At just over 6 feet wide and a roof measuring only 38 inches above the ground, the Vertigo sports coupe was smaller and lighter than almost every other competitor available on the market at the time.
Similar in dimension to the Lotus Exige, the lightweight design translated into a serious handling advantage, as the Vertigo was able to cut through sharp switchbacks with relative ease and compete with offerings from any major manufacturer.
For the first time, Belgium had a prestige automobile that was getting attention on the world stage. As the decade progressed, Gillet made several changes to the Vertigo.
An increased top speed of 187 miles per hour and several engine upgrades were the most notable improvements. However, the most dramatic evolution of the platform came with Gillet decided to enter into international racing competition with a car based on the original Vertigo.
The street-legal version of this race car is the Vertigo Streiff. Hand-assembled in a small factory by a group of not much more than 15 mechanics and engineers, the Streiff boasts a radically restyled exterior appearance and 2 new options underneath the hood: a 266 horsepower Alfa Romeo V6, and a 3.6 liter engine generating 360 horsepower.
A 6 speed gearbox connects either of these new engines to the rear wheels and can be had in both standard and sequential manual flavors.
Even with the car’s weight now at just under 2000 lbs, the 3.6 liter Vertigo, with its substantial increase in power, still clocks in at 3.2 seconds for the sprint to 60 miles per hour. The smaller V6 launches the car to 60 in 4.5 seconds.
The Vertigo Streiff officially entered FIA GT racing in 2005. In the Group 2 class, the Streiff competed against the likes of Lotus and defending champions Porsche, which had had an extended run of success with their 996 GT3 car.
To meet FIA requirements, extensive modifications had to be made to the Vertigo platform, not the least of which was the development of a new 3 liter engine from Alfa Romeo that churns out 400 horsepower.
For the inaugural season, experienced Belgian driver Bas Leinders won 3 class races. In 2006, Leinders followed up with Vertigo’s first FIA GT Championship – an impressive performance for a sophomore manufacturer. Gillet remains Belgium’s only automobile maker.