Why This Truck Might Be the Most Important Vehicle of the Decade
It's called the OX, it's insanely cheap, and it comes in a box.
Yep, the OX is a "flat-pack" truck. No clue what that means? Go buy a bookshelf at IKEA, because it's the same basic concept: the truck ships in pieces, stacked to take up as little space as possible in the crate (which means cheaper shipping, and thus, a cheaper truck). Three people can assemble it in 12 hours, with no specialized tools required, and by the end of the day, you've got a truck that can kick ass in virtually any environment.
Its whole raison d'etre is to help the developing nations of Africa, providing remote areas and agricultural villages with a cheap, reliable truck alternative to the hoards of ancient Defenders, Land Cruisers, and Hiluxes still in use.
It was designed by the same guy who did the McLaren F1
The man responsible for bringing this let's-make-a-cheap-and-revolutionary-truck-for-Africa concept to life? Gordon Murray, whom gearheads recognize as the mastermind behind the McLaren F1. A cheap African truck it certainly wasn't, but the 240+ mph F1 was revolutionary in its own right and had a very unusual seat layout -- with the driver in the middle.
That's something the F1 and the OX have in common. It's a three-seater that sits a passenger on either side of the driver. Why the middle? On the F1, it was a matter of performance, but here it's one of simplicity -- much of Southern Africa drives on the left, and building two versions would add complexity and cost.
Up to 10 people can sit in back, for a grand total of 13, and the OX can carry roughly twice as much as your average pickup truck, despite being significantly smaller than one. When it comes to moving agricultural goods, that's a potentially seismic step forward for the average rural community.
It has the off-road capabilities of a Land Rover Defender. You read that right.
When Murray set about designing the ultimate third-world truck, the trick wasn't just keeping costs down and payload high, but in making a cheap vehicle that could go almost anywhere... on a continent known for its ridiculously rugged terrain.
The wheels are set pretty far out toward the front and back of the truck's body, which itself features very high bumpers, allowing the OX to climb over steep objects. The frames of the seats in back are easily removable, to be used to help the truck drive across any exceptionally soft spots of sand. The 2.2-liter, four-cylinder diesel offers up nearly 100hp and 228lb-ft of torque, which might not sound like a ton by today's standards, but for the third world, it's plenty to get moving with a heavy payload.
In terms of maintenance and repairs, there's no infrastructure for this thing yet, since it's still in the preparing-to-launch phase, but the engine is from the seemingly ubiquitous Ford Transit so parts won’t be impossible to find. Fixing most other aspects of the truck should be as painless as possible, provided you can tighten a bolt or two.
This could turn into Africa's Jeep
The automotive world owes a lot to Necessity. The mother of Invention sets the stage time and time again for the coolest and most revolutionary vehicles. Where would Jeep be were it not for the need for a cheap, light, easy-to-mass-produce vehicle for WWII? Where would Land Rover be were it not for Britain's need for a cheap and intensely rugged Jeep-like vehicle? That both became icons in the decades that followed stands as evidence of the timelessness of a purpose-built vehicle such as this.
The OX is in its working prototype stage now, and set to be produced by the aptly named Global Vehicle Trust, which is actively looking for investors to make it happen. Will it become a timeless testament to great engineering, adapted to fun at the whim of those who can afford it? Who can say? At this stage of the game, though, it has all the hallmarks of a winner.
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