Like all the greatest supercars the 7X Design GTO Vision started out as one man’s dream, inspired by the car posters he had on his bedroom wall as a boy.
“I have always been a car enthusiast and had posters of supercars like the Ferrari 288 GTO, F40 and Porsche 959 on my bedroom wall as a kid,” explained 7X Design’s founder David Gomez. “I was a car spotter and would attend car shows and events where I could see all these cool machines in the metal.”
Originally from Mexico, David made his money in property and renewable energy, and owns wind and solar farms in Mexico and Spain. The income from these fast growing industries has enabled him to indulge his passion for supercars and realise the automotive dreams he has harboured from young.
The list of supercars he has owned includes all the usual suspects such as the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Diablo, Jaguar XJ220 and Porsche Carrera GT. Of all the marques however, Ferrari has been the most numerous with a 330GT, Testarossa, 308GTB, 355GTB, California, and the 488 that became the donor car for the 7X Design GTO Vision.
“Unlike some enthusiasts I did not start a big collection, and I simply bought and sold these cars as I went along,” said David. “The 330GT is the only car from the list that I still own. I love its classic simplicity and it is the perfect counterpoint to the technical sophistication and amazing capabilities of the 488.”
The idea for the GTO Vision came about from David’s wish to own a truly unique Ferrari. “But it was important that the car should be instantly identifiable as a Ferrari. In fact this was a priority for the design brief,” David explained.
Italian coachbuilders like Pininfarina, Bertone and others have been doing this for years, and more recent one-off factory specials such as the SP38 Deborah, Monza SP2 Speedster and SP3JC Roadster set the tone here.
“I was not interested in dressing up a 488 with a body kit or spoilers so the only approach that made sense was to design a complete new body for the car,” David recounted. “The key things were that it had to look as if it were made by Ferrari itself, and be built to at least factory standards of fit and finish.”
Being used to working with world-class industrial designers and engineers on his alternative energy projects David was determined to engage the very best car designers and engineers to realise his bespoke Ferrari. So he founded 7X Design to oversee the project.
“I am a big fan of the turbocharged Ferrari models,” said David. “The 288 GTO and F40 were the pinnacle of the supercar genre in their time, and they had the visual punch to underline their performance credentials.“ Due to the lack of advanced digital motor electronics in their day they were difficult cars to drive well, which only added to their legend and mystique.”
While some Ferrari fans will always prefer naturally aspirated engines, there is no disputing the fact that they have perfected the response and character of the new twin-turbo V8 motors. The 488’s motor is the heart of a new generation of turbocharged, mid-engine Ferrari V8 supercars where the engineers have not only managed to practically eliminate turbo lag but also managed to endow the motor with a snappy, high revving character.
“The impetus behind the GTO Vision project is my feeling that while today’s mainstream mid-engine Ferrari designs have evolved from the same genes they look rather tame in comparison,” says David.
“I thought about a unique Ferrari for myself that would reference the cars I had on my wall as a teenager, with some of the visual aggressiveness of these cars and the big air intakes that helped to give them their purposeful road-racer looks. What I had in mind was literally a ‘poster car’ for today just as the 288 GTO and F40 were in their times.”
The GTO Vision’s design cues are clearly from the 288 GTO, F40 and FXX, but the critical ingredient is the way these elements from three generations of flagship Ferraris have been skilfully blended together to create a coherent design that looks every inch a Ferrari in both its proportions and detailing.
“Given such a brief there are a hundred ways of doing it wrong and just one way of doing it right,” he philosophised. “Because of this I knew I had to get the right designer for the job; someone who understood the ethos of Ferrari styling through the ages and shared my vision of what a future Ferrari might look possibly look like.
After some intense research David found a young American stylist whom he thought might fit the bill for the job of penning his dream car. Their relationship started after David was impressed by a ‘Ferrari Concept’ design he had done. They spoke, found common ground, and David engaged his services. However, while most young designers are hungry for publicity, this one wishes to remain anonymous because of existing corporate clients.
“We ping-ponged ideas back and forth and the design slowly evolved,” David recalls. “The stylist came up with sketches and renderings and we discussed and improved on them. And as the project progressed we both became more and more excited.”
The distinctive tail with its FXX K inspired rear wings and big rear diffuser was finalised quite early in the design process as was the F40 style transparent engine cover with ventilation slats. The brief here was to maximise engine cooling even though the mechanicals would be stock.
“You can never have enough engine cooling with a mid-engine design,” says David. “Although this car will stay in Europe, should someone from a hot climate commission a car and tune the motor then it would be good to have sufficient headroom to cope.”
To this end the F40 style rear window has 10 horizontal slats that provide significant hot air venting. Combined with the mesh grille between the rear lights, heat from the engine bay is drawn out very effectively especially at low speeds.
One of the distinctive features of the roofline is the flying buttress C-pillars. If you think this looks familiar, thereby hangs a tale. The stylist created this feature for a project during his degree course in car design, and it was seen and adopted by one of the Ford GT’s designers.
“Once we settled on the final design the time came to select an industry specialist firm to translate the concept drawings into reality,” David continued. “Envisage Group, a UK-based specialist company that builds show cars for the likes of Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar was selected from a shortlist,” said David. “Apart from their five star client list I was also impressed by the Envisage Classic and Bespoke division that builds handcrafted one-off or low volume recreations such as the continuation Jaguar D-Type and XKSS.”
Envisage possess state-of-the-art equipment to digitally scan the exterior and interior co-ordinates of a base vehicle with fraction of a millimetre accuracy to ensure that the new bodywork matches up perfectly with the OE underpinnings. This helps to identify possible areas of conflict between the new bodywork and vital components like the radiators and suspension, allowing issues to be resolved before the prototype body panels are committed to tooling or moulds.
Carbon-fibre was chosen for the bodywork of the GTO Vision, and this offers a worthwhile weight reduction over the stock 488’s aluminium bodywork. The quality of fit and finish matches the factory level, and as we witnessed during the sunset photo shoot the perfectly applied coat of red paint shows off its fine surface finish.
While the ultra light one-piece forged alloy wheels were specially commissioned for this car they are made to OE sizes. This allows re-use of the stock tyres, with positioning in the wheel wells adjusted by spacers to get the offsets visually perfect. The result is a car whose attractive lines turn heads and raises questions about a new Ferrari model that has not yet been launched.
Form follows function is one thing, but the fact is that you can end up with an ‘engineer’s’ car that raises the bar in terms of chassis dynamics and aerodynamics, while being aesthetically controversial. The McLaren Senna is a case in point.
David did not want the reverse situation either and was emphatic that the GTO Vision was to be more than just a pretty face. Significant attention was paid to aerodynamic efficiency, with more positive downforce being produced over both axles at speed.
The 488 is a very fast car out of the box so the engine was kept stock for reliability reasons. If you want more power the GTO Vision can also be based on a Pista, which would take its performance envelope to the next level. We suspect however, that most owners would want to drive past onlookers at a fairly sedate pace so the car can be properly admired and pictures taken for social media.
After the car had been given public outings at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and at a private event in London, the team brought it to Marbella in Spain for the annual Magna Supercars Concours d’ Elegance. A few days later an interested client requested that the car be benchmarked against a stock 488 by one of the professional race instructors at the nearby Ascari Race Resort.
At 5.4km, Ascari is the longest racetrack in Spain, with 26 corners and some imposing elevation changes. The stopwatch showed that the GTO Vision completed a lap in 2:28.3 minutes versus 2:28.9 minutes for the stock 488. Significantly, the telemetry indicated that the superior aerodynamic downforce allowed a higher exit speed from the critical right-hander before the long back straight, resulting in a 6.0km/h higher terminal speed at the end before braking.
While the control driver remarked on the superior high speed stability in the bends the slightly greater suspension compression from the increased downforce was causing a tyre to rub on the inner wheel arch lining. Because he had to hold back slightly in some bends to minimise the rubbing, the driver reckoned there was at least a second and a half to be gained once the arch liners had been adjusted.
The fact that the mechanically stock GTO Vision can chip nearly 2.0 seconds out of the standard 488’s already rapid lap time at this challenging track purely on superior aerodynamics is an impressive achievement.
“I originally had the GTO Vision made for myself as an enthusiast, but the reaction and feedback has been so positive I would seriously consider doing a small run for others who share my passion,” says David. “But I don’t want to sell dozens of copies as that would destroy the exclusivity, and I am an enthusiast, not a marketing man.”
Unlike some other wealthy enthusiasts who woke up one day and decided to build their own car David is not about to get involved in starting a factory to make cars. “We have proven that we have a great team around us comprised of some of the best international talent in the business,” he says. “I see 7X Design as company that project manages unique cars for fellow enthusiasts, who will own all the design rights and the moulds to their car.”
“Car enthusiasts always have fun working out the specification and options for their new car, but creating your own car is 20 times more fun,” says David. “I really had a great time during the design and build process. It was like finding and placing all the pieces of a great big automotive jigsaw puzzle!”