DFiD, the Ox and Sir Torquil

Although this post does not really have a military angle I thought it interesting enough to float, with a name like Sir Torquil Norman and a tenuous link to an ISO container and mexeflote it was irresistible.

Sir Torquil is a toymaker, adventurer and philanthropist, apparently.

But what this worth posting is I think this is a neat idea for our mystical dual use DFiD budget.

From the Global Vehicle Trust website

Sir Torquil Norman’s dream in building the OX is to provide a light truck designed specifically for use in developing areas of the world, such as Africa and parts of Asia, to benefit people living in the thousands of remote villages and townships. In such locations, the population are often living in poverty and are forced to collect drinking water on foot and with no way of transporting grain, fertilizer or materials to support their farming and other activities.

If provided, for example, as part of an aid program, the OX would provide an essential element of infrastructure to enable the local population to raise the community’s standard of living and to assert its independence by gaining control of its transportation needs and costs.

The OX would also be an enormous help in transporting medicines, doctors, patients and other goods, in emergencies and at times of natural disaster.

The modern world’s car industry has never produced a vehicle designed precisely for the rugged conditions found in Africa but has instead modified and adapted pick-up trucks and other vehicles designed for use in much more benign conditions. The result has been poor handling in rough terrain, short life spans and limited carrying capacity.

The OX is unique. Designed to a specification from the Norman Trust, it has been developed in a way that is unlike any other vehicle. As an all-terrain light truck it has no competitor – whether from a concept, performance or pricing point of view

So its a light truck, big big deal.

With an overall length similar to an average car, it has a payload of 2,000 kilos (more than twice most current pick-ups), on what is already a light vehicle weighing just 1,500 kilos.

Following EU size guidelines, it will seat 13 people or carry eight 44 gallon oil drums or three Euro pallets. It has a simple power take-off capable of pumping water, sawing wood or running a generator.

When unloaded, 73% of the weight is over the front axle and when fully loaded 53% is still over that axle. This contributes to excellent traction in both conditions.

With a robust 2.2 litre, front wheel drive, diesel engine, it is designed to be at home on the roughest terrain. It has a high ground clearance and short front and rear overhangs to tackle the steepest hills. Independent suspension allows easy transit over rough ground and an uncluttered underside to manage sand, mud and other hostile surfaces.

It will drive through 75cms depth of water and it has a very wide track so that it is extremely stable on badly rutted roads.

Simplicity in every aspect of its design is the  guiding principle of OX.  Most panels are interchangeable from one side to the other, the fewest possible components are used to give it a fast build-up time. It  takes three men approximately 5.4 hours to assemble the flat pack in the UK prior to shipping. It then takes three people 11.5 hours to assemble the vehicle from flat pack at its destination.

Uniquely, it is capable of being flat-packed within itself – so there is no requirement for an expensive box or individual pallets, ensuring freight costs are kept to a minimum. Six OX vehicles, including engines and transmissions, will fit into a standard 40ft hi-cube container. In addition, assembly labour is transferred to the importing country, such as Africa, where local professional companies will be found to assemble and maintain the finished vehicles.

Hello cheeky, ISO container packing, 6 to a 40ft Hi Cube

It also has a power take-off for pumps, winches or other equipment.




Remember Haiti and Largs Bay

containers carrying UKaid supplies for Haiti are loaded onto the RFA Largs Bay
containers carrying UKaid supplies for Haiti are loaded onto the RFA Largs Bay
Land rovers for IFRC being loaded on the RFA Largs Bay bound for Haiti
Land rovers for IFRC being loaded on the RFA Largs Bay bound for Haiti
UKaid funded JCB's and Land rovers for Haiti being loaded onto RFA Largs Bay
UKaid funded JCB’s and Land rovers for Haiti being loaded onto RFA Largs Bay

I am not suggesting there is a military use for these but this is the kind of automotive engineering that we need as a nation to get behind.

Now where is that DFiD Piggy Bank!






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June 24, 2013 10:35 pm

Those with long memories might remember Africar:


Made out of heavy gauge marine ply, easy to repair almost anywhere in the world, and fitted with cheap readily available mechanical systems and long travel suspension. Ideal DfID type vehicle, you would have thought, but it never made it past prototype stage.

It featured in a TV documentary that was quite interesting. One embarrassing point was when the Africar had just about clawed its way to the top of the Atlas Mountains (Morocco?) it was passed by a scrappy old 2cv that burbled past like it was no big deal. One visibly deflated trials team.

June 25, 2013 3:59 am

Sorry TD, But this has no impact on either women’s sexual and reproductive health or child development so has no place in the DFID budget. DFID does not provide economic aid because if it did countries would begin to look after themselves and would no longer require aid which would put DFID out of work. I am sure they would also have to conduct a very lengthy and detailed assessment of CO2 emission and sustainability. Maybe the Chinese aid program could take advantage of this with its more pragmatic approach to Africa like building roads and giving people jobs.

June 25, 2013 5:51 am

The OX seems like the offspring of the Alvis Stalwart.

June 25, 2013 7:15 am

Hugh – wash your mouth out for saying such bad things!

I admit its cab has a resemblance to Stolly but for all the eager statements in its creator’s website this little truck is no off-road beast. I cite small wheels widely spaced, 2-wheel drive, despite the claims a modest ground clearance. I dare say the chunky tyres give it better than Transit van off-road capability, but I’d put money on an early cart-sprung Land Rover being better in a back-to-back test. Stalwart was very capable off-road (in the case of deep water VERY off road). It would be interesting to see what level of compliance with the mobility criteria of DefStan 23-6 this vehicle would attain.

Don’t get me wrong – I suspect its a fine truck for dirt-track environments and its payload is pretty good, but a true off-roader of the class of Stalwart it just isn’t.

June 25, 2013 7:39 am

Sorry Chris!

I fell in love with the Stolly aged 4 (in 1974) and, like a lost love, tend to see its likeness everywhere!!

(How much do I like the Stolly? A lot)

June 25, 2013 1:40 pm

I have the book on Africar.

There have been lots of utility 3rd World tractor cum vehicle projects over the years.

How is this OX thing different from say,


or a Series Landy? Or anything else with a simple engine on a ladder chassis?

BTW you can go a long way in 2WD on unmetalled roads. We were running SAABs when all our neighbours still had RWD vehicles, not fun in the snow or ice.

June 25, 2013 2:43 pm

Indeed it epitomises British projects; Melchett-like we design from scratch something to meet a requirement we imagine exists, but which is in fact largely fulfilled from true commercial basis. if this was not supported by Sir Torquwrench and a charity it would never have got past the drawing board.

Nice to get a mexe in, though !! why don’t we work on more rapidly deployable port infrastructure (jetties, ro-ro linkspans) for disaster relief instead of plywood cars ?

June 25, 2013 3:39 pm

Or this……


And that isn’t even dipping into the menagerie of rugged rural vehicles produced in India.

June 25, 2013 3:44 pm

Then there is the Renault 4…….

June 25, 2013 3:44 pm

Not a Brit model I can think of………

June 25, 2013 3:50 pm

Oh yes the Renault Colorale.

June 25, 2013 6:36 pm

It’s a milk float! It’s another scam like that bloke who got done for selling Iraq several shedloads of “IED Detectors” (in actual fact, fake golf ball detectors). Hope none of you have invested in it. Use a camel. Or a herd of llamas. At least if you get stranded you won’t starve :-)

June 25, 2013 8:13 pm

Sad thing is even both of them look like they’re over engineered/designed.

Maybe DfID can pass on all the old snatch land rovers now going spare, unless they’re being used for something else. And if you’re gonna design a bespoke vehicle for that environment, at least make sure it’s spares compatible with the major vehicle types out there.

June 26, 2013 8:52 am

Twecky, am working on such an article series

I look forward to it !

Deployable linkspan, that’s what we need…. instead of having to build/make one every time it’s needed for a million quid a pop


June 26, 2013 10:41 am

TD, problem with ports is that they tend to be defended. Dieppe demonstrated that an assault on a defended port is a very chancy proposition at best, hence the sandy beaches of D-Day. With lesser and individually more valuable ships since WWII, there is going to be a greater adversion to putting assets in harm’s way in any modern day op.

Which makes ports a no-no.

After all, the last thing you want to discover in a port is a pack of Klub missiles hidden in a container and about to fire at point blank range just when you were pulling into dock.