Gordon Murray, the Global Vehicle Trust and Sir Torquil Norman have created a truck that can be built and driven in remote areas from a flat pack kit
The Ox truck – the world’s first flatpack truck — designed by Gordon Murray to be made in the UK and built up quickly and easily in emerging markets, is almost ready to enter the final stages of testing in Africa, where the vehicle is intended to be sold.
A crowdfunding page has been set up for the truck, in order to raise the funds needed to make the final tweaks necessary before African testing begins. These modifications include a new, more hard-wearing gearbox, powertrain tweaks, a more powerful cooling system, more durable steering components, and a 200mm extension to the truck’s wheelbase, to make it perform better off-road.
About a third of the £450,000 target has been raised, with one backer pledging £25,000 and another backing £10,000, with smaller denominations making up the rest of the £116,522 raised. If the page raises double the funding target, all of the planned tweaks will be implemented; if the targeted £450,000 is raised, only the critical tweaks will be applied.
The truck was was revealed in driving prototype form by its charitable backer, Global Vehicle Trust (GVT) last year.
Called the Ox, the truck is the brainchild of entrepreneur Sir Torquil Norman, GVT’s main backer. Four years ago, Norman formed a partnership with Murray to use the British designer’s revolutionary iStream design principles to create an extremely durable, all-terrain light truck specifically for remote parts of Africa.
About £3 million has been spent on three Ox prototypes so far and the project has attracted interest from major vehicle makers. By revealing its prototypes now, GVT aims to attract more backers. A further £3m is needed to put the truck into production.
The Ox is about the same length as a Ford Focus but can carry two tonnes — twice as much as a car-based pick-up. Its central-seat, cab-forward design leaves load space for eight 44-gallon drums, or three standard pallets, or 10 people on bench seats that can double as sand ladders. The tailgate detaches to form a ramp, up which drums can be rolled or a loading crew can walk.
The chassis is a steel ladder with bonded-in wooden panels to provide torsional rigidity, a key iStream principle. The mechanicals, including the 98bhp 2.2-litre fourcylinder diesel engine and six-speed gearbox, are from a Ford Transit. The all-coil, all-independent suspension uses simple, long-travel steel leading arms in front and trailing arms behind, and the suspension parts are identical side to side.
At this stage, the Ox has a simple front-wheel drive layout, which saves weight and complication, but four-wheel drive versions are possible, says Murray. However, the Ox has better ground clearance and shorter overhangs than most pure off-roaders and early testing in rough and muddy terrain has returned such good results that the partners question the early need for four-wheel drive.
The body parts — mostly flat panels in ultra-durable coated plywood — are also identical side to side, as are the seats and flat windscreen pieces. The entire cab section is designed to fit, before assembly, inside the chassis rails in such a way that an Ox doesn’t even need to be crated up for shipping. Six Ox kits, with engines, fit into a standard 40ft container. A team of three can assemble one in less than 12 hours, needing no special tools.
If the right backing can be found, Murray and GVT believe work already done would allow a UK manufacturing plant to be sending the Ox to market — which might include European as well as emerging market destinations — within two years.
On the road in the Ox
The surprises start early. You’d expect extreme crudity in a flat-pack vehicle with no interior trim whatsoever, and you get it. But you also get surprising sophistication.
Sure, this isn’t the quietest vehicle you’ll ever ride in, but for strength, traction, stability and a flat and level ride — the things that matter — the Ox is really remarkably good, even carrying a one-tonne test payload.
You sit very high and very close to the nose, which takes some getting used to, and there’s zero side support in the non-adjusting bench seat, but the steering is accurate, the gearbox feels familiar (although the first and second ratios should be closer) and that Transit motor packs plenty of torque.
“The Ox is built for really rough roads where normal vehicles give up,” says Global Vehicle Trust’s Henry Labouchere, who has given the yellow prototype “a really good workout” during the past nine months on his Norfolk farm.
“We’ve used it for everything you’d do with a Land Rover,” he says, “and it has always come up smiling.”