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‘Flat-pack’ truck aims to put Africa on wheels

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By: IOL Motoring Staff

London, England - This, says designer Gordon Murray, is the world's first flat-pack truck, aimed at providing low-cost mobility for people living in the world's remotest places.

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While there is nothing new about supplying vehicles in kit form for assembly by local labour - known in the industry as 'completely knocked down' - this one has been specifically designed for compact packaging and quick-and-easy assembly.

It's called the OX, and it's the brainchild of one man, Sir Torquil Norman, who saw one of the original Africar prototypes back in the 1980s and was inspired to take the idea a lot further, to develop not only a simple, rugged and easily maintainable vehicle for developing regions, but also to simplify its manufacture and assembly to the point where three guys who know what they're doing can put one together in a couple of days.

Five years ago Norman founded the Global Vehicle Trust, and called in former Formula One designer Gordon Murray to translate his vision into the nuts and bolts of a revolutionary light truck. He wanted high ground clearance with long-travel suspension, short overhangs, a multi-purpose layout and a three-seat cab.

The result is a box on wheels, shorter than a big SUV at 4229mm overall, on a 2560mm wheelbase, 2070mm wide and 2302mm high. It weighs 1600kg ready to go yet has a payload capacity of almost two tons and a load volume of seven cubic metres - enough for three standard EU pallets or eight 200 litre drums.

Or it can carry 13 people - three in the cab and five on each of two long bench seats down the sides. Unhook the tailgate, turn it 90 degrees and it becomes a loading ramp, while the egg-crate frames of the long bench seats can be used as sand ladders to get you out of sticky situations on soft ground.

The driver sits in the middle of the cab, which means it's neither possible nor necessary to build different versions for left and right-hand drive countries.

OX becomes its own packaging

But best of all, three people can pack all the components needed to build one into its own load box in less than six hours, so that the OX becomes its own packaging, and there's little or no waste material to be discarded after assembly.

Six of them will fit neatly into a standard 12-metre container - and three skilled technicians can assemble them in 12 hours each.

Murray also applied the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid!) to the drive-train, opting for a 2.2-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder diesel producing a conservative 74kW at 3500 revs and 310Nm at 2100rpm, driving the rear wheels via a simple five-speed manual gearbox.

Suspension is by trailing arms and coil springs all round, a long-travel system developed by maverick American designer Walter Christie in the 1920s for his experimental high-speed tanks and still in use on armoured vehicles around the world.

The three prototypes you see in the pictures are the only OXs currently in existence; the foundation is looking for commercial partners to compete their testing and start mass producing the OX for sale in developing regions, with the ultimate aim of realising Norman's dream, "to one day see an OX in every village in Africa".

Motoring.co.za

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