A novel British small truck designed to be shipped in compact, flat-pack form and then easily assembled with only a few spanners has won the backing of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.
The Ox was first unveiled nearly two years ago. It is the brainchild of Sir Torquil Norman, founder of the Global Vehicle Trust (GVT), a charity focused on solving transport problems peculiar to developing countries.
Gordon Murray, the renowned automotive design engineer who heads an eponymous Guildford, Surrey-based design company, was given the brief for a vehicle with high ground-clearance, generous approach and departure angles, large wheel movement, multi-purpose layout, and a three-seat cab.
What sets the Ox apart from every other vehicle of this type, however, is the ease with which it can be transported and then assembled with few tools. The vehicle’s own chassis in effect becomes the crate in which it is shipped.
Shell shells out for a prototype
Shell has been impressed enough by the vehicle’s potential to have commissioned a pre-production prototype to be taken to India. The first shipment under the “Ox to India” scheme is expected later this year.
“Shell is eager to play a role alongside others in developing and promoting mobility solutions in developing regions,” says Huibert Vigeveno, executive vice president in Shell’s global commercial division.
“The Ox to India demonstration will see the concept validated and discussed on the ground in a real-world setting. We know limited mobility in hard-to-reach communities in developing economies can restrict access to basic services, and can limit the effectiveness of efforts to improve the quality of life. The Ox has the potential to broaden access to transport possibilities and all the resulting benefits that come with this.”
The 4×2 Ox is claimed to have all-terrain capability comparable with that of a 4×4. Its power unit is a 2.2-litre, 100hp, four-cylinder Ford diesel engine, driving through a five-speed manual synchromesh gearbox to the rear wheels. Kerb weight typically is put at around 1,600kg, giving the Ox a generous payload capacity of 1,900kg.
As many as six flat-packed Ox trucks can be shipped in a 40-ft container. An Ox can be assembled from scratch by three skilled people in less than twelve hours, it is claimed.
A unique challenge for design genius
“After our highly successful co-engineering concept car programme with Shell, it is exciting to be once again working with the company on the next phase of this extremely important and ground-breaking project,” says Gordon Murray.
“The Ox is one of our most important engineering designs and it is certainly the vehicle of which I am most proud. Its disruptive design has the potential to change the current mobility model. With Shell’s vision this vehicle could go on to improve so many people’s lives.
“The Ox design and prototyping programme is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and challenging I have undertaken during my 47 years of car design, including my years in F1.”
The Ox has conventional coil-spring suspension front and rear. Overall length is 4.2m and overall width 2.0m on a 2.56m wheelbase. The 16-inch wheels front and rear are fitted with 205/80 tyres.
Versatility has been the watchword throughout the vehicle’s design. The tailgate easily detaches so it can be used as a loading ramp. And the rear bench-seat base frames are designed to be removed and double as “sand-ladders” under the tyres to help get the vehicle over soft ground.
The thinking behind the centrally mounted steering wheel is again maximum versatility for developing countries, some of which have right-hand-drive vehicles whereas others have left-hand-drive.
The Ox being sent to India will be running, unsurprisingly, on Shell fuels and lubricants, including Rimula engine oil.
“I’m so pleased to welcome Shell aboard the Ox project and for sharing GVT’s vision that this remarkable and versatile vehicle will provide a transformation in affordable mobility for so many people where the need is most acute,” says Sir Torquil Norman.
“With Shell taking the Ox to India, we can demonstrate its capability in a key market, which will help attract long-term production partners.”