More older caravans on the road?

By: Jill Malcolm

More older caravans on the road? More older caravans on the road?
More older caravans on the road? More older caravans on the road?

As we travelled this summer, the upsurge in the number of older caravans in circulation became very apparent.

When I say ‘older’ I am referring to those classics built before the Muldoon luxury tax killed the caravan building industry in 1979.

As I examined these Cavaliers, Crusaders, Oxfords, Lightweights, Zephyrs, Nomads, Alphas and Anglos – the twinge of a love affair began. Unless they had been refitted, they didn’t have the ultra mod cons of today’s caravans but they had charm, personality and history and were as comfortable as an old pair of socks. Most were not self-contained but were perfectly suited to the job for which they were intended – as mobile baches for family holidays in camping grounds by the sea.

Age may weary old caravans but, if they are looked after, they never need to die. At one beach we found a small, recently rescued caravan built of plywood in the 1950s. The owners said their grandmother had bought the caravan new and when she’d stopped using it, stored it in a shed where it remained for the next 40 years. It has been repainted on the outside but the interior of carefully arranged bunks and cupboards is original.

Warren Howard has owned his 1973 classic caravan from new and used it frequently ever since. He has added a new window, regulation compliant lights, changed some of the cupboard layouts and the chassis has twice been recoated. The rest is as it’s always been and shows no sign of retirement.

Sue and Peter have a custom-built Anglo 1969. They found this cute caravan in a neglected state in someone’s backyard four years ago and rescued it from oblivion, spending a year and "quite a bit of money: having it restored in keeping with its age.

Ralph Learey owns a Zephyr 4.5 (1970s), built by Modern Caravans in Dunedin. Ralph has a more serious love affair with classics than my own passing fancy. He has restored four in the last few years (two Alphas among them). Much of his passion is in the history they contain and he keeps everything original whenever he can. Leisure Line owners, Colin and Wayne Bates, have such fondness for the Zephyr that they have revived it’s concept in a modern version of the old classic.

The history of past caravan building companies makes absorbing reading and as the intrigue in retro caravans grows, so do the number of owners and companies around the country who retro fit old caravans or restore them back to the original factory product.

If you are looking for a classic caravan to restore the biggest repositories I have seen are in the backyards and farmyards of Northland and the East Cape.

Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.

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