Post by Don Ricardo on Apr 26, 2009 19:00:28 GMT 10
Airvan advertised on Ebay, April 2009:
Edited description by seller:
This listing is for a caravan being sold by my father... Below is his description -
Airvan with some provenance , built at Bankstown airport in the 50s 60s by the senior licensed airframe mechanic Ray Pugh at Fawcett Aviation as a prototype of a series to be called Airvans, entirely built from new aircraft grade aluminum panels, spars and struts from war surplus parts originally destined for the repair of Spitfires and other war birds, the van is 99% aluminum including the chassis, which would do credit to a B52 undercarriage.
The aluminum floor is riveted to the chassis, van is riveted - double skinned, roof is also double skinned with insulation, the internal aluminum furniture - wardrobe, bed, cook top sink unit and roof lockers, are integral with the body for extra strength, the aircraft windows are thought to be from a Dakota, DC3.that made a heavy landing at Bankstown and was dismantled for parts.
I was chief ARB inspector for Dept of Defence contracts in the same hanger and had daily contact with Ray Pugh. Due to high costs of building the van, it was never mass produced, Ray eventually ended up with the van and brought it to Hervey Bay when he retired. Sadly , he died in the 80's. I also retired to Hervey Bay and bought the van from a sale , having recognized it.
It is very strong, light weight and can easily be towed by a Austin Seven, or Mini , I can even tow it with my 120cc quad bike! It does require a coat of paint of your choice, the van is wired for a basic 240v mains supply , one light three power points, no provision for a stove other than a camping stove, space under the sink for a fridge, it has a double bed, and the dining area seats make up as a single bed, ( no cushions , mattress or curtains with it , I don't have any ) handpump to sink from under floor tank.
An outside hatch allows for stowage of tents and camping gear under the double bed , in the photos you will see a black open top box , that is the storage area under the bed , also accessible from outside as just mentioned above .
The roof hatch is cleverly designed to open at front or back or straight up , it's a good size too , plenty of ventilation there. Dimensions of the van are :- 6' wide , 11' long , tow bar 2Ft 3In , total length 13Ft 3" .
At sometime the old perspex rear window was replaced with a fly screened opening window fitted with a sun visor, the door was missing I have replaced it with a similar door. The old crazed perspex in the DC3 windows has been replaced with tinted polycarbonate. There are two small unlined areas one above the door exposing the curved leading edge of wing rib possibly spitfire ( see photos ) , the other a flat panel behind a seat, I can only assume these were left to show frame construction details, easy fixed or leave them as a talking point. The two front teardrop clearance lamps are missing...
...the chap in the leather flying helmet is Ray Pugh , builder of the Air-Van...
Post by Don Ricardo on Oct 25, 2010 22:56:00 GMT 10
Photos posted by Mark T on 28 August 2005 of a caravan discovered and eventually purchased by Fixvans:
On 16 November 2005, Fixvans wrote:
Hi everybody, the van was built in 1954 by a local; Jim Flatterly. The plane that it was built from was a Fairy Battle, these planes were used at Evans Head for gunner practice. The door in the van is the landing flap, the floor is the skin of one of the wings. Jim used a variety of other panels to finish the van. All the solid rivets were hammered by hand resulting in alot of complaints from the neighbours. He used equiptment at the airbase to roll and form the aliminium. Even the interior was aliminium. He also used 1928 overland stub axles and wheels. it was built this way so it was light enough not to need brakes fitted. HIs son told me it was polished enough so that he could comb his hair in it! Jim cant wait to see again as he said he's often thought about what happened to it.
The fella i bought it off was the second owner, he stripped the interior out as he was going to make a trailer out of it. i asked him if he would swap if for a trailer, a kindly agreed.
then i had to try to find a trailer cheep! a person came into the workshop looking for a wind out window. i told him he could have the one out of my old bondi for a box of beer. two weeks later, a fella i had working for me asked me if i wanted an old trailer; i offered him the box of beer, he agreed and now i own the caravan. Photo of caravan as it was originally built, being towed by a 1936 Prefect, posted by Franklin1 on 14 January 2008:
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 31, 2011 21:34:50 GMT 10
I found this story from the Melbourne Argus of Monday, 27 March 1950 (p 6) about a fifth wheeler built from aircraft parts bought from disposal stores. Some more evidence that aircraft scrap material was quite widely used for home built caravans post WWII.
The external pic suggests some similarities in construction to the Highway Princess fifth wheeler we are familiar with (not that that was built from aircraft parts). Note the name of this caravan - "Wanderin' Thru'"
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 31, 2011 21:59:26 GMT 10
On 24 October 2010, Tilly wrote:
Hi Vvanners, Sorry if this is posted in the wrong topic.
I have been watching and learning from this site for the past 12 months and nearly wet my pants when my neighbour rolled into town a few weeks ago towing this van!
Had a chat to him about it the other day and he tells me it's a 1948 model made out of alluminium, possibly from an old aircraft. The van was purchased in victoria (maybe seymour area, can't remember) and has sadly been gutted inside. There are sheets of ply lining the interior and timber framed flyscreens on the rear windows.
Any info on the van would be greatly appreciated!
The caravan was subsequently acquired by Vernon who wrote on 10May 2011:
...We are very happy and excited to say that over the Easter break we did a quick trip down to Kels old stomping ground of Victoria. We have been on the hunt for some time looking for another shinny project to compliment Vernon and our R and S Series Vals. (As many before us it is hard to stop at one.) It would seem we have now found it. The new addition to our family is Valmay.
The owner had the van for something like 16-20 years. It came from a chicken farm where they gutted her and used it to store eggs and assume deliver them. The inside is almost gutted, however we have been able to piece the layout a little. The exterior is reasonable. The back on one side has been substantially damaged (this was obtained whilst on transport many years ago) the other not as bad, with other imperfections here and there. The windows are thought to be brass and with a little bit of attention before school pick up one day a small portion was polished and came up a treat. Actually before quite a few pick ups bits here and there have been attacked. A fair bit of paint will have to be removed and attention to the aluminium before any serious polishing will take place.
The past owner who had a history in the metal field is certain it is of aviation aluminium, and built by a coach builder particularly when you look at the front and back windows, and the lip that runs along the bottom of the van.
Yes Cobber you were right the rear lights were reproduced by the past owner as they were not on Valmay originally. For registration we would assume... Further photos and information about this caravan can be found here.
We recently purchased a home made 1951 bondwood caravan equipped with a Jones wheel. By coincidence, I had seen the van before on the forum; there is a picture of it at the Coledale event in 2005 included in Post #13 of the Dolly Wheel thread here.
The original builder, who we have been able to trace, was an aircraft factory worker with De Havilland. He worked at the Bankstown Airport facility, in NSW, which had been approved by the Australian War Cabinet to produce aircraft for the RAAF. He built the van in 1950 using surplus plywood used in the construction of aircraft for the Pacific campaign.
DHA had established its expertise in the field of wooden aircraft construction; it developed the 'sandwich' fuselage construction method consisting of balsa between two layers of spruce laminated with casein (milk protein) based glue. Almost no metal fasteners were used in construction, even during assembly. This provided strength and saved weight. Fabric was doped on the outer skin for weather proofing.
The casein glue used to build the aircraft in overseas factories didn’t hold up to the tropical heat and humidity in the Pacific; a number of spectacular delaminations and failures lead to an engineering review. On recommendation, Aerolite, the first man made epoxy (with waterproof and heat resistant properties) was substituted for casein. There were no more failures.
The van was built in exactly the same way as airframes from the De Havilland factory. The external skin and internal panels have been glued to laminated beams; this can be seen under the beds and in the cupboards. It appears no nails or screws were used in the original construction, as even the wardrobes and cupboards are bonded to the frame. Originally the roof was doped, just like the aircraft built by De Havilland. The owner from 2008 to 2011 was not sure how to repair the roof, and covered it with the aluminium skin.
Post by chippydave01 on Jul 2, 2012 18:12:25 GMT 10
Better jump on the bandwagon.
I even forgot that I still own this thing till I read this thread. I have it stored at my mates place and he is using it as a garden shed
Its got no timber floor in it so we just put some scrap bits of ply on the floor. I picked it up a few years ago from from a guy that lived near Bankstown airport. He got it of his neighbour who worked there. It has a 1950 and 1951 rego imprint label on the front window.
The outside has been painted and most of the inside is painted. Its a fair bit work to get on the road.But it makes a good shed. . Definately not on my priority list at all.Any way he is a good mate and he is getting good use out of it storing Holden parts Cheers Dave
Last Edit: Sept 24, 2017 15:14:54 GMT 10 by Don Ricardo
Post by Don Ricardo on Dec 2, 2013 18:41:49 GMT 10
A couple more examples of caravans built out of aircraft components after World War II. It appears that part of the motivation was that the basic building block in these cases - the aircraft fuselage - provided a relatively cheap starting point.
First a 43 ft semi-trailer caravan built from a Douglas Dakota troop carrier and reported in the Adelaide Advertiser on Monday, 21 May 1951 (p 3). The aircraft cost only 50 pounds, but the cost of the full project was 750 pounds:
Note the comment from the owner/builder: "When attached to the towing truck the unit measured 50 ft. from bumper to bumper, and weighed four tons. On the road it was no more difficult to handle than any average semi-trailer, Mr. Fry added."
A further report on Mr Fry's caravan was published in the Melbourne Argus on Friday, 28 July 1950 (p 7). Although some of the finer details differ from the first report, note that the dining table seats 12!:
A second example is a caravan which was built from the fuselage of Liberator bomber. This one was quite small - only 22 ft long - but note that it had four wheels and was towed by an ordinary sedan. I've stared long and hard at the photo, but can't work out whether the van was a tandem or had a wheel at each corner with the front wheels on a turn table. I suspect the latter:
During my search for the origins of my 'Alley Van' I got a lead to the American built 'Curtiss Wright Industries' caravans. It turns out at least one of them immigrated to Australia, ( I don't think we have heard of this van in Australia before... have we? )
You can read the story about it by the people who own it if you can do a Google search for ' stalking Curtiss wright airstream family' ...(because I can't get the link to work ) I finally got it to work CLICK HERE