Most people know Gordon Murray from his time as either an F1 designer or the designer of the McLaren F1, but what he's been up to for the last few decades might surprise you. Enter the OX, the world's first flat-pack automobile, which Mr. Murray, at the behest of the Global Vehicle Trust, designed to help get developing countries off their feet and onto some .
Flatpack isn't usually a term that one would associate with anything other than IKEA, but the idea behind the OX is that when broken down into its flat-pack form, six of them can be fit in a 40-foot-tall shipping container. This makes transporting them from the UK to the developing world easy and economical.
The next thing to consider is that assembling flat-packed furniture is enough to spark divorces in some households, how can unskilled labor (read: someone without experience assembling cars) be expected to put the OX together correctly and in a reasonable amount of time? Mr. Murray has thought of that as well. The Global Vehicle Trust, itself the brainchild of Sir Torquil Norman, will enlist local companies and teach them to assemble and maintain the vehicles once they've arrived. Three trained people can build one OX in 12 hours. Not bad.
As you might imagine, roads aren't always a thing in the third world, so the OX has to be as nimble as a mountain goat, and that means four wheel drive, right? Nope. The OX is two-wheel drive, but the system has been designed such that it's nearly as effective in a majority of situations and the lack of rear differentials, transfer cases, etc., means that cost and complexity are significantly reduced.
The design of the body of the OX also helps it with getting around in difficult terrain. The truck was designed with a great deal of ground clearance as well as favorable approach, departure and breakover angles, so it's unlikely to get itself stuck unless someone is exceedingly ham-fisted behind the wheel. And if it does get stuck, you'll have up to two buddies to help dig you out thanks to the Ox's three-abreast seating.
The OX is powered by a deliberately boring, under-stressed, simple and economical 2.2-liter four-cylinder 16-valve diesel engine. This means that it should run on just about anything and be able to be fixed without complicated or specialized computers or equipment. The OX won't be fast, but it will have sufficient grunt to lug around over 4,100 pounds of cargo. The OX is shifted via a five-speed synchromesh manual transmission. No flappy paddles in the F1 and none here, damnit.
It's nice to see someone like Gordon Murray work at both ends of the cost spectrum, applying his mad automotive genius to things that both excite us and things that can make the world a better place for a lot of people. Our biggest complaint is that we won't get to drive this contraption; it looks like it would be a lot of fun.