OX gets ready to plough

An in­ven­tive Brit builds an all-pur­pose truck for Africa, in Swedish-style flat-packs

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@cars­guide.com.au

A DIRT-cheap flat-pack truck that takes just 11 hours to build could rev­o­lu­tionise truck­ing in Africa.

It’s called the OX and it has been de­signed to make lives of peo­ple liv­ing in some of the most re­mote places on the planet eas­ier by pro­vid­ing them an af­ford­able method of mov­ing cargo and peo­ple.

The OX is the brain­child of Bri­tish toy ty­coon, avi­a­tor and phi­lan­thropist Sir Torquil Nor­man (pic­tured), who set about de­sign­ing a sim­ple and af­ford­able truck to cart ev­ery­day items in parts of Africa.

He hopes the in­no­va­tive ma­chine will en­able peo­ple in re­mote vil­lages to de­liver pro­duce and other items to larger cities.

‘‘ If it works it will en­able kids to stay in vil­lages rather than move to ur­ban slums, and the economies of the whole con­ti­nent could even­tu­ally be af­fected,’’ Nor­man says.

‘‘ The OX could pro­vide an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of in­fra­struc­ture to en­able the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion raise the com­mu­nity’s stan­dard of liv­ing and to as­sert its in­de­pen­dence by gain­ing con­trol of its trans­porta­tion needs and costs.’’

Hav­ing de­vel­oped a pro­to­type, Nor­man has gone pub­lic and aims to raise money to make the truck a pro­duc­tion re­al­ity. In pro­duc­tion, the OX could cost $16,000-$30,000.

An all-ter­rain light duty truck, the OX can ford streams up to 75cm deep and carry up to 2000kg, eight oil drums, three Euro pal­lets or 13 peo­ple.

It weighs only 1500kg and is pro­pelled by a ro­bust 2.2-litre four-cylin­der diesel with a power cou­pling— as in the Mercedes Un­i­mog— to op­er­ate a wa­ter pump or air com­pres­sor.

It is front-wheel drive but has been de­signed for max­i­mum trac­tion, with 73 per cent of weight over the axle when empty and 53 per cent fully loaded.

Sim­plic­ity is the key for Nor­man. The rig has in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion to nav­i­gate chal­leng­ing ter­rain and a flat, un­clut­tered un­der­body to avoid get­ting caught on rocks or tree roots. Many panels are in­ter­change­able from one side to the other and the wind­screen comes in three sec­tions— if one is bro­ken it can be re­placed for less than an en­tire wind­screen. Ship­ping ve­hi­cles to Africa is not cheap but this has also been con­sid­ered.

The OX would be shipped to Africa in a flat pack, Ikea-style, or in car in­dus­try par­lance CKD (com­plete knock down). Crat­ing up is sim­pli­fied too— some of the OX panels form a cargo box that the other com­po­nents fit in, so six OX packs can fit into a ship­ping con­tainer, as op­posed to two or three reg­u­lar light duty trucks.

Nor­man says assem­bly in Bri­tain would take three peo­ple just over five hours. In Africa, three peo­ple with mod­er­ate skills and sim­ple tools would take 111/ 2hours.

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