DESIGNING EXCELLENCE Delivering a unique driving experience

Gillet Automobiles founder, Tony Gillet, went from automotive racing champion to renowned designer and builder of sports cars widely considered to be works of art
on wheels. With his iconic model, the Vertigo, Gillet and his team have delivered high-performance and sleek looks to customers passionate about the driving experience ... and lucky enough to own a Gillet automobile.

Tony Gillet, a multiple winner of the 1970s-vintage Belgian hill-climb championships and a contestant in the Paris-Dakar rallies, is passionate about high-performance cars. “The first car I raced in was a Belgian model called Mean, which we assembled ourselves,” recalled Gillet, the founder of Gillet Automobiles. “Throughout my career I had the privilege of driving some of the world’s fastest and most powerful cars.”

Always in search of performance and perfection, Gillet could not imagine leaving the sport when his racing career ended in 1982. Instead, he became the first Belgian importer of the Donkervoort, a Dutch sports car styled after the Lotus Super Seven, which Gillet built from a kit. “After fifteen years assembling these sports cars for the manufacturer, Donkervoort Automobielen B.V. decided to regroup its activities and to build the cars in the Netherlands.” So Tony Gillet decided to put his imagination and experience to use and give others the same thrills he had when he was behind the wheel.

A few years later, the Gillet Vertigo made its dazzling debut.

Profile

Tony Gillet founded Belgian-based Gillet Automobiles in 1992 and is the creator of the award-winning Vertigo. The Vertigo was named after Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name; an idea Gillet’s daughter suggested when she was studying film in college. Each Vertigo is unique and 100% tailored to customer preferences, from driving habits and road conditions to interior layout and body styling. Each Vertigo is entirely handmade, built by a team of ten people, and is equipped with breakthrough sound technology that uses sophisticated headphones to neutralize all undesirable noises. This sportscar is featured in the video game “Gran Turismo,” for the pleasure of racing aficionados around the world.

AN UNFORGETTABLE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

“Twenty years ago, we created our first Vertigo prototype — an ultra-lightweight sports coupé made of composite materials and built entirely by hand,” Gillet said. After numerous awards — including forteen years of Guinness World Records for the fastest time from 0-100km/h and three times as World Champion (2006-2008) of the FIA GT Championship in the G2 category, Gillet and his team have since built five versions of the Vertigo. The latest one, called the Vertigo.5 Spirit, was presented in March 2011 and is equipped with a V8 Maserati engine. Thirty vehicles exist in the world today. “Not much,” Gillet conceded, “but each car is entirely handmade and customized according to our clients’ wishes. Since we are a small team, it can take up to two years to build each car. But that is the choice we made so that each car is exclusive and at its peak in terms of performance.”

Gillet describes people who own Vertigo automobiles as “someone who owns other types of prestitious sports cars and is looking for a certain identity and originality. Our customers come to us because they already have a Ferrari or Lamborghini, and the Gillet is probably their third or fourth car. We have had some famous clients: French rock singer Johnny Hallyday, who used our car for a series of Parisian concerts, and Prince Albert of Monaco, who has driven one of our models. We also custom-built a version of the Vertigo for Philippe Streiff, a former Formula One racing driver who remained handicapped after an accident in 1989. His car has an automatic transmission and is controlled by a joystick.” The racing version of the car, named The Gillet Vertigo Streiff, was named after him. “Even some journalists who have tested the Vertigo described it as the most extreme driving experience they have ever had on the road.”

“In the past we would hand sketch a component and bring the drawing to the NC specialist down the street so that he could manufacture the part. Now we provide them with a 3D model, which greatly facilitates their work.”

Tony Gillet, Founder of Gillet Automobiles

CRAFTSMANSHIP WITH TECHNOLOGY

The Vertigo is built in a 1,000-square-meter workshop in Namur, Belgium. Visitors to the small workshop are amazed by the combination of hand craftsmanship and high technology. “Just recently, a team from Japan asked to be taken to the factory where the Vertigo was built. When I told them that they were in the factory, they were very surprised. Needless to say, we had some great publicity in the Japanese press,” Gillet said.

When Gillet started building cars, 3D software had not been invented. Then, a student on an internship brought in a laptop with 3D CAD. “We asked him if he could design a few parts and we were very impressed by the application’s capabilities. I then offered him a job and from that moment on, we began using 3D for all our design work.”

Working with subcontractors has moved to the next level. Since some of our subcontractors are far away, explaining what we want using hand sketches is difficult. With 3D, we can simply send them a digital representation, which is more efficient. We all speak a common language that is easier to understand.” Gillet is already thinking about the future.
“I will undoubtedly step down in a few years. But when I do, I would like to make sure the know-how and expertise we have accumulated will benefit those who will continue this exciting adventure. 3D is the best way I know to capitalize this know-how and to make sure it is transferred to future generations,” he said. And to ensure that, for years to come, Gillet Automobiles will continue to build cars that deliver intense driving experiences.

by Dora Laîné Back to top
by Dora Laîné