Joop Donkervoort – founder

How does one describe a man who has spent almost 40 years of his life seeking perfection? For the finesse that a true sports car must have? Who evolved from a start-up carmaker in a simple shed to the status of recognised sport car constructor in a high-tech environment? Joop Donkervoort shares many characteristics with those of equally self-willed predecessors. Of Colin Chapman he admires. Real car people who dreamed about building what they felt was the perfect car. And ultimately realised their dream.

In all modest by the way. Because that also typifies Joop Donkervoort. Even more sensational, how this small sports car maker had the guts to recently produce the world’s lightest GT in addition to the open version, well known from way back. Closed, larger, more power output but still ultra light. Which now wonderfully combines responsible car driving and extremely sporty performance.

Hanging on to the light weight credo while other cars are becoming larger and heavier. Under his own power against the flow. Typical Donkervoort. Only now are others retracing their steps. The enormous advantages of the legendary light, manoeuvrable and agile Donkervoort sports cars are cherished by aficionados of pure motoring. On Europe’s most beautiful motorways and on the tracks.

2nd generation Donkervoort

Donkervoort Automobielen is a family business. Besides Joop’s wife, Marianne, who has played a supporting role in the company from the beginning, the second generation of Donkervoorts came on board in 2008. Son Denis’ (29) responsibilities include sales and production within the company. He also manages Donkervoort Racing. Daughter Amber (33) handles the marketing and PR for Donkervoort. She is also responsible for Donkervoort Events, for which she regularly arranges events for customers as well as company visits to the Donkervoort factory.

Philosophy

When it comes to a Donkervoort, the ultimate driving experience is paramount. We don’t use any electronic assists to simplify driving – no ABS, no ESP, and no power steering. The ultra-stiff chassis and the specially designed suspension make driving and riding in a Donkervoort the ultimate experience, kilometre after kilometre.

Donkervoort sports cars are known for their phenomenal performance. The combination of attractive styling, ultra-low weight, high power and superb handling like that of a race car, has resulted in a sports car that has made the hearts of countless car enthusiasts beat faster. At Donkervoort everything is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in quality, technology, styling and design. The current and very successful D8 GTO series is the result. Ultimate sports cars, created for the true car enthusiast.

A Donkervoort is the ultimate choice for the true enthusiast who wants sheer motoring enjoyment in a sports car full of character. Donkervoort sports cars are carefully constructed by hand and made from high-quality parts, mostly developed and perfected in-house, with a virtually unlimited choice of body colours and interior finishes.

What makes the Donkervoort unique is the possibility to have the car built according to your wishes. You can choose the colour of the body and the interior. Would you prefer leather or alcantara? A carbon fibre dashboard or preferably aluminium? A chassis or suspension specifically for racing, or more suitable for touring? The possibilities for perfectly tailoring the car to your wishes and personality are endless. Your own, unique Donkervoort.

A DRIVER’S DREAM

Driving a Donkervoort has been a life-changing experience for many people through the years. The end of their search for the ultimate in driving. The beginning of an intense and close relationship. Pure and advanced at the same time, a real driving experience many could only dream of.

That’s exactly what Joop Donkervoort had in mind when, in 1978, he decided to build his first Donkervoort. Creating an ultra-lightweight sportscar combining comfort, reliability, sporting qualities and practical usability with the ultimate driver’s dream. It was to attract attention from all over the world, in recognition that Donkervoort had developed something never seen before.

And that reality hasn’t changed since. Donkervoort still chooses to operate at the cutting edge of sportscar development. Always wanting to take their cars to the max. Even inventing brand-new materials that blaze a trail to the broader automotive industry, aviation and even space.  But never compromising on the driver’s dream. Because realizing that dream has been the goal throughout Donkervoort’s 40 years of existence.

THE DONKERVOORT FAMILY: AN EXTRAORDINARY BOND

Calling Donkervoort a family business is spot-on but doesn’t do the family nearly enough credit.
The Donkervoort family story goes way beyond the classic tale of an entrepreneur following his dream with the support of the people around him.

It is no exaggeration to say that Donkervoort Automobielen is the family and vice versa. All the family members have a pivotal influence on the business in their own particular way, past, present and future. Joop’s wife Marianne has given crucial financial and business support for many years. Son Denis has evolved into a talented driver and successful general manager. And daughter Amber is a natural in marketing and communication and building the Donkervoort global brand.

All of them live and breathe the company ambition, philosophy, culture and entrepreneurial endurance. It’s true to say that without the family, Donkervoort Automobielen (and of course their loyal and dedicated employees) wouldn’t be where it is today. And even that doesn’t tell the whole story. Because they are close. They stick together, in good times and bad. Sharing much more than their name, their company or even their iconic sportscar. They share each other’s future, joined by an extraordinary bond.

JOOP DONKERVOORT: A MAN OF MANY PARTS

The 16-year old Joop Donkervoort was stopped in his tracks when he spotted a Lotus Seven on a parking lot on his way home one evening. He’d seen the car in pictures, had made drawings of it in his school notebooks, but never had he seen one in real life. It was love at first sight. That brief encounter was to change his life.

Thirteen years later Joop welded together the chassis of his first Donkervoort at Arch Motors in Huntington, England – since he didn’t yet have his own production facility. His idea was to ‘finish the Lotus Seven’ as he would later describe it. With the deepest respect for its brilliant developer Collin Chapman but convinced he could make the car better. More reliable, comfortable, practical, ‘sporty’ and with better driving characteristics. That was his goal, his passion and his life at that time. And he did.

And so Donkervoort Automobielen was born. Joop soon discovered that he needed to obtain an official type approval. Which no small series car manufacturer had ever done before. But Joop did. Taking the hurdles one by one. Often on the edge of disaster. But always finding a way to bounce back. Which paints a true picture of the man behind the business: if Joop wants something done, he gets something done.

Joop is often portrayed as a brilliant technician. Which is true, but the description fails to do justice to this man of so many parts. As he once said:  ‘I have always been interested in the technical side, but it has never been my biggest motivator. Tech is a mean to an end. Important, of course, but still a means to create human emotion. Not the other way around. What counts is the experience, pleasure, relaxation… the emotion.’

Joop has always known and felt that driving a sportscar is a personal thing. Not to show off, but to experience the result of an individual choice. Which pretty much defines the relationship many – if not all – Donkervoort drivers feel deep down. When it comes to Donkervoort, it’s all personal.

For the last 40 years, Joop Donkervoort has been on a quest to develop and build the ultimate sportscar. With the Donkervoort D8 GTO-40 as his latest achievement. Never giving up, never settling for less than the best, ceaselessly searching for the optimal design, and constantly inventing new techniques and materials. Continually lowering the weight of the car and boosting its performance. Reaching a level that crowned him the leading developer of ultralightweight sportscars.

Yet as Joop always said ‘’You’re only as good as your latest car.” Meaning there is only one way to go: forward. And that is exactly what Donkervoort is doing. Designing new cars and creating an even purer driving experience in the process. When people ask him about the future of sportscars, Joop likes to quote the famous Porsche designer Anatole Lapine: ‘The future of sportscars is synonymous to the history of horses. When the car came, the central role of the horse was played out, with one exception: the sport (race) horse. Their status remained through the ages. And the same will be the case for sportscars, when alternatives for our present daily car-use will be fully operational. The sportscar image will remain the same. And so will the emotions of their drivers.’