1903 Spyker Paris-Madrid Racer

The 1903 Spyker Paris-Madrid racer (from the collection of the author)
Jacobus and Hendrik Spijker gaining notoriety in their home country by building the "Golden Coach" - a gift to Queen Wilhelmina of Amsterdam from the Dutch citizens. The coach is still in use today. Soon after, the brothers decided their future lay in the infant automobile industry.  Starting in 1900, they struggled against more established French and German makes. Jacobus, more interested in the design of the cars, was the engineer and Hendrik looked after the books. 

Wanting desperately to join the ranks of the competition in the Paris-Madrid race announced for 1903, they set about designing a race car for the event. Although, their early cars were inventive, no one could have guessed what they would create. The Motor-Car Journal of April 4th, 1903 states "Among the cars entered for the Paris-Madrid race is a "Spyker", which is to be driven by Mr. E. Broadbent, the works manager of the Bradford Motor Company. The vehicle will be fitted with a six-cylinder engine of 54 hp, a novel feature being that the power will be transmitted to all the four road wheels." 

With hope for favorable press, the brothers created a landmark six-cylinder, four wheel drive - four wheel braking automobile. There was only one problem - they missed the race - the car not being ready in time. The Horseless Age of December 2nd, 1903 reports "There is some likelihood that Holland will challenge for the Gordon Bennett race with a Spyker car … The Spyker car, which is intended to represent the Dutch Automobile Club, is of novel design, and has a six-cylinder engine of 60 horse power." However, that too appears to not have happened - no Dutch entry appears in the 1904 or 1905 race.

However, so as to redeem some value from their creation, Spyker shows the car at the Paris salon and the Crystal Palace show in London in 1903. The car is said to have greatly influenced S.F. Edge of Napier, who would introduce a 6-cylinder car soon after. Today the car stands as landmark design, said to be the first 6-cylinder car and first four-wheel drive car ever produced. It resides proudly in the Lauwman Museum in the Hague.

Note: there is some evidence that Lars G. Nilson, later of the Nilson-Miller company of Hoboken, NJ developed a V6 engine used in a truck in 1903. The first four-wheel drive vehicles in American are attributed to the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) company of Wisconsin around 1910.

The Motor-Car Journal, February 27, 1904


  1. The car was actually built in 1902.

  2. I would love to see the car start and run like all the cars in Jay Leno's collectioin