Concorde caravan

By: Steve Vermeulen, Photography by: Steve Vermeulen

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The good old Kiwi holiday is alive and well in the Keane household, and their 20-foot Concorde, Roxanne, is very much a working caravan

Concorde caravan
Concorde caravan

Remember the original Kiwi family holiday – when times were simple, our coastlines had yet to be dotted with the coloursteel-clad pox of development and, of course, the nation’s summertime staple was the good old caravan? Grant Keane and his wife Polly can remember those days; in fact, they still live them.

"I grew up holidaying in a caravan; we didn’t have toilets or bathrooms on board, and entertainment was just what you got up to outside – swimming, fishing, BBQs and stuff like that. For me, that is the quintessential Kiwi getaway. It’s what started everything else, and I want my children to experience it," says Grant.

A beautifully refurbished Kiwi original, "Roxanne" the 70s era Concorde is more than the family caravan; she is a loved member of the tribe. Affectionately revived by Grant, with Polly in charge of interior design, she is gorgeous.

The caravan is a 20-footer, and while still a 70s model, that aerodynamic Airstream-style body shape really lends itself to a 50s/60s palette and design.

Roxanne’s not the Keane’s first caravan, or Grant’s first attempt at a restoration. First was a 12-foot Sprite, then a 13-foot Concorde, before an Oxford Caribbean. Throughout the time Grant took to breathe new life into each van, in-between his daily business as a glazier, he and the family grew attached to each one, but the old vans were sold and 20-foot Roxanne moved in. Talking to Grant and Polly, I get the impression she’ll be around for a while.

When Grant found Roxanne in Hastings, the original chipboard cabinetry was rotten from four inches down, so that was binned. The original 70s fibreglass construction is fairly thin and the Concorde’s large roof area is prone to sagging on the larger models, so while Grant has added a post in the floor plan to add strength, luckily the framework was excellent.

"I was expecting some rot, but couldn’t believe it, the frame was constructed from H3 treated timber, so it’s perfect," he says.

The floor plan has been tweaked but rather than introduce all the latest modern features, retaining as much of the original design elements was a priority.

"If I had my way, I wouldn’t even have the television," says Grant, who sees the stylish flat-screen and discreet iPod dock as necessarily evils to entertain the little ones these days. But installing the latest caravan windows, fridges or altering the layout greatly is a no-no that the Keanes feel robs these iconic vans of their character. The rebuild is faithful enough to satisfy most purists, yet improved enough to satisfy those looking for convenience, durability and practicality.

"All the interior panels are new [lightweight plywood] but the cupboard shapes and dimensions are original, I’ve even cleaned and reused the hinges and the original sink," he says.

Grant and Polly have put their own spin on the decor, but it really works in the context of the Concorde. And, by doing all the work themselves (with the exception of the upholstery), they have kept costs realistic. Touches like the varnished plywood bench top are inexpensive and easily sourced; the hood lining is original and coated with acrylic house paint (acrylic is flexible enough not to flake), and looks every bit as good as a remanufactured lining.

The Keanes holiday each summer in the wild west coast beach town of Marokopa not far out of Waitomo. Black sand is part and parcel of where the caravan often resides, but Grant and Polly designed the van to be enjoyed and loved, not mollycoddled. I’m pretty impressed at how well it’s holding up – everything is pristine.

You do have to keep an ear out when towing though, admits Grant.

"I found these four beautiful hubcaps all wrapped up in a corner of the famous Horopito Motors, they’re very hard to come by these days and I nearly lost one when it popped off one day halfway to Marokopa. Luckily I heard it go, turned back and found it, unscratched."

Only dealing with the new stuff day-to-day, I forget just how handy the older stuff can be without the need to overdo things. There’s plenty of space in the living area here with a cosy dinette and C-shaped lounge providing two single beds. There’s plenty of bench space, much more than the teeny original kitchenette, and the "master" bedroom at the back is light with plenty of glass, but also easily closed off.

The good old Kiwi holiday is alive and well in the Keane household and Roxanne is proof a holiday should be about enjoying our countryside with the ones you love. As nice as they are, all the luxury comforts in the world won’t actually change that.

If you like what you see here, Grant is branching out into producing lovingly crafted caravans for customers. His workmanship is excellent and he and Polly are really easy going, genuinely good folk. For more information, give Grant a bell on 027 494 6585.

See a range of older model caravans for sale.

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