The world’s first flat-packed vehicle, a low-cost, two-tonne light truck called OX, designed for the most arduous conditions of the developing world, has been unveiled by the British entrepreneur, Sir Torquil Norman. He plans to sell production versions on a non-profit basis throughout the developing world.

Sir Torquil, whose previous charitable projects include a £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.

“Our aim,” says Sir Torquil, “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.”

Designed by a well-known British engineering consultancy, OX consists of a simple, steel twin-rail chassis, flat body panels and a compact all-independent suspension — all of which can fit, when disassembled, inside the chassis. 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 OX’s simple three-person front bench seat locates the driver in the centre, eliminating a need for separate left- and right-hand-drive versions. The load area has rudimentary seating for 10 more occupants or space for eight large fuel drums and can carry a two-tonne payload — yet it is no longer than a Skoda Yeti.

The engine is a transversely mounted 2.2-litre Ford diesel driving the front wheels through a manual five-speed gearbox. Short overhangs, high ground clearance and wide tracks are all designed to make OX suitable for the world’s worst roads. The modular design will allow both four-wheel-drive and extra-length versions to be developed.

Sir Torquil Norman 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”.