You Can Assemble the World’s First Flatpack Truck in 12 Hours, Just Like an Ikea Bookshelf
Famed Formula 1 designer Gordon Murray has created another cool vehicle, but it’s not a race car. It’s a big, boxy truck that ships in pieces that go together just like that bookcase you bought at Ikea.
Murray designed the flat-pack truck, called the OX, for philanthropist Torquil Norman and his company, Global Vehicle Trust. The first prototype appeared in 2013. Three years, $4 million, and two prototypes later, the Trust has revealed a tested, more complete version.
Inspiration for the OX came from the Africar, a lightweight, all-terrain vehicle that came and went in the mid-1980s. And the idea is brilliant: A flat-pack vehicle, much like flat-pack furniture, requires less space for shipping. (A 40-foot shipping container can hold six flat-packed trucks but just two assembled trucks.) That makes it easier and cheaper to send trucks to Africa—OX’s initial market—where reliable ground transportation is a scarce and valuable resource.
The company claims three people can build an OX in just 12 hours. That’s thanks to user-friendly touches like the windshield, which features three identical panels that are easily assembled and replaced. The OX’s ground clearance and 45 degree approach- and departure-angle let it tackle the roughest roads. Top Gear called the truck unbreakable, and applauded its smooth ride. And there’s plenty more: OX’s website compares the trucks specs to those of a 4×4 cab truck and a 4×4 passenger vehicle—the OX bests them both on multiple fronts.
The OX, for example, is much lighter than the average truck because of Murray’s iStream manufacturing method. His radical approach aims to upend vehicle manufacturing by replacing stamped steel unibodies with tube steel frames coated in composite materials like fiberglass, polyurethane, and paper. The OX uses a waterproof bonded wood composite. Were this technique to take off, Murray says it would fundamentally alter the way cars are made.
That’s a bold claim from a brilliant thinker, but when WIRED talked to Murray about iStream in 2011, he said this technique could make cars 20 to 25 percent lighter and 60 percent more efficient to manufacture. The OX is the closest Murray has come to a proof of concept—but it’s still got a ways to go. Murray estimates he’ll need another $4 million to get an OX factory up and running. If that happens, he and Norman believe they can get OX trucks on the road in as little as two years. Another bold claim from a pair of bold thinkers.
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