IT'S not the prettiest vehicle you've ever seen, but this could be the future of transport in the developing world and could even prove to be a life saver in remote parts.
Called the OX, it's the world's first ‘flat-pack' truck and has been designed to provide low-cost all-terrain mobility for remote parts of Africa and the developing world undertaking crucial daily tasks such as collecting drinking water and transporting grain, fertilizer or building materials.
It is unlike any other vehicle and has no direct competitor - whether from a concept, performance or pricing point of view, according to its makers.
The OX originated from the vision of one man - Sir Torquil Norman. Five years ago, he founded the Global Vehicle Trust (GVT), to pursue his ambition to help people in the developing world by providing cost-effective mobility. The GVT subsequently briefed renowned automotive designer Professor Gordon Murray on a unique humanitarian programme to create a revolutionary lightweight truck.
Murray's design for the OX is nothing short of revolutionary and the flat-pack format fundamentally changes the way a vehicle can be bought and transported.
Although it's only two wheel drive, the OX has been designed to offer superb all-terrain ability. The overall vehicle length is far shorter than a large SUV, and yet it can carry a payload of 1900kg - around twice the capacity of most current pick-ups - with a load volume of 7.0 m3. Based on EU size guidelines, it can seat up to 13 people or carry eight 44-gallon drums or three Euro-pallets.
The OX's cabin provides spacious accommodation for three people, and the driver is seated centrally. This layout has specific advantages for the world's developing countries, some of which have right-hand traffic, while others drive on the left of the road.
The OX's revolutionary nature extends beyond the vehicle design because, uniquely, it is capable of being flat-packed within itself, enabling it to be transported more efficiently around the world.
Six of these flat packs can be shipped within a 40ft high-cube container. Three skilled people can put an OX together in approximately 12 hours.
The OX is full of design innovations including a tailgate which detaches completely and can be rotated lengthways to double as a loading ramp. The rear bench seat bases also have a dual purpose - the long ‘egg crate' frames can be removed from the vehicle and used as ‘sand ladders' under the wheels to help cross challenging soft ground.
Says Gordon Murray: "The OX design and prototyping programme is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and challenging I have undertaken during my 45 years of car design, including my years in F1."
The vehicle, which is powered by a 2.2 litre diesel engine mated to a five speed manual gearbox, has only been produced in prototype form so far and its makers now hope to attract investment and support in order to progress the project to completion.
Says Sir Torquil Norman: "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."