Meeting Benjamin and Asdis Rann and their 1981 Bedford CF1

How, when, what, and why are essential considerations when it comes to buying a motorhome or caravan. Everybody’s criteria and circumstances are different.

Benjamin and Asdis Rann have four children ranging in age from six months to 16 years, as well as a two-year-old boxer dog called Ruby. Both work full time, so taking a break for holidays or for a weekend of quality time with the family is important for a balanced life. Like many young families, the Ranns have to watch their budget but the they’ve found a solution that suits them perfectly.

Benjamin, baby Jude, Elvis, Asdis and Ruby the dog

Tell us about your first motorhoming experience

We lived overseas for many years and when we returned to New Zealand in 2013, we hired a motorhome to tour the South Island. We only had two children at that time. They were horrible for the first two days and then they settled down and became good friends and we ended up having the best family holiday we’ve ever had. We’ve wanted to own a motorhome ever since.

How did you find a motorhome that suited you?

We were driving down the road to Pukekohe and saw this rather dishevelled, six-metre motorhome home on a 1981 Bedford CF1 parked on the side of the road with a ‘for sale’ sign in the window. It was a post-war classic, six metres in length and in need of a paint job.

We really liked the shape and the general look of it and we also liked the asking price of $5400. We took a photo, and when we got home rang the owner. Next day we drove to his address, paid the money and drove the van away. Dave, the owner, sold it with everything in it, even the wine glasses and linen. It was ready to roll.

Did you have it checked over first?

No, we just bought it. Of course, we had a look at the interior to see if it was in reasonable shape and would fit the whole family, but we know nothing about vehicles. Even so, we felt sure we could work on any of the things that weren’t in order and find ways to have them fixed.

In the worst-case scenario, we would park it permanently somewhere and use it as a holiday home. Dave had owned it for two years and said he never really had any issues. He seemed like an honest man and was selling it so that he and his wife could upgrade. He showed us a few of the operational tricks and peculiarities that are part of any classic vehicle’s personality, such as how to pull out the choke at a certain time to get the engine to tick over.

Asdis with baby Jude in front of the cab-over bed that accommodates her and the couple’s two youngest children

Tell us about its history

There is not a lot we could find out. It was built on the Bedford chassis by New Zealand company, Newmans Coachlines and registered in 1981. The original engine was a 2.5 litre Vauxhall.

Vauxhall were the Bedford manufacturers at that stage. Bruce, the owner before Dave who we bought it off, had owned it for 20 years. He’d found the wooden frame was unstable so he’d taken off the panelling, rebuilt the frame and re-attached the original cladding. He also replaced the Vauxhall motor with a 202 Holden six cylinder engine.

Can you explain the layout?

It has a fresh water tank and a holding tank, and attached at the rear is a wooden storage locker which stretches the width of the van. The interior is simple – no fuss at all. The cab-over accommodates a wide double bed and there are two settee/bunks at the back. The kitchen is on the off-side and not much more than a sink, a two-hob gas cooker and a small electric fridge that sits under the bench

There’s no bathroom or toilet so it’s not self-contained and we need to stay where there are amenities. It’s small to sleep six people and a dog but we make it work.

Asdis and the young children take up the cab-over bed, our two older daughters fit on the rear bunks and Benjamin, who is tall, often sleeps on the floor on a mattress. The dog fits in wherever there’s a gap! There are large windows on both sides and on the back wall, and narrow windows high up on the sides and front that allow light into the cab-over.

What have you done to it since you bought it?

The pale blue and white paint work was in bad shape and so we have re-painted the body with a coat of black Bed Liner which is a thick paint with a rough finish. The roof will be the next thing we have to do. Asdis made curtains and re-covered the squabs. We replaced the floor with laminated boarding and found vintage door handles for the cupboards.

How does it go?

It goes brilliantly and always starts right off. There are plenty of squeaks, rattles and bumps when we’re driving, but in an historical vehicle, that is all part of the fun. However, we don’t drive it much over 50 kph and leave very early in the morning before there is other traffic on the road. That way we don’t hold anybody up.

Although we’ve been as far as the Coromandel and Raglan, we don’t intend to take it on long journeys; most places we go are fairly close to Auckland where we live.

Now you have had it for a while do you think you made the right choice?

We absolutely love it, not just what we can do in it but the shape and its classic and retro features. It’s a rarity and wherever we go it attracts attention. People love to look through it and discuss it. For older people it’s nostalgic and for others a curiosity.

The family has a wonderful time, whenever we go away – well, perhaps not our 16-year-old daughter who would rather be seen in something more modern. The rest of us are very enthusiastic. Although it may need some quite expensive maintenance, it’s definitely a great choice for now.

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