Learn why Professor Gordon Murray rates this 4x2 box on wheels way above his McLaren F1 road car.
Murray’s latest creation just in time to take the Defender’s place
WORLD famous car designer Professor Gordon Murray last week told media the OX, a 4x2 box on wheels designed for Africa, is the car he is most proud of.
TopGear magazine quoted the designer of several Formula One race cars and the McLaren F1 road car as saying of the OX: “I’m more proud of this than any other vehicle I’ve done.”
The Durban-raised Murray has long left the world of super fast and super expensive cars to enable people to build cheap and safe transport using his patented iStream process.
This process, already deployed by Yamaha for the City Car concept and TVR at the new factory in Wales, uses the race car approach to build a car, starting with the roll cage, adding the drivetrain and suspension and cladding the result with panels in the sponsor’s colours.
The Ox truck caps all Murray’s ideals to construct affordable, reliable transport. The roll cage is clad with wood composite panels that are a lot tougher than steel. Murray tested it by dropping a 200-litre steel drum of water from two metres onto the wooden truck bed. It did not so much as splinter. But if a panel is broken, a new one can be bolted and glued into place in the field.
The diesel engine and five-speed gear box come from the Ford Transit parts catalogue and all the parts, from the rear hinge, to the three front windscreens, are made with Africa’s robust users in mind.
Murray was co-opted to design the car by philanthropist Sir Torquil Norman, who five years ago founded the Global Vehicle Trust (GVT), to pursue his ambition of helping people in the developing world by providing cost-effective mobility.
The GVT briefed Murray on a unique humanitarian programme to create a revolutionary lightweight truck.
Murray said the truck, which can be flat-packed inside its own frame and shipped worldwide, met all the design briefs and then some. “I had no idea how good the OX would be, until I’d driven it,” he told TopGear, explaining how the high ground clearance and suspension were designed to ensure the two-wheel drive truck can go over terrain that most of today’s heavy 4x4 bakkies would find a challenge.
“Above the core humanitarian concept, I now think there’s a huge commercial opportunity for a farm vehicle in the developed world … just as the Defender goes out of production,” Murray said.
Getting over Africa’s bad roads was only half the brief. The other half was for the OX to carry stuff, and having grown up with the way we load our bakkies, Murray made sure the OX can handle anything the owner wants to strap down on the back.
The load bin carries a payload of 1 900 kg and can comfortably seat up to 13 people, or carry eight 44-gallon (166-litre) drums or three Europallets.
The OX’s cabin provides spacious accommodation for three people, and the driver is seated centrally. To ensure the OX can operate on leftand right-hand drive roads, the steering wheel is in the middle.
The tailgate detaches completely from the OX and can be rotated lengthways to double as a loading ramp. The long plastic “egg crate” frames under the rear bench seat can be used as sand ladders under the wheels to help the OX ride over mud or sand.
The OX is designed to be manufactured in the UK but assembled locally, avoiding import duty in many countries. All the welding and bonding, and safety-critical stuff such as connecting brake lines and electrics, is done in the main factory. Murray designed the OX to be flat-packed within its frame, so that six OX flat packs fit in a 40-foot container. Three skilled people can put an OX together in approximately 12 hours.
In a statement from the global launch, Norman said feedback from Africa’s buyers and aid agencies has been very positive to date. “Our priority now is to raise the funding to complete the testing and take the project to fruition. 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,” Norman said.
It does not have the lines of the McLaren F1, but Professor Gordon Murray (inset) said he is more proud of this than any other vehicle he has designed.
The practical interior of the OX has lots of packing space, three flat windows for easy repair and the steering wheel in the centre to facilitate steering in left- or right-hand drive countries.