Donkervoort D8 GTO-JD70 2020 review

When, as a young man, Joop Donkervoort began importing the Lotus Seven to mainland Europe, he hit a problem. It wasn’t road legal, so he had to make some minor alterations. It would appear that in the intervening 42 years, he hasn’t stopped.

This is the Donkervoort D8 GTO-JD70, built to celebrate Joop’s 70th birthday and hence restricted to 70 examples. It’s based on the regular D8 GTO, which, beyond being a roadster with its engine in front of its occupants and rear-wheel drive, has moved on quite a lot further from that Lotus than the Caterham Seven has in the intervening decades.

There’s still a mainly-tubular steel chassis, welded at Donkervoort’s Lelystad factory in the Netherlands, but it’s mated to structural carbonfibre, which is also produced in-house; Donkervoort’s factory does manufacturing, not just assembly. 

All in, the chassis weighs just 54kg yet has 20kNm/deg of torsional rigidity. Pushrod-wishbone suspension is fitted all round. 

For a time, Donkervoort ran Cosworth power. Then it struck a deal with Audi for a V6. It reverted to Cosworth when this fell through before coming to a new arrangement to use Audi’s 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, as found in the RS3, thanks to Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s then-technical director, liking the idea. 

That was the start of the D8 model line, which proved to be a spectacularly fast racing car; with a roof on it, the D8 GT won its class at the Dubai 24 Hour in 2011. Customers wanted it as a roadster, though, so here you have it: the D8 GTO, with ‘O’ for ‘Open’.

The D8 is a bigger roadster than similar lightweight offerings. At 3.83m long and 1.85m wide, it’s bigger than the latest Ariel Atom (3.52m x 1.88m) or Caterham (just 3.38m x 1.58m, shorter without a spare wheel or around 100mm longer and 100mm wider in SV form). At a claimed 680kg, though, it’s still a light sports car.

Donkervoort now makes 50 D8 GTOs per year and has introduced useful detail changes when creating the JD70 – effectively a new model update. 

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