Inside Donkervoort: agile cars, agile design

Donkervoort F22 side

Car Design News goes behind the scenes at Dutch sportscar maker Donkervoort 

Tucked away in the corner of an industrial estate on reclaimed land not far from Amsterdam, sits Donkervoort Automobielen. A family-run business now in its second generation – currently led by the founder’s son – the company has been turning out bonkers two-seater sportscars for the better part of five decades.

Starting first as an importer and retrofitter of Lotus Sevens (which had to be adapted slightly for Dutch roads) founder Joop Donkervoort began developing his own cars with a similar recipe: semi-open front wheels, two seats and a power-to-weight ratio that puts practically anything else on the road to shame. It was far from smooth sailing, with Denis Donkervoort, who fully took the reins as CEO in 2021, recalling the launch of its GT at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show as something of a failure.

Donkervoort F22 rear 3Q

The Donkervoort F22

But not one to throw in the towel, the tight-knit team of around 20 employees stuck at it and used the lessons learned to come up with a far more accomplished offering for its next car. Fast-forward to today, and a secretive new project is in the works that promises to take things to the next level with more power, more cubic capacity and as advisory board member Amko Leenarts (yes, that Amko) puts it, a much keener focus on design. 

Away from his day job as head of design for Ford of Europe, Leenarts has been working closely with the Donkervoort team over the last few years, dedicating his free time to the project and even using days of holiday if needed. But it is not a charitable gesture: has had a close relationship with Donkervoort since a child. In fact, it was what got him into design in the first place. Today, he works closely with head of design and development Jordi Wiersma, who straddles both design and engineering and joined in around 2005. “At the beginning, I was there really for advice,” says Leenarts. “I would just raise the right kind of questions and help them to better understand what they wanted and how to get it done.”

Car Design News - Donkervoort -1

Right to left: Jordi Wiersma, Amko Leenarts, Denis Donkervoort, CDN’s Freddie Holmes

And although Jordi and the team were using digital tools, Leenarts helped to steer them further in this direction to speed up development, testing, validation and – in practical terms – work together on projects remotely. “We had this…

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