Sir Torquil, whose previous charitable projects include the £30 million regeneration of London’s Camden Roundhouse as a youth training centre, has already invested about £1million in the project and established the Global Vehicle Trust to raise the further £3m he needs to build more prototypes and develop OX for production.
Talking about the project Sir Norman said: “Our aim is to give people in the developing world an affordable means of doing for themselves what they rely on outsiders for — fetching water, distributing seed and fertiliser, carrying people and produce to market and providing access to medical help.”
The OX has a simple three-person front bench similar to other light commercial vehicles, however the driver is located in the centre, eliminating a need for separate left- and right-hand-drive versions. The load area can then be arranged for seating for 10 more occupants facing each other or space for eight large fuel drums and can carry a two-tonne payload — yet it is no longer than a mid sized family saloon.
Designed by a well-known British engineering consultancy, the OX consists of a simple chassis, flat body panels and suspension — all of which can fit, when disassembled, inside the chassis to reduce shipping costs. Major components will be made and part-assembled by European suppliers for assembly in simple workshops where a vehicle will be used. Six OX kits, with engines, can fit into one standard shipping container.
The engine will be a standard 2.2-litre Ford diesel which combined with its design, high ground clearance , which coupled with its modular design will allow both four-wheel-drive and extra-length versions to be developed and all designed to make OX suitable for the world’s worst roads.
Sir Torquil hopes his initial publicity will raise interest and backing among African and Asian-centred charities, and plans to have production-ready versions on the road “some time next year”.