LONDON -- "I like a challenge, but by the end, I was thinking, boy, this is tough."
Renowned ex-Formula 1 designer and engineer Gordon Murray is recounting his original meeting four years ago with a British philanthropist who was commissioning Murray's company, Gordon Murray Design, to design the near impossible: a basic, all-terrain pickup cheap and sturdy enough to be a sales hit in markets such as Africa, where the default option is a secondhand, semi-worn-out Toyota Hilux.
The cause was worthy, and Murray -- perhaps most famous for designing the iconic McLaren F1 supercar -- relishes a challenge. He was on board. But the philanthropist, businessman Sir Torquil Norman, wasn't finished.
"Right at the end, he said, "Ooh, a new idea I've got is that it should flat-pack, like Ikea furniture,'" says Murray, 70. "At that point I actually thought, should I do this?"
He did, and now the OX is a production-ready prototype -- a turnkey project waiting for an investor to take the final plunge. Murray said production could start within a year.
Visually, the OX is a cross between an old Land Rover and an amphibious troop carrier. It measures no longer than a small crossover, but at just under 2.2 tons, its payload is nearly double that of the Japanese (or, increasingly, Chinese) pickups it's designed to compete against. Meanwhile, the cab-forward design liberates room for 13 passengers along benches in the rear, or eight 44-gallon drums.