One of the most intriguing aspects of Gordon Murray’s professional career is his willingness to turn his considerable skill to projects of all kinds, many of which are anything but high performance in nature. It’s a mark of his engineering nous that so many Among his most recent undertakings is the Ox, an attempt to design an unashamedly utilitarian off-road vehicle for the developing world. It might be powered by a xxxx engine putting out a smidge over 95bhp, but the Ox contains all the classic Gordon Murray innovation we’ve come to know and love.
Perhaps the most radical single aspect of the Ox is its flat pack design, something which allows it to be shipped and assembled with ease. This means that a team of 3 can assemble an Ox in just 12 hours, and all without anything more specialised than sockets, spanners and a welder. The way that the Ox fits together is also interesting, with almost every single panel able to be flipped around and used on the opposite side should the need arise, something also true of the suspension arms and the windscreen panes.
There’s more; vast swathes of the Ox have been engineered to be multi-purpose, so the rear benches can double as sand ladders, the glass area is removable (it can be used as an impromptu shelter in a pinch), and our favourite, the fact that it can be jacked up, a wheel removed, an output flange attached and the whole assembly used as a six-speed drive for a pump or generator.
Basic really is the order of the day when it comes to both the Ox’s chassis and engine. The former is pure Gordon Murray and even uses his own iStream concept, one which sees a mixture of steel tubing ands bonded composites to form a ladder type chassis. It’s incredibly tough, hard wearing and ideal for the kind of environments the Ox is likely to find itself in. Power is similarly utilitarian, with propulsion handled by a Ford Transit diesel (also the source of the hubs and wheels). It isn’t quick and it isn’t especially refined, but it gets the job done.
The Ox is two-wheel drive only, though its lightweight and high ground clearance enable it to scamper up most obstacles. Four wheel drive was rejected for reasons of cost, complexity and weight. It can cross most rivers, is impressively capable off road and can be fixed by pretty much anyone with a modicum of mechanical knowledge and a basic tool kit.
We’re not going to pretend that the Ox is a typical Retropower car, because it isn’t. It’s slow, basic, agricultural and barely styled, but then it doesn’t need to be. In many ways it has all the hallmarks of a Gordon Murray classic, with a ruthless commitment to efficiency, ease of use and focus. It might not be quite the engineering tour de force of a McLaren F1 or MP4/4, but the Ox is worthy of the Murray name, not least as he’s on record saying it’s the vehicle he’s most proud of.