle of nowhere, an “A1 location” in estate agent lingo) I always wonder who their target group are. The term “mid-life crisis” pops up for some reason.

    Lelystad being a smaller Dutch version of Milton Keynes, they do Caterham copies instead of Red Bull F1 cars. How modest.

  4. I eagerly await ‘Far From the Mainstream’ featuring the Leitch Super Sprint, Invercargill’s rather less prissy response to the Donkervoort brief.

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