The growth, breakdown, and transition to turbulence of counter-rotating streamwise vortices, generated via a Görtler instability mechanism, was used to experimentally model the eddy structures found in transitional and turbulent flat-plate boundary layers. The naturally occurring vortices have been studied using smoke-wire visualization and multiple-probe hot-wire rakes. Results show that low-speed regions are formed between the vortices as low-momentum fluid is removed away from the wall. The low-speed regions grow in the normal direction faster than a nominally Blasius boundary layer and create strongly inflexional normal and spanwise profiles of the streamwise velocity component. Instability oscillations develop on these unstable profiles that scale with the local shear-layer thickness and velocity difference. Contrary to expectations however, the spatial scales of the temporal velocity fluctuations correlate better with the velocity gradient in the spanwise direction than with the normal velocity gradient. The nonlinear growth of the oscillations is quite rapid and breakdown into turbulence occurs within a short timescale.