This week the Global Vehicle Trust launched the OX 3.5 ton off road truck (T.34), which was designed, prototyped and developed here at Gordon Murray Design. The Idea for the project came from Sir Torquil Norman, a towering personality and a very well respected philanthropist who was introduced to me through a mutual friend. Torquil had been inspired by reading a 1980’s book called The Africar but driven by the fact that only 20% of the world’s population have access to a motorised vehicle.
During our first meeting Torquil set some very tough design and performance targets for the OX and just when I thought the brief was beginning to border on the impossible he said “oh and it should flat pack as well !!”
I’ve always loved a challenge and so has the team here at Gordon Murray Design so we produced a proposal to cover the design and development of the vehicle.
I also took time to reflect on Torquil’s reasons for funding the project and could barely come to terms with the fact that all the design effort and automotive investment from the hundreds of vehicle manufacturer’s around the world are aimed at just 20% of our global population.What an untapped market!
In the automotive sector we all debate and discuss “mobility”, future mobility solutions, connectivity and ever increasing complicated powertrains, but we are really only discussing strategies which could affect a small proportion of the population.We very rarely discuss internal combustion engines, but focus on hybrid and electric vehicles all of which will be useless for the vast majority of the folks living in rural areas.
I was truly inspired by the problem and the potential solution and spent some 3 weeks on my drawing board laying out the concept for T.34. I then engaged with our design and engineering teams and we began the detail design work. We chose Jim Dowle as the lead on the design as the project was very close to his heart, having completed a couple of vehicular adventures in the Sahara!
A lot of the flat packing work and strategy was carried out in our workshop by the Prototype team and the result is truly spectacular.4 wheel drive was out of the question due to weight, cost and complication so the challenge was to make a 2 wheel drive vehicle that could compete with a 4 wheel drive for 98% of the required tasks.Not has the OX achieved this but off road testing and benchmarking have shown that it sets new standards of ride for off-road vehicles.
Adapting our iStream® bonded composite construction for the OX was yet another challenge but the solution our materials team come up with is as brilliant as it is simple. We turned to a sustainable engineered plywood for the chassis and body panels instead of our composite iPanels® and the resultant bonded chassis structure is at least 60 times more durable the a spot welded structure, very similar in performance to iStream® 1 and iStream® Carbon.
Of all the car projects I have been involved with this is the one of which I am most proud, as it was a huge design challenge and when in production it will make such a difference to so many people’s lives. In its own way the OX could be as big a step change as the model T Ford.
Sometimes ideas and names come to me in a moment of inspiration or in the bath! But arriving at the name “OX” was a long, hard slog. I wanted something that was short and strong, where, after some time, the simple graphics would become synonymous with the vehicle, I was also after a name that stood for strength, durability and stamina and that was the same or similar in different languages after many weeks of thinking, researching and sketching, I got there!
On a completely different note I have just returned from my annual visit to Pebble Beach where I am one of the honorary judges, always a great opportunity to catch up with friends and spend time around so many lovely classic cars.
On a lighter note, in July I competed in our 24th annual Soapbox gravity Grand Prix in France and managed to beat the “youngsters” and win the day. This year without a major crash!