Unless you’ve been living under a carburetor, you probably have heard that the USA Men’s National Team is taking on Belgium tomorrow in the FIFA World Cup round of 16. We missed our opportunity to do a comparison of US and German production cars last week, but this time we’ve done it! Kicking off “Independence Week” here at RFD you’ll find a full on consumer review of Belgium’s crop of enthusiast cars. And after the jump you’ll see how they compare to some of our best!
Admittedly, I wasn’t that familiar with the cars of Belgium. I hear Ford built the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in Belgium back in the 80s. But that’s American though, right? I did what every good researcher does. I went to Wikipedia. According to the list of Western European automakers, Belgium has (3) remaining automakers, Edran, Gillet, and Impéria. Its sad that there are only (3) remaining automakers out of (84)! Regardless, we’ll analyze their remaining automakers and find out what the Belgians are all about.
Edran was founded in 1984 by André Hanjoul. Their website describes him having a “car-virus” that led to him to produce his own car, the Edran Spyder MK I. I do see signs of sickness.
Image credit: Edran
With its body built from some combination of fiberglass, carbon-fiber and kevlar, the Spyder features a tubular steel chassis with a built in roll cage. So it’s a kit car, you’re saying to yourself? Yes, it sort of is. At least it seems to have a lot of the hallmark bits that we would consider a kit car. Curvy, lightweight body. Tube chassis. Interior bits that you could order from a catalog. But that doesn’t make it a bad car, right? At 710 kg (1565.28 lbs) it’s ridiculously light. Small engine choices should still do the trick with 150hp and 180hp 4-cylinders available.
What’s more interesting is their claim to be producing a 2,700 lb. two-seater with…wait for it… 7.2-liter V8 producing 800 hp. Called the Enigma, it lit up the internet when it was announced. In 2006. We’re still waiting to see it. As is the world. This could be “vaporware” as the kids are calling it.
Domestic Competitor – Factory Five.
You are probably familiar with their work. Factory Five has carried the kit car torch further than most American companies, producing versions of the legendary Shelby Cobra, among others. Sure, that car was based on a European model originally, but nobody can argue the American’ess of it now. Big Ford V8 up front, light body, this is where its at.
Image credit: Factory Five
Just over 2000 lbs, 400+ hp depending on the engine choice, classic looks, attainable price of $20K (plus some “installation”), this is a hell of a car. So if your “automotive company” is going to build something like a kit car, might as well get a kit car. And ours is better. Goooooooal!!!!!
After 30 minutes of play, its US and A 1 – Belgium NUL!
Up next a company you might have heard of! At least if you are racing fan or have ever wandered through the automakers in Gran Turismo. Producer of the Vertigo supercar, Gillet was started in 1994 by former racing driver Tony Gillet. At 950kg (2094.39 lbs) the Gillet Vertigo.5 Spirit Road Version is a beast.
Image credit: gilletvertigo.com
Powered by a Maserati sourced, dry sump 4.2L V8 producing 420hp, the Vertigo dates back to its MK 1 version 1994. This version has been around since 2010 and, while pricing seems to be a little mysterious, we estimate it to be in the $280,000 range. That’s a lot of scratch for a car with, well, subjective looks.
It looks a bit like Ace & Gary’s car doesn’t it? And those portholes seem to have been lifted from a Buick. Or a Pep Boys. But I’m being snarky, I apologize to our Belgian competitors. with a Nomex/Carbon Monoshell and “superposed” wishbones, push-rod with shock-absorbers in the front and Independent “superposed” wishbones in the rear, I bet this thing is a hoot to drive. But how does it do against a domestic rival?
Image credit: V12-GT.com
Domestic Competitor – Dodge Viper
If you had to list modern day big engined, light weight(ish) cars, you would most certainly have the Dodge Viper on your list. Back in the day it was the known around the world as a ridiculous, cartoon-like, V10 powered lunatic. But it’s grown up a bit but still wants to kill you.
Image credit: carpicswallpaper.com
If you are on RFD, you are already familiar with the story. 8.4 L V10 producing 640 bhp. It’s not nearly as light as the Vertigo, tipping the scales at around 3300 lbs which means the Gillet has a bit of a power to weight ratio advantage. But in the world of sports, you can buy an advantage, and for the $200K+ difference between the Viper and the Gillet, you could damn near turn it into a GTS-R. Winner. Another one in the back of the net for the US!
At the half, its ‘Murica 2 – Belgium NIL!
Finally, on our last trip around Belgium, we come to Impéria, a name that was revived in 2009 to market a hybrid sports car based on research from the company Green Propulsion. From what I can tell, they are a Belgian R&D company with designs on building hybrids. They have built everything from an electric superkart to and MK1 Escort with an electric drive. There’s a lot going on there. But we’re most interested in the sports car they help build, the Impéria GP.
Image credit: caradvice.com
Just look at that! Powered by a 1.6L 4-cylinder in-line turbo with direct injection, it sports 200hp. Oh, we said it’s a hybrid, right? It’s also got a 110 kW electric engine with 150 bhp. Weighing it at only 1,200-kg (2,645 lbs) it’s quick. How quick? Well it’ll be speeding in a 55mph zone in just under 4 seconds. In electric mode. 2013 supposedly marked the first year of production and you can order one on their website. Prices are supposedly $163,300 for the high end version and $124,000 for the more basic version. That’s a lot, but it’s a pretty cool car. Although I’m not sure you can really buy one. Anyone know? Regardless, it has to compete with another car you can buy different versions of.
Domestic Competitor – Tesla Model S
Did someone ask for innovation? Yep, here comes Elon Musk. He’ll send you into space, or he’ll build you an electric car. The Model S. Your choice. Opt for the cheaper option, and $69,900 (heh heh). That’s for the “60”. Keep going to the “85” and that’ll be $10K more. The “P85” super duper version is six figures. But it’ll do this:
Image credit: R&T
It’s not light. Innovation rarely is on the first go-round. Weighing a hefty 2,108 kg (4,647.3 lb) its all-electric motor produces 310 kW (416 bhp), 600 N·m (443 ft·lb). Again, we won’t bore you with stats and the history of Tesla Motors. You want to know who wins the last part of the match!?
Well the Impéria is cool. Damn cool. But it also costs twice as much and I’m not sure it’s twice as good. So the last goal is scored by Team USA by the Tesla Model S. I’m not convinced the GP is actually for sale and I can say that at least Tesla has sold 284 of their car. And that’s just in Belgium! Header by Musk gets past the Belgian keeper!
It’s a shutout. At least when it comes to cars. Belgium has some really cool offerings, and I will say that when it comes to lightweight options, they are really doing some great stuff. But lightweight is apparently really expensive and I get the sense some of these cars are so light weight they don’t exist *cough* Edran Enigma *cough*. Let’s just hope our boys can pull out a real live win on Tuesday.
Will is an automotive writer and Editor-in-Chief of Right Foot Down. Based in Maryland, he has had a long history of founding failed automotive sites and spending way too much time on car forums. He has owned “too many Mustangs” according to Josh and has a fetish for RWD V8s. He spent most of his 20s on tracks in the mid-atlantic and killing cones in parking lots and has even taught at a teen performance driving school.