It's incredible to think that Gordon Murray, the man who designed this…
…has now designed this:
That's the OX, a low-cost vehicle designed to be shipped, flatpack-style, and assembled on-site (with tools included in the kit).
The target market is the complete opposite of the wealthy McLaren F1 owner; the OX is intended for folks in developing nations for whom motor transport is typically out of reach.
It may not look like much, but it is loaded with clever, utilitarian design:
The tailgate can be detached and used as a loading ramp.
The bench seats in the rear can be used as sand tracks.
The space behind the front bench seat is sized to hold jerry cans, as gas stations in the target countries will be few and far between.
The canopy can be removed and used as a temporary shelter.
The nose and tail of the undercarriage is raked to provide a 42-degree approach/departure angle.
You'll notice it has three separate windshields rather than one. That's because it's easier to replace one small one that sustains a crack rather than an entire regular-size windshield. They're also interchangeable, so that if two of them become damaged en route, the unbroken one can be placed in front of the driver.
Everything on the truck, from the glass to the body panels, is flat to keep costs down. All of the body parts, which are made from "extremely strong and waterproof bonded wood composite" (marine plywood, we're guessing) are interchangeable from left to right—including the doors. This makes it easier to acquire replacement parts.
Also keeping the costs down are the off-the-shelf engine—a 2.2-liter diesel found in Ford's Transit vans—and the fact that four-wheel-drive was eschewed. "Four-wheel drive systems add weight, complexity and cost to a vehicle, reduce ground clearance and increase tyre wear and fuel consumption," the GVT claims. "Through clever and innovative design, the 2-wheel drive OX has most of the attributes of a 4-wheel drive vehicle, without the negative aspects." I'd like to see more detail on this, but none are provided other than that the "weight distribution [is] 71% over the front axle when unloaded and 50% when fully loaded, producing easy handling [either way]."
The OX itself is also meant to serve as a generator. When jacked up, either front wheel can be removed and replaced with an adapter, allowing that wheel to drive a belt connected to whatever the user wishes to power. Additionally, a power socket is provided on the front of the vehicle.
Some compromises had to be made, of course. The steering wheel is in the center of the cab, avoiding commitment to right-hand or left-hand drive, which varies from country to country.
As for why it's designed to be delivered flatpack: Import duties on vehicles are stiff in Africa, making vehicles unaffordable for most. As one example, in Nigeria the duty is 35% to 70% of the vehicle's total cost. But by shipping it as cargo and having it assembled within its country of destination, the tariffs can be avoided, dropping to just 5% in Nigeria. Also, more of the flatpacked OXen can be stuffed into a shipping container than if they were pre-assembled.
"I'm more proud of this than any other vehicle I've done," Murray told Top Gear.
Murray was hired to do the design work by Sir Torquil Norman, the philanthropist and "ex-fighter pilot, lawyer, economist, banker and retired toy magnate" who conceived of the project. "It's a crime, almost, that only 20 percent of the world's population has access to a motor vehicle," says Norman. He set up a charitable organization called the Global Vehicle Trust to develop the vehicle and has spent £3 million on development thus far.
Sir Torquil Norman and Gordon Murray
"The most satisfying elements of the project for me are that the OX will make such a difference to so many people and that it has no competitor in any part of the world," says Murray. "It has been a privilege to work alongside Torquil to make his vision a reality."
"Our priority now is to raise the funding to complete the testing and take the project to fruition," Norman reports. "We believe that the OX has huge potential for charities, aid organisations and development programmes. My dream is to one day see an OX in every village in Africa."