Whilst major manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini are slowly inching their way from supercars weighing a portly 1450kg (3100lbs) or so to a target weight of around 1,000kg (2200kg), small volume manufacturers are already manufacturing sub 1000kg sports cars. One such manufacturer is Gillet.

Gillet is the brainchild of Tony Gillet, a Belgian racing driver who was famous for winning the Belgian hill climb championship for several years and had also competed in the Paris-Dakar Rally. He started off as the official importer of the Dutch made Lotus Super 7 derived Donkervoort and has branched off into car manufacturing with the Gillet Vertigo series of sports car. What started production in 1993 (the original Vertigo pictured above) has now evolved into the current Vertigo 5 Spirit.

The Spirit in race form has competed in the FIA GT Championships for the last few years and the road-going car is derived from it. It is one unique sports car in which it is powered by the Ferrari derived 4.2-litre V8 Maserati engine that is used in the Maserati GranTurismo. How many cars have you read about that uses this fabulously aural engine aside from Maserati? None. And this makes it a really good thing, making the Spirit something special.

The Spirit gets the dry sumped engine that makes 420bhp running through a sequential 6 speed gearbox driving the rear wheels. Now these days 420bhp isn’t as much as an Audi RS5 making 444bhp. Ferraris like the 458 Italia makes 560bhp and even 4 door sedans like the S65 AMG make that many horses too. But the magic in this small automobile manufacturing company is in its weight, or lack of it. The Spirit weighs 950kg, about the weight of a Daihatsu Sirion supermini. The car gets it lightweightness from its small size (wheelbase is only 2340mm) and its liberal usage of Nomex/Carbon Fibre in its monocoque shell.

This would also mean that it already has a power to weight ratio of 424bhp/(metric)ton. This is more than the 413bhp/ton that the 458 Italia makes. And we know that the Ferrari Mille Chille (1000) is just a concept car made in 2007 with no sign of it making an appearance soon. Lamborghini have also previewed their Sesto Elemento concept car at Paris recently, a 1000kg Gallardo concept car that may make production in the near future. But it is still a car of the future. Not now, like the Spirit. But I’d say the biggest culprit on not wanting to ‘lighten up’ is Lotus. Their future competitor against Ferrari and Lamborghini, the Esprit will purportedly weigh 1490kg. The Spirit is proof that you can keep things light right now in the present, and not the future. Price isn’t such an issue too, as a Spirit would set you back by about 130,000Euros. A 458 Italia would be closer to 175,000Euros.

The rest of the car could still be based on the Super 7 concept but with a fully enclosed cabin, fenders and scissor type doors. Notice the short overhangs and posture of the Spirit. Then notice the Maserati-esque vents (like on the Maserati GranTurismo) at each side after the front wheel arches. A nod to the engine supplier.

The car has a suspension and brakes setup like most race bred cars; double wishbones pushrod style with tuned absorbers and springs up front. The rear is also fully independent with double wishbones too. The brakes are AP Racing 4pot calipers up front running 330mm ventilated discs, the rears run AP Racings with 300mm ventilated discs. The polished multi-spoked alloy rims are 19inches in diameter running 225/35/ZR19 up front and 275/35ZR19 at the rear.

With the specification that reads like a motorhead’s dream, the Spirit seems to meet the criteria of a fabulous performance car. One that would be an interesting and engaging drive. The only drawbacks that I can see from the car’s design is that the plain looking cabin betrays its Lotus Super 7 heritage by looking very kit car like, even with leather and suede plastered everywhere and that it looks ultra cozy. Too cozy for some fat people (the writer of this article included). That really thick door sill and tight bucket seat may be a challenge for most weight challenged people. Maybe in order to run a sub-1000kg car you should be as svelte as the car. Who knows.

One other item noticed is the lack of airbags. The thing about the EU is that the regulation as regards safety features somehow allows for small or low volume manufacturers to forgo certain items that must be featured even in the smallest cars. Of course such a car may not be sold in countries where the laws regarding vehicle safety are tighter. I suppose sometimes you can only find purity in cars like this. Safety takes a back seat to pure driving pleasure. The excuse that you could give for not having any airbags is that airbags are only necessary when you crash so make sure you don’t, especially in the Spirit. Quite simple reasoning.

So you want one? It may not have lots of heritage, but it does have lots of racing pedigree. It also has Sony Playstation exposure too. You can drive the Vertigo in most versions of Gran Turismo 4 and the Spirit is hinted by Gillet themselves to be one of the cars featured in the upcoming but the forever delayed Gran Turismo 5. At least you don’t have to worry about fitting yourself in one if it’s in game form.