Spyker Returns With the Meticulously Beautiful C8 Preliator
Spyker makes me lust for cars in a way I have never lusted for cars.
The small Dutch company, known mostly on a mass-market basis for its aborted attempt to buy Saab from General Motors, has never really made more than one model at a time. But Spyker is the hand-pressed extra-virgin olive oil to your Filippo Berio; the genuine small-batch maple syrup to the industry’s Mrs. Butterworth’s. They are, arguably, some of the finest automotive craftsmen in the face of the auto industry’s mass-production canning line. And it emerged from the workshop in time for the Geneva Motor Show last week with a new work of art. It’s called the C8 Preliator.
Spykers have been, in their modern incarnation, awkward-looking. It’s something about the profile, the proportions; they’ve never had the knee-weakening beauty of a Pagani Huayra or the fighter-jet-like savagery of a Koenigsegg. They’ve always been unique (which is why the company should have been, in your humble automotive editor’s mind, the rightful owner of Saab — but that’s for another time). But the thing is, with a Spyker, you don’t look at the car as a whole. Because the Spyker is more than the sum of its parts. Aside from maybe the aforementioned Pagani or Koenigsegg, nothing else in the biz does details like Spyker does details.
If you look closely — ignoring, if you will, the catfish-like grille carried over from the C8 Aileron — the small details start to add up in a big way. The subtle swoop of the illuminated air duct matches the gentle curve of the headlamp. That meshwork in the grille? That matches the honeycomb quilting pattern in the fine leather seats. The paint is an elegant gray, but Spyker says it was actually color-matched to an F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
That’s not by accident, either: “Its contemporary design the ultimate translation of our aviation heritage to a ‘road jet,’ a plane without wings,” the company said. That heritage is evident throughout, perhaps most noticeably out back where its quad-tail lights aren’t exactly subtle in hinting toward a set of afterburners.
Spyker’s badge itself is an homage to its history — it’s a plane prop — and the entire ethos of the company is rooted in its rich history of airplane production. The ignition switch inside may as well have been cribbed from a fighter jet’s missile launch system — flip up the red protector, engage the switch, and listen to the Audi-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 come to life.
The C8 Preliator might be one of Spyker’s most attractive cars to date. It still has an odd blend of sensual curves and rigid straight lines, but the car just … works. The multi-spoke alloys are stunning and perfectly suited for the size of the car; the roof-based air scoop (a Spyker signature) is as unobtrusive as ever; the polished dual exhaust ports are proportional to the taillights, and that flat rear deck recalls the sell-your-kidneys-worthy McLaren F1 Longtail without entirely concealing the Audi hardware.
But like the C8 Aileron and the B6 Venator before it, the Preliator isn’t about the whole package. The devil’s in the details, and if you enjoyed the outside, take a good hard look at the C8 Preliator’s interior.
Spyker retained its exposed shifter linkage for the six-speed manual transmission, and the dash — well, Spyker’s not even trying to hide the fact that it could have pulled duty in a P-51D Mustang before being recast for the C8. Gentle green illumination, actual metal knobs and switches, and fine European leather create a cabin that’s elegant in its minimalism. There’s nothing that doesn’t need to be there.
Jeremy Clarkson, in his review of the Aileron, described it as “a smoking jacket.” It won’t outperform your Ferraris, Audis, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Mercedes, Bimmers, Nissan GT-Rs, or any other deep-pocket-backed sports cars. But that’s not what Spyker is about. It’s about the craftsmanship, about the details, about being a companion to your lifestyle and not the figurehead of it.
That’s why the Preliator has a stout — but reasonable — 525 horsepower. It’s not out to out-power a Hellcat, out-handle a Lotus, or out-prestige a Porsche. The Spyker is out there for the sake of being out there. It — the company as much as the cars — exists because the people who make them enjoy making them. It’s a labor of love, and that’s why I love it too.
“This is not for the hairy-chested, gung-ho playboy racer who likes to go everywhere sideways. It’s appeal is more subtle than that,” Clarkson said. “This is a car you wear.” I have no doubt that those words still ring true about the Preliator eight years later.