Talking Motors: Not available at Ikea, here is the first flat-packed car
We've all been there at some point in our lives.
The picture step-by-step guide with a coffee ring in the corner is no help and there are bits left over at the end… if you’ve got that far.
A flat-pack chest of drawers is enough to fill a Sunday afternoon with colourful language and varying degrees of huffing, so how would you cope with building a car in the same fashion?
This brings us to The OX, the world’s first flat-pack truck.
It’s the vision of Sir Torquil Norman, founder of the Global Vehicle Trust (GVT), to pursue his ambition to help people in the developing world by providing cost-effective mobility – and the OX is designed to provide all terrain mobility to remote parts of Africa and the developing world.
Something like 80 per cent of the world’s population doesn’t have access to a car – so when you need a designer to bring to life possibly the most revolutionary vehicle ever, naturally, you go to Professor Gordon Murray.
Murray’s impressive CV includes decades spent with the Brabham and McLaren Formula One teams, and he is also responsible for the McLaren F1 road car, the supercar to defeat all other supercars.
But Murray thinks the OX could surpass all his other achievements.
He said: “The OX design and prototyping programme is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and challenging I have undertaken during my 45 years of car design, including my years in F1.
“The added challenge of a flat-packed vehicle design over the already tough targets for cost, durability and weight saving made for a fascinating and stimulating journey from concept to prototype.
“The most satisfying elements of the project for me are that the OX will make such a difference to so many people and that it has no competitor in any part of the world. It has been a privilege to work alongside Torquil to make his vision a reality.”
It’s the people element of this project that makes it so important.
The cars throughout history that have radically changed the social landscape are the runabouts, not supercars.
There are obvious contenders such as the Ford Model T, the VW Beetle and the Mini which brought more people their own transport, but this could be on another scale entirely if it becomes successful.
Sir Torquil admits there are similarities with the ‘Africar’ project of the 1980s, but points out the differences with the OX.
“This project shares some of the aims of that vehicle (Africar), but its execution is radically different,” he said.
“OX was just a dream six years ago, but it is now a realistic prospect for production with working prototypes that have completed a comprehensive testing programme.”
It’s incredible to think a car so simple to piece together can handle being driven over rough terrain and subject to heavy loads (the back can carry 13 people or eight 44-gallon drums, or three Euro-pallets.)
It’s also designed to be easy to fix in the middle of nowhere, much like idea behind the Citroen 2CV in 1948.
Beyond the way it’s packed and surprising two-wheel-drive all-terrain ability, the OX is full of design innovations.
The tailgate doesn’t just carry the load in the back, it detaches completely f and can be rotated lengthways to double as a loading ramp.
The rear bench seat bases also have a dual purpose. The long ‘egg crate’ frames can be removed from the vehicle and used as ‘sand ladders’ under the wheels to help the vehcile prevail in challenging soft ground.
But back to putting the thing together,
It is claimed it takes three people fewer than six hours to create the flat pack in the UK prior to shipping, and six of these flat packs can be shipped within a 40ft high-cube container.
Assembly labour is transferred to the importing country, where local professional companies will be employed to assemble and maintain the finished vehicles. And apparently three skilled people can put an OX together in approximately 12 hours.
Surely my experience of building furniture should be enough for them to let me have a go?
Firefly will result in safer, more confident drivers
When I was little the number one item on my Christmas list every year was an electric car.
You know the ones, they go about half a mile an hour and are usually made-up to look like Minis.
They’re pretty rubbish really and my dad knew it would become one of those big presents that got played with a couple of times and then left to rot on the patio – much like the pedal go kart I had, which looking back was an awesome toy I wish I could go back in time to and appreciate properly. I would persist and drag him down the aisle where they towered above me on the shelves at Toys R Us every time we went – which was usually following a trip to Ikea because my siblings and I would whinge enough to drive him to take us.
Then one time he relented. I couldn’t believe it as he lifted the car down onto the floor for a test run.
And I wouldn’t fit. The dream was over.
So imagine how mad I’d have gone as a child had the Firefly been available to us then. Unveiled this week, the Firefly is basically a much better version of those flimsy plastic cars out of my reach.
Designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK (cue British Leyland jokes) it is the brainchild of Young Driver Motor Cars Limited, a division of Young Driver, the UK’s largest provider of pre-17 driving lessons.
Young Driver is a brilliant idea and something I wish I’d have done when I was younger. They offer driving lessons to youngsters aged 10 upwards, but Firefly now means children under 10 can learn to drive.
Restricted to 10mph, the car’s seat can be adjusted, allowing most youngsters to reach the pedals, and a safety system allows the car to be stopped by remote control.
I can see people asking why young children need to learn to drive, but surely years’ worth of learning before people can drive on the roads will result in safer, more confident drivers.
There’s also the hope that learning to drive from a young age will provide enough enjoyment for people to want to drive themselves in future and put a stop to this driverless car nonsense.
Lessons will be available from Young Driver centres for £19.95 from the autumn.
And for people wanting to buy one, members of the general public can buy them from 2017 with a price tag in the region of £5,750 + VAT.
I might have to stick with my pedal kart.