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Spyker 4WD.

Spy ker f0ur whl dr1ve

Six cylinders, 8.7L, full time four wheel drive; perhaps it's a new Dodge Ram? Not at all, this is the four wheel drive Spyker of 1902 pictured (right) in front of London's Crystal Palace. If there were not contemporary articles and pictures one might doubt the possibility of such a modern looking and technically advanced car being built in 1902 when many other automobiles really were horseless buggies.

The Spyker 4WD is remarkably uptodate in concept having what is thought to be the first six cylinder car engine and four wheel brakes. The latter are effected by means of a brake on the front propeller shaft which acts on the front wheels through the front differential, this from a time when other cars only had rear wheel brakes. Neat swivel housings contain universal joints that carry the drive to the front steered wheels, just like today's 4WD.

C.Poel reported [Poe62] that the Spyker 4WD was built in 1902 but not shown until 1903. It appeared at the Paris Motor Show in December 1903 [Sco61] and at Crystal Paris in 1904. Apparently it competed in a 1906 hill climb at the Birmingham Motor Club which it won, four wheel drive giving it a considerable advantage in the wet conditions.

The Spyker factory was in Trompenburg, Amsterdam. The family name was Spijker, with `ij', but the firm's trademark was Spyker because it largely exported to English speaking countries [Poe62]. The firm closed in 1925.

The 4WD is thought to be the only one that Spyker made and miraculously it still exists, now in the Dutch National Automobile museum. The complexity of the car, given the materials and engineering of the day, must have made it heavy and expensive compared to the ordinary two wheel drives and this possibly explains its lack of commercial success. Spyker did itself make and sell numerous two wheel drive cars, one of the most famous appearing in the film Genevieve (1953). (Genevieve is set against the backdrop of the London to Brighton run for veteran cars and stars Kenneth More, Kay Kendall, John Gregson and Dinah Sheridan.)
- 4wd.sofcom.com/4WD.html

still going
Restored and still running, here at Goodwood 1998*!
Spyker 4WD specifications 1902:
  • 8676cc, 6-cylinder, petrol, side-valve (T-head)
  • bore: 120mm, stroke: 128mm, c.r.:4.59:1
  • transmission: 3-speed manual, 2-speed transfer case, full time four wheel drive with centre differential,
    clutch: leather faced cone
  • suspension: live-leaf/live-leaf with radius arms
  • brakes: on rear wheels and also on front propeller shaft
  • The Automotor Journal p7 Jan. 1904
  • [Poe62] C. Poel. Spyker Memories. Autocar p436 Sept. 1962
  • [Sco61] D. Scott-Moncrieff. Veteran and Edwardian Motor Cars. Batsford 1961

Go to the 4WD History page

[*] Picture #1 courtesy of the Nat'l Motor Museum (UK), #2 by R. & N. Genn.

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