When did it all start? Well I’m going to begin in
the 1920’s, however many home converted models even preceded these early examples.
As these early photos show many coachbuilders tried to make popular the
‘motor caravan’ in the 1920s & 30s. Bertram Hutchings (Founder of the Winchester caravan company) had been
experimenting with the concept but didn't get it quite right! Hutchings tried to adapt his 1930s touring caravan design into
a motor-home, the outcome was this strange vehicle.
|Austin Twelve (Jennings)
Sales of these early motor caravans were few and far between, they were not
fashionable to own and they were expensive. One breakthrough came however from a company called Jennings, they pioneered a
motor home body that could be mounted on a normal car chassis. These vehicles were more pleasing to the eye and more comfortable
to drive. Unfortunately production stopped in 1939 (I expect because of World war II). Luxury and leisure vehicles were not
a part of the war effort!
Due to the “War Years” it was not
until the 1950s that motor caravans eventually became popular in the uk!
|Atlas mkII (Dormobile)
Motor caravans in the 1950’s were not “reinvented”
as such - They grew from a need! Coach builders studied the market place and discovered that van owners not only needed their
vehicle to be the “work horse” throughout the week, they also needed it to take the family out at weekends. This
need led to various adaptations being made to the vehicles starting with simple seats that folded down at the weekends. If
Seats could be fitted why not more windows, perhaps a cooker and so on, thus leading to the popular well equipped motor caravans
of the 50,s and 60’s.
Early specialist coachbuilders
pioneering these early examples included Dormobile, Paralanian and Westfalia in Germany. Base vehicles utilised for conversion included, Bedford, Atlas, Austin, Volkswagon and Ford.
|VW Bay with side tent
By the start of the 60’s the motor
caravan market was well and truly established, VAT had not yet been introduced and sales soared! People could actually afford
these leisure vehicles. New models, new base vehicles and new coachbuilders quickly grabbed a slice of the market. Soon over
80 different models were available with approx one third now being coach built. Tent manufactures started making side and
rear tents for these vehicles and one time pokey little vans became roomy accommodation for family holidays.
|Ford Transit mkII
However nothing lasts and once VAT is introduced in 1973 the so
called “boom Years” disappear ! sales fall and many coachbuilders collapse. Many more fine motor caravans were
produced however, just at a slower pace.Throughout the 70’s and 80’s
Coach built motor homes were now a common sight on UK roads, They were larger, better equipped and more suitable for longer
holidays. People were starting to holiday in Europe and for a average family these were ideal! Affording one however was not
in every ones grasp.