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Donkervoort: The most extreme cars the Netherlands have to offerJoop Donkervoort has spent more than thirty years building his own personal love letter to Colin Chapman and the Lotus Seven. XCAR speak to the man himself to find out how he and why he makes Holland's maddest cars.
[NOISE] [MUSIC] From the very first days that you could hardly speak, or you began to speak that, A car for something very exciting and special, and that is what it still is today, like many boys, there is something very strange, but I think you are more or less born with it. England are my favorite cars, were of course the cars of the 60's. In the 70s, [UNKNOWN] and the MG and also loads, of course, Colin Chapman. I was a big fan of Colin Chapman, because what he did was totally opposite. Or at that time the, the auto industry did. So we built a totally different car. And beside that it was different for me it was a very well emotional car. It was very low, and the styling of the 30s, if it was the lotus seven or the lotus Europe or the lotus elite. I found them fantastic. He was a genius. And I don't think that I'm a genius. I do the best I can. And maybe when you look at the car, there's a, well, that's not bad. I went for unload to seven which was parked in front of a hotel. And it was such a different car, different to all the other car which was then. And I sort of. I think I, I was an age of 16 and I saw for the first time this Lotus 7 and this very low car. And I knew it was a very fast car so that was something in which Was hit, which hit me very much, and I thought when I have the possibility I am, I'm going to buy one. I wanted to become a car designer. But I had no diplomas, I had no study in, I had no education in the direction, and so I was more like a self made man. I made all kinds of sketches et cetera. So when. When I ordered the Lotus Seven S as a kit, I had also all kinds of modifications in mind. And, the manufacturer at that time was Arch Motors, so it had to be imported there. Please ask [UNKNOWN] and this modification. I said, well no problem. And, you know, [UNKNOWN] and they never see any problem. But I waited, and wait and wait. And, this special Lotus 7 chassis never came. So waited a couple of years and then the importer in Holland said I'm gonna leave for England. His this load to seven import isn't that something for you to do and of course, as I was very much in love with the, with the Lotus 7 and I also had an order outstanding. I thought well maybe there's a chance. Of, of getting my, [UNKNOWN] at long last. So, then I took over for him, and, well, a few weeks after there, there were three police cars coming to my, my workshop, at that time. He was selling cars which had no [UNKNOWN] and, he said well. From before the war or something like that so we don't need the complication. And then of course the people of the techs and the pe, people from [UNKNOWN] they found out that this these cars were new cars. You are not longer allowed to import these cars the way you do. Unless You homologate the car according to the laws of today so that's something which I started to then. But I found out very quickly that the low to seven could never be homologated for instance that in Holland they say you need a seat of 55 centimeters. And [INAUDIBLE] had only 40. They say, well, you need some re-work protection, in collision. And there is no petrol tank installed. That is also something which is not [INAUDIBLE] And so, there were many more demands which they have. And then, of course, I was more or less forced into a situation for to stop, or to start all over again with another chassis. So I went to the university, technical university, [UNKNOWN] at that time in 1977. And We started all over again with a chassis and body etc. And in 78 I had my I had my first car. My first [iii] I thought the name seven is a very important name. So I better call it seven. And, Kateren, who bought and had the rights of the 7, he said well, you have to pay for the name. Which was of course, very logic. And, Ty paid for the name, but that was something of course which is, which was quite difficult for the future because they want more and more money for that. There Volvo. My car is so much different so why don't use a different name? So that's why I called it. Because it was bigger. I thought everything was a little bit bigger. Even for the engine or the or, or affect the chassy or, or the dimensions. Therefore, I called it 7-8 [MUSIC] When I go back 30 years ago, then Caterham said we would like to stick to the original, and we said we like to develop out of the Lotus 7, a different car, a more mature car, and said. That's where our two ways separated. They went that way and we went the other way. When we started in '78, then we had the heritage of the, of the British sports car industry. And, There were a big demand for this cars but they needed to be much more reliable and comfortable. Because the Dutch for instance but also the Germans they wanted to go on holiday with their car to the south of France. And they want, they didn't want to stop somewhere to [UNKNOWN] there was a big breakdown somewhere in the technical system. So therefore, I had to, to incorporate reliability in the car as well as a certain comfort. After a couple of years we decided to go more to the sportive way and we started also, also the Dogwood race cup and, the Dogwood series. That was in 1990. After that, then as after that, of course, we run into, let's say, a sort of race for horsepower, race for for extreme cars. I think the car which you see today is is also a development out of that. Theory this time. We developed the G-T. Because there was a demand for a car with with a hard top. But when we were starting designing a V-8 with a hardtop. It become very quickly obvious that you need to restyle the whole car. And when we did the restyle of the whole car, we. Like it's usual ghost that we thought we'd better also modify the front suspension better also to [UNKNOWN]. We better change the chassis. Well maybe it's better to put also another engine in it. So from one thing comes to another and you end up with a totally different car. What we did for the first time allowed composites carbon fiber off in the chassis. But we thought this is pretty new so it it maybe good idea to start racing with a GT to see if it works out and that the car is quick of it's a [UNKNOWN] and that it's more stable more more, more safety in it [UNKNOWN]. So we did was a car the as you know the 24 hour Dubai. And the second year we had success and we won our race. Because the GT, nice car. But was not the big success because most of our customers. They said, we, you know, Dongovord isn't open. No compromise towards our sported roadster, and not as a, a closed door, and then I might as well buy other cars for that. So we needed to to develop a totally different model, different clientele for, for our GT. And our, our, our existing customers, they wanted a GT, but without without a roof, without a roof. So, it became very very quickly obvious that we have to to start working on a open version of the GT, and that's what a GTO, open GT. Was what made us. We have start lots here, all with the GTO. And we are now on on a level of about 25 cars a year. Oh, we have often a couple of years time that we are doubling or tripling that, that production. Like at this moment the GTO is, you know, that's quite fast cars and when other, let's say, well-known or famous drivers. Will do all kinds of other sports cars. And they're driving your car. And then they said, well this [INAUDIBLE] is absolutely, that's something which I've never experienced before. That's something which makes you very proud, of course. [NOISE]