What happens when racing enthusiasm meets strong financially-backed determination? Donkervoort. Offspring of Dutch racing driver Joop Donkervoort, the exclusive Lotus 7-inspired car manufacturer has recently turned 30. Founded in 1978 as a result of Joops’ desire to build his own sports car, both the brand and the cars have become a symbol of freedom, driving tenacity and pure road enjoyment.
Started from Joop’s small family home in Tienhoven, Donkervoort’s have earned a reputation for their blend of retromodern looks and surprising power and handling. Although strongly based on the Lotus 7, a car that started a new era in the 50’s, Donkervoorts are far from being bland clones or body-kits as it often mistaken.
Having kept the Lotus-7 overall appearance tup to this day, Donkervoorts are embodiments of cutting edge engineering and subtle style elements. Lightweight rugged construction, a low center of gravity and a mid-placed engines have granted these Dutch cars personality. Although the company has grown since its beginnings, it presently employs only 30 people.
A two figure number may seem awfully low for a car manufacturer but not for Donkervoort. All models are hand built by skilled craftsman, one at the time before going on public road display. Until recently, all Donkervoort models were fitted with Ford engines. The partnership was ended in 1996 when a joint-venture with Audi was started.
The first models were equipped with 2 liter OHC Ford engines which were later dropped in favor of the Garret turbocharged ones. The Zetec and Cosworth engines were the last Ford-supplied ones to find place under Donkervoort bodywork.
Only Audi 1.8 L turbocharged engines have been used since 1999. One year after the introduction of Audi engines, a new modern plant was built in Loosdrecht from where the company still runs its operation today. Far from being a mass car producer, the Donkervoort factory annually delivers a few hundreds vehicles.
Donkervoort cars may pretty much look the same but are highly customizable. One can choose from a variety of options, ranging from color pallets, body construction materials and upholstery to a myriad of trims and finishes. However, the main selling point of Donkervoort remains its drivability. Low driver position and great weight distribution as well as very responsive direction and obedient brakes ensure a fun drive.
The Dutch builder’s latest offspring is a powerful closed top D8 GT model with good race capabilities. All Donkervoort models come with standard race car elements such as anti-roll bars a many owners prefer to take their cars to the racing track instead of cruising on the open roads.