Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Spyker 1905-1907

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1906 Spyker 14/18 HP open tourerFrom 1904 on the Spyker production expanded. The importance of export markets like England and the Dutch East Indies grew. Hendrik Jan Spyker left for the East Indies in 1904 to stimulate the sales over there and to check on the company's own rubber plantation. This proved to be a dramatic move in the factory's history.
The Spyker cars were very well liked in England and received a number of positive comments in the local press. The British car magazine "The Automotor Journal" described the Spyker cars in 1905 as "high-class workmanship and materials in the construction of the chassis, silence in the running of the engine and transmission, and the dustlessness in the motion of the car have been the three characteristic features of Spyker cars..."
The characteristic dustlessness was a result of the "dust shield" underneath the chassis; in 1905 the second and improved dust shield design was patented in England. This became a main selling point.
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1907 Spyker 14/18 HP open tourer - front-side viewThe 18 hp model became world famous for successfully taking part in the grueling Peking to Paris rally in 1907. This event established the Spyker name for being rugged and durable, although the Spyker company hadn't intended to compete.
It was French adventurer Charles Godard who tempted the level-headed Dutch manufacturer into joining this crazy race organized by Parisian newspaper "Le Matin". He had planned on taking part in a Belgian Métallurgique, but this company withdrew from the race as they got aware to how much money it all would cost. Then Godard came up with a cunning scheme. He contacted Jacobus Spijker, who was at first very reserved, and told him that he only needed the registration fee and a car and "Le Matin" would take care of the rest. Jacobus Spijker felt this was a limited risk and a chance of world wide publicity, so he agreed and lent Godard a standard 14/18 HP with tourer bodywork.

1907 Spyker 14/18 HP open tourer - rear viewGodard made some minor changes to the car, mainly other gear ratios and bigger wheels to cope with the expected hills and lousy roads. He drove the car in one day from Amsterdam to Paris and told "Le Matin" he was the factory entrant for Spyker.
It soon became clear that Godard had no money and of course "Le Matin" wasn't planning on paying his expenses. And so Godard became very "creative" in his attempts to finish the rally, like selling spare parts which weren't paid for and borrowing money under false pretences.
Still, he did it all just to prove he could reach Paris driving all the way from Peking. During the rally it became more and more apparent that he was in with a chance. Godard was very resourceful and determined and the Spyker remarkably dependable. But lack of funds slowed him down considerably on various occasions, and Spyker was hesitant to help him.

1907 Spyker 14/18 HP open tourer - side viewSpyker sent an engineer to assist Godard when he reached Omsk in Russia. Unfortunately this engineer fell victim to dysentery when they reached Moscow, so Godard continued alone from there. When he reached the German border, after so many set-backs and adventures, his actions caught up with him. He was arrested for fraud after being sentenced by default to 18 months of imprisonment in Paris.
Jacobus Spijker knew of this conviction and was now eager to bring the car to Paris. So he awaited Godard at the German-Russian border with a driver and took over from there. The second place in the rally was in reach, but the three trailing cars, the Spyker and two De Dion-Boutons, were ordered to travel to Paris together by the organizers.
Only four cars finished the rally, and it was won by the well-funded Prince Borghese in an Itala 35/45 HP, who finished 20 days in front of the other competitors. The Spyker reached Paris at August 30, 1907. It had started in Peking at June 10, 1907 and in those three months of hardships no part of the car had been replaced and only the magneto had been repaired. The media that covered the rally were amazed at what Godard had achieved in the Spyker, daring to travel without any spare parts.

Due to the legal problems with Godard, Spyker had difficulty capitalizing on the success in the Peking to Paris rally. The rally car was displayed a few times at car shows and it appeared in the Spyker brochures, but after new models were introduced in 1911 Spyker lost interest. It may sound unbelievable now, but the car was scrapped and the original engine was sold. It powered a boat for more than a decade and then disappeared. A real pity, especially because the Itala of Prince Borghese still exists and nowadays features regularly on classic car shows.

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