Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner

Photography by: Nick Hill


Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner
Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner Vintage caravan: 1938 Tanner

Nelson may be a long way from Coronation Street but the spirit of the soapie is embodied in a stunningly restored 1938 Tanner caravan.

Life-long caravanner Nick Hill was born a short way from Coronation Street, so when he and his British-born wife Rachel found a 1938 Tanner caravan ripe for restoration, naming it was a no brainer, she had to be Elsie – named after Elsie Tanner, one of the show’s most recognisable characters.

Buying Elsie was spontaneous and fast. "It was a wet Sunday night and we were tucked up in bed. I was flicking through sales online looking for something to replace our current motorhome which somehow seemed too modern for us.

"I was on the lookout for a split-screen Kombi. I'd worked on them before and knew what I was looking for but nothing seemed to match up. Then I saw the 1938 Tanner. I showed Rach and asked if she thought I should bid on it. There was 20 minutes until close. Bids closed and we were the proud owners of a caravan we'd never seen. I didn't sleep very well that night," says Nick.

And then there was the ever so slight problem of bringing the vintage caravan from Kaiopoi near Christchurch to Nelson.

"I phoned the owner and he told me the caravan had not moved in 12 years but he kept reinforcing the fact we'd bought a piece of Kiwi history. But I wasn't keen on trying to tow it so I borrowed a plant trailer from work."

For the majority of people an exercise like this would not be easy but Nick is the contracting divisional manager for civil construction specialists Fulton Hogan, so he had access to man-sized machinery capable of carrying a caravan.

With their vintage purchase now settled at home, the first job was to replace the perished tyres with new ones from a Toyota Hi-Lux. With the bearings checked and new lights the old girl sailed through her warrant of fitness which was overseen by the passionate owner of a 1938 Chevrolet who is itching to pair the two vehicles up.

Next the original navy and white striped slumber-rest squabs stuffed with horsehair and complete with buttons and made for Tanner in Penrose were replaced.

New curtains completed the quick makeover to prepare the rejuvenated Elsie for her first holiday season at nearby Cable Bay. It was the breather everyone needed before the next step – a major rebuild – floors, walls and an exterior re-clad.

Internally, the only other things to be undertaken by Rachel and Nick were cutting out some small sections of rot, replacing lino and refurbishing the catches and hinges. The majority of the exterior work was contracted out to Craig at Nelson Motorhomes who undertook the tricky recladding.

With Elsie bearing a new skin, Nick and Rachel had vinyl graphics done by Lance at the Sign Shop in Nelson, and they couldn't be more delighted with the result.

"We have absolutely no regrets about the process. Our next step is to get Elsie's self-containment certificate and to join the NZMCA."

For the full article, check out issue #128 of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations magazine. Subscribe here.

Keep up to date with news by signing up to nzmcd.co.nz's free newsletter or by liking us on Facebook