Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 26, 2020 20:49:24 GMT 10
Great to see you've documented the restoration of Lady Evelyn. It's a great read, although I'm only part way through it.
As I read, it occurred to me that you might like to have a better title for the thread than '1940's Bondwood caravan (originally posted for sale)', which is a bit nondescript. If you'd like me to change it I can. Just tell me what you'd like instead. Even 'Lady Evelyn the 1940's Bondwood Caravan' might be better'?
On the other hand you might like what's there, which is fine. It's up to you entirely.
Lady Evelyn. This is the story of Lady Evelyn. It is the text only version . The PDF version (in two parts) of this, containing pictures, is in a post above.
In 1948 Mr J. Mayne, Olinda Road, Mt. Evelyn, Victoria, built a bond wood (ply) caravan based on a set of plans he drew up himself . He lived in Mt Evelyn and was a refrigeration mechanic as well as a TV repair man.
The resulting caravan was something of a rarity as caravans in the 40’s, and the 50’s were, on average, 14 feet long. This caravan was 21 feet long and had an ensuite as well as hot and cold running water in the shower, and over the sink. A portable toilet was also included. It had an ice box for keeping food and drink cool as well as a dressing table with inbuilt ironing board. The table sat 4 and the sleeping arrangements slept 3. A bunk bed was placed over the double bed.
The electrical system was 6 volt and this was supplied by either the car battery or a 240 volt connection which was run through a 240 to 6 volt transformer. It actually worked in 2019 prior to the caravan rebuild.
We believe he did travel extensively. We have copies of travel maps Mr Mayne obtained from the RACQ and SAACA. There are notes on these maps that indicate that someone actually travelled these routes from Adelaide to Darwin.
We also have anecdotal evidence from the second owners who have said “Our friend who was a neighbour of the gentleman who built Lady Evelyn might have some more info on her. I think he has a travel log or something similar of the trips that were made in Lady Evelyn. I think she even went up to the Northern Territory “. So maybe The Lady Evelyn has travelled far and wide.
Why the name “Lady Evelyn”? Because she was built in Mt Evelyn. The second owner named the caravan “Lady Evelyn”.
The interior of the caravan was similar to the colours of the kitchens of the day. After the war, kitchen colours were bright and this van had an all yellow interior and maroon upholstery.
From photographs the floor appeared to be pink and green marmoleum. Only a small fraction of this remained.
It is interesting to note that at various stages the caravan underwent several changes. At a later stage a window added in the front, a porthole in the door and a window in the ensuite.
The caravan had been bought in 2012 but unfortunately the purchasers were unable to undertake the task of restoration. In 2014 the caravan was advertised for sale and at that stage the caravan had deteriorated as it had obviously been left in the weather at some stage in its life.
In 2014, when selling the caravan they said “We bought 'Lady Evelyn' two years ago as friends of ours knew an elderly lady who was selling items that had been stored in her shed for years. Not only was there this caravan but old boats etc. Our friends had nowhere to store a caravan so told us about her and asked if we were interested in buying her. We had the room so purchased her and towed her to our house. We started buying vintage caravan magazines and going online for ideas on how to start the restoring process. We realise now that it is too big a job for us and she really needs to go back into a shed. We have tarps on her, but if we don't sell her we will buy a proper caravan cover to protect her”.
Luckily the interior had remained fairly undamaged.
In 2014 the caravan was purchased and transported to Mt. Eliza, on the Mornington Peninsula where it was stored under cover.
The caravan was once again advertised for sale in May 2019. Again the owner (Michael B. from Mt Eliza) had realised the work was beyond his capability. Michael B. had endeavoured to dry out the van and protect it but unfortunately the van had deteriorated even more. The upholstery had been disposed of because it was wet and mouldy. There was evidence of increasing deterioration in both ends.
How we obtained the Caravan. During this story we will use the ‘Royal We’. Many tasks were completed together, others were completed by a single person, but together it was a project completed by us both. Thus the “Royal We”.
We spotted reference to the advertisement on the Vintage Caravan Forum and we were intrigued by this caravan, probably because it is big and has an ensuite – rare for its time. This original builder had apparently built several other smaller vans, and some rather beautiful wooden boats.
As we were away at the Historic car races in Winton, Victorian, and thus we weren’t too far from Melbourne – only about 200 kilometres - we thought we’d wander down and have a look at the van.
We met Michael B. and at least he had made an attempt to preserve the van, he’d built structure around it with a very good tarp over the top. However being timber and in a very damp climate, it did not fare well. It was rotten and sodden.
Michael B. had thrown out all the bedding and cushions as he had tried to dry them out but they were full of mould. Ditto the vinyl floor coverings. Unfortunately he didn’t keep any piece of the material as samples. We do know though from earlier photos what colours it was and what it looked like. Michael B. also had a book of the plans, wiring diagrams etc. and all the details the builder had drafted before he built it. There were also some pages of family photos taken in various places around Victoria of the van. Even one where it is pulled by a Buick.
After viewing the caravan and considering the process of restoration, and the costs involved, we made him an offer of quarter of what he wanted. We explained how we came to the amount but Michael said he had an offer of half what he wanted and as we were nowhere near agreement so we left on good terms.
After a month of further discussions with emails back and forth and prices offered and rejected Michael B. informed us he had decided not to sell. In the interest of preserving this caravan we sent him a detail set of instructions on how to restore a caravan, based on our experience of caravan and car restoration. We detailed processes and estimated costs. It may have done the job for us because in mid-June we received an email saying we could have it at the last discussed price.
Bringing the caravan home and planning the restoration. On the 27 of June we set off to Melbourne to tow this monster home. We had considered putting it on a tow truck as the whole thing is rotten but we were concerned with a truck travelling at 110 kmh on the expressway, the whole thing would blow apart and not many tow truck drivers were keen on doing it. We loaded the car up with the welder, tools, cutting equipment, circular saws, drills, 100 mile an hour tape (what a great product), tins of paint, nails, screws etc., - basically a full workshop - and a small tent and some sleeping bags for good measure.
It took us two and a half days of working from dawn to dusk to get the caravan in a state we thought we could tow it and not have a problem. We had a permit to move an unregistered vehicle.
We purchased large sheets of ply from Bunnings and wrapped up both the rotten ends. We took the original axle off (which consisted of 3 axles clamped together for strength) and massive truck tyres and replaced it with a new axle with electric brakes, we bought 3 new light truck tyres and fitted two to the new axle (plus a spare).
We knew from the present owner’s weighbridge certificate (he had moved it on a tow truck) that it weighed around 1400 kg – well within the towing capacity of our car.
We cut off the strange bit of metal that was welded to the front and bolted on a new tow hitch and welded on safety chains. Lights were added to the back and wires run through the van to make it look tidy.
We use a lots of tape to cover holes and to hold the caravan together. We screwed the windows and door shut.
We slapped a coat of paint on the side one sunny afternoon in an attempt to hide the rotting ply that someone had tried to staple back together and also to hide all the holes that the 100 mile an hour tape was hiding. The paint was dry when we left but unfortunately during the night all the moisture came out of the rotting timber into the paint and the next morning when we arrived at 0730, all the paint was sliding off the side and dripping on the ground. We quickly hosed it off the driveway before it was noticed.
Just before lunch on the third day we were ready to depart so with our parking lights on and the van lights on that we had fitted, we eased our way off and threaded through the city of Melbourne and crept north. We got to Wangaratta Caravan Park around 5.30 pm (a three hour trip) and as we knew the caravan park we knew we could leave the car hitched up to the caravan and walk to town for food. We had bought with us a power cord and a fan heater so we turned that on and we put a tarp on the floor to cover it and our sleeping bags on top of that. It was freezing, - minus 5 that night.
We strolled into town and had a lovely roast dinner at the RSL club. The next day we set off, our car just doing its thing as it always has and got home a little after lunch and parked it in the driveway ready for restoration. The first challenge was how to attack the restoration process. Many caravan restorers make the mistake of pulling everything apart and then they become daunted by the size of the rebuilding task. You have to do this in a car restoration but with a caravan you break things down to small steps and start at the beginning and take one small step at a time until you have finished.
The plan was to rebuild both ends first and then replace the external ply. We also intended to replace any rotten timber encountered. It was also planned to redress the front and rear windows as these were obviously weak spots as that was where the majority of the rot was. It was decided to do away with the front window and go back to the original plan for the front and strengthen the rear hinged windows.
With the external ply off, it also allowed us to replace the entire electrical wiring and the intent was to have all lights and accessories 12 volts and limited 240 volt. The 240 volt was for the hot water system, the battery charger and two double power points in the kitchen for the kettle and the frypan. All original fittings are reused with Led lights and a solar system was to be added to the roof.
The ensuite was to be modernised with a modern toilet, and with the addition of a water tank, and access point for town water we had a shower and hot and cold water in the kitchen. It was planned to use as much of the original plumbing as possible.
The final task, once the external had been completed was then fix up the interior, repolish all the hinges, add a bed, paint and register. We also intend to add a diesel heater to help us on cold nights when camping off grid. We also decided to change the location of the door. The original door was located at the front of the caravan and to enter or exit the van easily you had to move the bed out of the way, you also had to walk your guests past the ensuite and kitchen to the table for a cup of tea. We decided to move the door to the back of the caravan so a person could enter directly to the table and seating area.
We bought 2 large tarpaulins to cover the caravan up at night to keep out moisture in case of rain.
We also took many photos to record the process, as well as providing a guide to the rebuild.
We also went through the van and removed all the light fittings (and flies), the little vase that was above the desk area and there was even in the little cupboard in the ensuite, the original toilet roll with toilet paper.
Stage 1. The front end On 28th June the first indication of the size of the job came when we pealed the front ply off and found that the van was insulated with rock-wool, an insulation used in the 40’s and 50’s. Unfortunately it was wet and ants had made a nest in the wool (and the entire van). This also ensured that all the timber in the front had to be replaced. The window (that was put in at a later date, as some of the original photos show the van without this window), had obviously leaked badly.
The window was also obviously quite heavy (it must have been large) as the whole wall has sagged in. We plan to build the van as per its original plans and not have a front window as it’s the bedroom end. There are two large windows on the side and three glass skylight – quite sufficient for lighting and air flow.
The amount of rot meant that we had to rebuild the entire front ¼ of the caravan. The first problem to be faced was how to bend wood to make the shape we needed. We first tried building a steamer to bend wood but couldn’t get sufficient heat and moisture in the pipe.
We decided then to go with the original build process and build the ribs out of laminated timber. This was done by cutting 3 mm ply into 4” strips (about 10 centimetres) and then using polyurethane glue to glue 8 of these strips together. To get the shape we traced the side of the van that wasn’t sagging onto a sheet of ply.
The glued ply was attached to a thick backing board on our back deck and clamped to blocks of wood along the line that had been traced off the caravan. The strips were clamped for 24 hrs until the glue dried.
The end result was excellent and we used this method across the entire front and then re did this process for the back end which was in even worse condition. With the 8 strips glued together, the timber rib is quite strong and rigid.
By mid-July the front had begun to take shape again.
We have framed up the old doorway. The square hole in the floor is where the original door was and had to be filled in.
The internal 3 mm ply was replaced and you can now see the shape of the windows. The front was then framed up with the new curved sections. The internal ply is now on, but external ply will wait until the wiring and insulation is done. This gives us quite a large bedroom space. The ensuite side is a little more forward than the cupboard side but it gives us a space to stand when getting dressed etc. The only thing changed in this area is how the bed will be and the door moved.
The bedroom area now is slightly larger than a double bed in width – 3 “less than queen bed size.
Stage 2 – Rear end. At this stage the front was re sheeted in plastic and we turned our attention to the back. This section was even more rotten than the front. The beautiful windows were much too heavy for the roof which wasn’t well supported. You could see how it had sagged in the middle.
This is the back of the van and the new doorway has been cut on the left hand side. This means that the desk area will be reduced by half, but will be restored as it was. It’s the section that had the pull-out ironing board.
It was at this stage we discovered that there were borers in the floor. It appears that when the marmoleum was on the floor it kept the ply moist and borers love moist timber.
We therefore had to remove the floor but luckily, enough the sides of the caravan were screwed to the chassis and the floor butted up against the caravan sides and sat under the furniture. This allowed us to remove the floor and slide the new pieces of the floor under the furniture and butt it up against the sides.
Ply being soft allowed borers to fester. However, as the hard wood was a much tougher meal they stayed away from the hardwood frame. We then sprayed bucket loads of anti-borer poison.
The ice chest is on the right. We are retaining this and will replace the insulation. We have found a place in Qld where they do refrigeration for boats (Nova cool). They often have to fit fridges in odd shaped places on boats so they sell the compressor, freezer plates etc. and basically you make your own fridge.
By doing this the fridge looks like the original icebox. It will run off 12 volt, no need for a gas fridge, which means a more efficient refrigeration. We can then run it from the solar power, or off the car as we travel. On the left (above) you can see the other half of the desk and the new doorway.
By early August the rear of the caravan was taking shape.
The internal ply is 3 mm ply from Bunnings.
Stage 3. Completing the outside We were still working out how to do the windows and we strongly suspected that they always leaked. We think we have a solution and will replace the glass with Perspex which would also be lighter
This area has all been strengthened, not just with new timber but much stronger support above the window. The sagging ceiling has now been reglued and screwed and it is all level again. The section above the side window also has new timber, considerably stronger than the original to support the roof and the back section and rear window.
At this stage the wiring for the 12 volt and the 240 volt were run through various channels all according to the master plan devised at the start.
In early August the caravan really started to come together. The insulation was added and the external 6 mm ply panels were added and undercoat painted on.
The other exciting bit is the welder arrived and the new A-frame has been welded into place.
As well, he welded the new springs for the dual axles. We have axles with a 3” drop. This will lower the height of the van to its original height. Should make things a lot easier when we have wheels on and a tow hitch. We have had to reframe the wheel arch to accommodate the dual axle.
This allowed us to finish off the external ply
This now meant that we could now insulate the sides and ends and put on the exterior ply. The foam is just cut to shape and put between the battens. Exterior 6 mm marine ply is then nailed/screwed and glued on.
We then went around punching in all the nail heads, filling and sanding and applying an undercoat and sealer on a day that was warm enough. It will be undercoated at least twice.
We also replaced the glass in the windows with tinted Perspex. The rear side windows were changed by squaring them off and adding more support for the back of the caravan. The rear pivoting windows were quite heavy and at this stage we had not found a way to make these windows that open waterproof.
The new frames for the seats have been glued and screwed in place and new interior ply attached to the rear seating area. All this area had been rotted out.
In early October the last external job was the roof. More insulation and 3 mm ply were added.
The outside of the caravan can now be classed as “almost completed”. This stage was reached on the 11th October 2019.
Now that it was at the “lockup stage” we could focus on the interior.
Stage 4 – the inside and the rest By mid-August we began focussing on finishing the inside of the van. However, the problem with telling this story is that not every task was completed before we started on the next. For example, we purchased the diesel heater the first month of rebuild but it was the last thing completed, we ran the wiring for the heater when we re-did the wiring.
Calico on roof. While in Albury at the end of August we also picked up several metres of calico and chose a slightly cloudy day to roll the calico roof on. We didn’t want it drying out too quickly. We had washed the sizing out of it in a hot wash and spent 2 hrs crawling round the floor ironing the wretched thing. Calico wrinkles terribly when washed. We then rolled it up around a large cardboard roll to keep it as flat as possible. If we folded it, there would be creases. So with two tall ladders and one of us on each side we put about a metre wide layer of undercoat and sealer on the roof and proceeded to unroll and stick the calico to the roof. Once we got the first two metres done, it became easier. We ducked inside the caravan occasionally when we got to a skylight. Given the size of it, we didn’t do too bad a job wrinkle wise and no joins. Another 2 or 3 layers of undercoat and sealer and then two top coats – tight as a drum and leak-proof. When we bought the stuff we hadn’t measure the distance so made a rough guess and added some for shrinkage and a bit for luck. I think we had 10 centimetres left at the end to cut off. After the roof was finished, and the calico was trimmed, the caravan’s edges were lined with aluminium J-mound and the sail rail was added for the awning. The roof skylights were also added and covered with tinted Perspex.
Paint scheme. The outside was originally cream with white window frames and mid blue window sills and surrounds.
We kept the outside the same colour but decided to change the colour scheme of the inside by painting the walls and ceiling a white but keeping with the original colour scheme we kept the yellow on the cupboard doors. We were able to determine the original colour as un-faded colours were found under the light fittings. We also changed the external blue detailing to navy on the outside to break up all the cream.
Icebox. The fridge interior was relined with acrylic panels (wall art - Bunnings) and insulated with Foil Board as the previous lining was rusted and the insulation was damp from condensation.
The acrylic panel are water resistant. The aluminium sides had some rust spots as moisture had been trapped in the insulation between the aluminium side and exterior ply due to temperature fluctuations. We have kept the original icebox and purchased the fridge workings (freezer plates, and compressor) from a marine supplier.
We then fitted the freezer box in the cavity in the top where the ice would sit. We are retaining the shelf that the ice sat on and will also use the original shelves.
The compressor sits under the seat beside the ice chest. It is a 12 volt motor that is powered by the caravan’s deep cycle batteries. On the test run it got to minus 12 C in the freezer.
Bedding. Parallel to the external building of the caravan we spent the evenings engaged in resizing a queen size mattress. It was a spare that we had, not much used and in very good condition but mattresses cannot be given away anymore so it would have to go to the tip if not needed. The size we needed was between a double and queen so we thought we would have a go at resizing one, instead of just throwing it out.
If it failed then it hadn’t cost us anything. We took out a row of springs, cut out the supporting frame, then re attach the supporting wire frame .It meant rewiring every spring and reattaching each spring with the old clips that were saved to the heavy supporting wire. Then we had to sew up the whole side again.
We have found a variety of strange tools to be useful, particularly riggers gloves. Those springs bite.
We needed this done and the whole of the inside cabinetry finished before the wheels are done for the balance point of the new axle to be determined. We need some weight in the front, but not too much. The new A-frame would be lighter than the old, so the balance point will shift. .The dual axle will be one of the last major jobs to be done.
The mattress was finally sewn back together and the resizing appears to be a success, but only time (and sleeping on it) will tell.
Rear Windows. Because of the problem with lack of support on the curved windows at the back, we have compromised with retaining the asymmetrical triangular shape of the side windows at the rear by making the triangular section fixed to provide more support in the back corner and having a square window that opens hinged at the top. We are putting tinted Perspex in these with the large curved windows across the back as it could be hot in this area. The windows over the sink and desk area will be clear.
However, after many attempts to make the rear hinged windows over the table area water proof we decided to glue and screw them in place and replaced the original glass with Perspex. We also added an awning. However in August 2020 we reverted to tinted glass as the Perspex has the tendency to scratch easily and we found it sagged in extreme summer heat. It also provided us with a nice view of the ocean out our rear windows.
Table. Luckily the table was still in the caravan when we purchased it. The marmoleum that covered it had been taken off by the time we purchased the caravan and a lot of the edging timber had de-laminated around the edge. We were able to reglue this together and extra linoleum that we purchased was glued on to the table and trimmed. The chrome strips were reattached and the table was repaired successfully. Kitchen tables of the 1940’s were either timber or a new product marmoleum.
Electrical. The electrical system was 6 volt and this was supplied by either the car battery or a 240 volt connection which was run through a 240 to 6 volt transformer. It actually worked in 2019 prior to the caravan rebuild.
The caravan was completely rewired as the original wires (for the 12 volt and the 240 volt) were all cloth covered rubber insulated wires that had started to break down. The new wiring plan will be 12 volt wiring throughout the van to run everything, including the fridge, and will be powered by two (2) 120 amp hour deep cycle batteries
The batteries will be recharged from either solar, mains (through a battery charger) or the towing vehicle through an Anderson plug.
There also will be a number of 240 volt power points to allow us to use other electrical appliances.
The fuse box is hidden in a cupboard, along with the hot water controls (gas/electric) as well as the solar controller and water tank monitor. There are master switches to turn off the fridge, pump, radio, hot water, security, and diesel heater. All other devices (lights etc.) are run through individual fuses.
The wiring was done in such a way that each separate light switch, pump or device has its own fuse all connected to a common earth wire running the length and width of the van. 240 volt enters the van through a cut-out switch and is connected to the hot water system as well as 4 double power points.
All lights are 12 volt as well as the TV and the fridge.
We put the lights back in and have fitted 12 volt LED lights inside the original light fittings instead of the 6 volt bulbs.
The ensuite also has an electric extractor fan.
The safety lights on the outside of the caravan are replaced with modern LED lights and a rear vision camera was added above the number plate.
Spats. The caravan came with a set of timber spats to cover the wheel arches, but these were designed to cover a single axle arch so new ones had to be made.The Spats are designed so that they can be easily removed to allow replacement of tyres
Interior. We have framed the two seats and covered the seat frame with a special ply called ‘bendy ply’ for obvious reasons. This is the seat just inside the door. This is where the diesel heater will be located. The top lifts up for storage under. The seat opposite has the fridge compressor.
We were lucky that the rear cupboards were able to be kept in one piece when being removed, and thus this meant that when they were replaced very little work had to be redone to rebuild the rear table area.
The internal ply has gone in up the bedroom end on the wall, we had a clever idea on how to do the bedframe. We got the lightest Ikea double bed frame that comes in a flat pack – very simple, just the slats and 4 legs and the side and top and bottom rail – about $90. Then we put it together while standing in the space, made the legs a bit taller to fit over the hot water system, removed the upright section of the bedhead. It fitted the “almost” queen size mattress we had resized perfectly.
The 20 litre hot water system will sit on the floor under the bed just beside the ensuite. It will be up against the outside wall as it needs to be vented This was all that was needed to get it registered, as the motor registry aren’t interested in what is happening inside. We have no gas on it so that was not a consideration.
This was all that was needed to get it registered, as the motor registry aren’t interested in what is happening inside. We have no gas on it so that was not a consideration.
Upholstery. On a trip to Albury we managed to pick up some rose coloured upholstery material like the original colours. This covered heavy duty foam that was cut to size - we did not have the original cushions so we did not have the original springs.
We also had the button pattern from Mr Mayne’s drawings and we sourced the raw buttons from the internet. To cover these it was to be a challenging prospect as there were 14 buttons per side – 28 per cushion – and there were 4 cushions totalling 112. We contacted an upholsterer and apparently they have a device that can cover buttons if we provide the material. Once done the next challenge we had was to place the buttons on the cushions.
Annex – Awning. We were lucky enough to find in one of the cupboards a large awning that had come off another caravan but was the correct size. We re-trimmed the edges and we now have a nice awning that fits the entire length of the caravan. It appears to be from a 1970’s era caravan. It now has a scalloped edge to match the blinds.
External Blinds. To keep the light out at night, to provide privacy during the days and heat out in summer we also added external blinds, that are taken down when travelling. The rear blind is made using nautical Bimini posts from a boat chandlers. These posts can be adjusted to adjust the height of the rear awning.
Stove. In December when we were in Queensland, we came home via Sydney and stopped at fellow vintage caravaners Col and Sue’s place. They had been at Wee Jasper with us and Sue thought she had an era specific Kero primus stove from the late 1940’s that had belonged to her father. We assume that is what our van had at the time because it certainly has never had gas fitted to it.
The stove would have been either spirit or kerosene. We were very happy with the stove and we have since cleaned it up and got it going. We were doing this on our back deck. The hose and a fire extinuisher were handy just in case.
It burns well with a flame very like a gas stove. You preheat the burners with meths (fill the little saucer underneath the burner) and then pump up the pressure tank with kero and if you get it right, when you open the valve to let the pressurised kero through, it vaporises in the preheated tubes and you’re off and cooking.
It has an oven too and we have had that up to 300F. We haven’t tried it with scones yet. You open up the top to light the burners. The oven burner works the same way.
We had to take out a drawer beneath the oven space in the van to give enough clearance for the oven and insulated the entire cavity which is all lined with aluminium, including above the stove.
Door. The door was built by constructing a frame out of 5 by 2 inch Meranti and covering it with 6 mm Marine Ply. We used the original lock, but had to replace the handle which meant that we could not actually lock is so we added an “old fashioned” lockable Yale dead latch.
Plumbing. The plumbing was one of the biggest challenges, we wanted to keep the original chromed piping but also wanted to have access to hot and cold running water.
The water is sourced from either the on board tank or, through an external connection, the water supplied by the caravan park.
We also wanted to access drinking water from our tank if the supplied town water was not as nice as Canberra water.
The system was designed so that the pump moves the water out of the tank to the hot water heater and the cold taps of the sink and the shower. The hot water then goes to the hot water taps in the sink and shower. There is enough hot water in the heater to provide a decent shower. The hot water is heated by 240 v, or gas, or both if you want a quick turnaround. It normally takes about 20 minutes from cold to hot.
The pump also sends water to one of the original taps in the sink that only provides tank water. The town waster comes in through a pressurised connection. This caravan park supplied water is prevented from flowing back into the tank, and accessing the “drinking water tap” by a one way valve on the water-out side of the pump. Between the pump and the one-way valve is a bypass to the drinking water tap.
The original ensuite had a 240 volt pump in the cupboard under the sink and a pressure pump (pumped by hand) in the corner of the shower. It had a sealed tank above the shower head.
We assume that the pump allowed water to be pumped from outside into the caravan but how this was heated we do not know. We assume that there was a heat exchange above the stove in the kitchen but this has disappeared. The existing pipework suggested as much.
The overhead tank provided water to the shower and to the kitchen through gravity. With the introduction of a new 12 volt pump, and access to town water pressure it brought another problem to the forefront. The original taps in the caravan were designed to work with water that was provided by gravity fed, not a high pressure pump. Thus they leaked when the pump was on, or connected to town water. This was overcome by putting a modern retro mixer tap and leaving the hot and cold taps open. The sink also has a modern mixer tap.
The waste water flows under the caravan in 50 mm pipes to the back of the caravan where it is diverted through a hose to the caravan park’s waste outlet. The piping is a mixture of old style plumbing and modern plumbing. All the modern plumbing is hidden.
Materials and equipment The ply used for the exterior walls was 6 mm Marine Ply, all other ply was 3 mm ply. The floor ply was replaced with 6 mm Marine ply.
We used meranti for the battens and other timber requirements.
Copper piping was used to replace some of the original pipes, whereas modern plumbing (SmarteX Copper Joins) and flexible hoses were used, all sourced from Bunnings. Two modern flick master taps were added, one for the sink and one for the shower.
5” by 2” box steel was purchased for the new A Frame and new springs were purchased from a trailer supply shop in Melbourne.
Nails and screw were bought from Bunnings. There were times that I made multiple trips to Bunnings in a single day. Luckily we had a box trailer.
All products were purchased on an “as needed basis”, by that I mean that if I was planning to do some batten work then I would go and buy the timber I needed.
I had a Triton Workbench that proved to be invaluable in cutting ply and timber sheets to size. A router and router bench for trimming the edges of the ply and shaping timber where needed, especially window frames. A Ryobi portable drill, jigsaw and circular saw as well as a drop saw for cutting larger timber and angles. Hammer, screwdriver etc.
Stage 5 - Registration In late October 2019 we had completed the outside electrics, i.e. navigation lights etc., the solar panels and a deep cycle battery fitted. The outside skin was done and we had undercoated it and put at least one coat of topcoat.
We had the dual axle on and the electric brakes working. We took it over the pits for registration and with a few minor tweaks- the handbrake cable needed to be adjusted as it was rubbing on the tyre. We were told initially that we didn’t have to weld the spring locating plates. This was incorrect, so we had to do that and it didn’t have a chassis number which was strange that it failed on that because that was provided by the motor registry at the time of inspection.
The van was returned home, welding was done, the provided numbers stamped on to the chassis and the brake cable adjusted. The van was taken back to motor registry where it waltzed through without worries. The new rego plates were put on. Not bad going for a van that was written off as being almost un-restorable. A testament to our building skills.
First weekend away. We decided to take the caravan to Wee Japer for our usual camping weekend in November 2019. We had a working fridge – using the original ice chest. We cut some cushions from an old foam mattress - but that proved a little too soft but did the job temporarily. We didn’t have the water tanks installed but had a couple of 10 litre water containers. When you have a bed and a fridge to keep the beer cold, you don’t need much else. We left the paper on the windows as we hadn’t made curtains yet.
After a successful weekend away we continued working on the van. We put the curtains and flyscreens (Crimsafe) in, finished the painting inside and out, built a set of wheel spats and added an “Edging Line” down the middle. Put in linoleum and finished off the table.
As the caravan now approached two tonnes in weight we had to sell our much loved Mitsubishi Outlander and purchased a Holden Trailblazer.
The first week of December we went up to Qld with our van, just to spend some time with our Mum and Dad before Xmas. We took a few days to get up there and we had our first meal in the van at the table. (it wasn’t in when we went to Wee Jasper).
2020. After the Christmas break we set to finishing the caravan. The cushions were made and we did the shower/toilet and the biggest challenge was fitting 1940’s plumbing to 2020’s plumbing. This was finally achieved and we could now have hot showers and the 240 v/Gas hot water system was able to work on the 240 v.
We also installed the diesel heater for the coming winter.
The toilet is a Thetford cartridge toilet.
In March 2020 we had the plumber (with gas tickets) install the gas lines to the hot water system, and add a gas bayonet, for an outside BBQ, to the A-Frame. We now have gas hot water for off-grid coffee and/or tea. The gas was the last thing that needed to be done except for replacing the Perspex in the rear curved windows with glass. The Perspex, unfortunately, scratches easily and the installation did not go easy so the view out the back of the van is not as good as it could have been. It is now much clearer.
Finally – In conclusion. We have tried to keep the van true to the builder’s intent, but have also made it a bit more liveable by incorporating a bit of modern functionality. All of which is hidden.
In summary it took six months work working 6 days a week. If we were not retired then we would not have undertaken the challenge. We were lucky that we were capable of doing all the work ourselves (except the welding).
Bunnings supplied most of the components - Timber, screws, insulation and paint. Supercheap and Jaycar provided the electrical and Caravans Plus provided some of the bigger components - Hot water system, toilet, TV aerial. Coast to Coast for the Fridge and IKEA the bed.
The internet provided the rest - love EBay speciality stores.
So where to now. As this is our only van we still intend to go to as many Vintage Caravan events as possible, as we have been in the past. We also plan to travel much more as we have a van that is almost as good as a modern van as it has similar mod cons, and tows well.
All in all a most challenging task that challenged my physical and mental capabilities. Building things was OK, but working out how to solve some of the problems was also a challenge. The van is now finished (except for ongoing maintenance).
The caravan pre restoration and after completed. Following are a series of before and after pictures.
Mr Mayne. It is not known whether the original builder of the caravan actually took the van to the Northern Territory but it can be assumed, fairly confidently, that he himself went in 1954. This is based on hand written notes on the strip maps that were supplied by the relevant motoring authorities. This is also supported by anecdotal evidence from a neighbour that Mr Mayne did travel to the Northern Territory.
Last Edit: Aug 28, 2020 10:15:20 GMT 10 by tooleyau
Having travelled over 8000kin our restored van we had a bit of a mishap. One of the U bolts cracked and we had to change it in the rain. Pulled into Armidale and checked all 4wheels .another 2 had to be replaced. Will be replacing them all when I get home. SO. The big question is ----- Has any body else had issues and how often do you check, or replace them I don't know if the ones that cracked are cheap and nasty ones.
Hi Michael So sorry to hear of your travel mishap. Fortunately, it didn't end in a major incident. A timely reminder however, that we all should bear in mind with our own rigs. I suspect that not too many people check the underbelly of their vans. When I had the trailer for Cino Vardo built, by the time I got it home (15 klms), one of the u-bolts were already rattling because it was not tensioned properly. I know that you are fastidious with any work you do, which really begs the question "What caused this?". After doing more research on Mr Google, I now realise that we ignore u-bolts at our own peril. I found this information interesting www.suspensionspecialists.com/techinfo/Ubolt_Information.pdf I am very much a layman in terms of technical knowledge of this sort of stuff. I do notice though that you replaced the A frame on the van and also added dual axles. Could the u-bolt failure be attributed to that in any way? Are there calculable forces in play perhaps not considered before in terms of chassis flex? I saw the pic of the broken bolt on another site and notice that it is not very thick. Perhaps the simple cause was that the bolts were just too thin? I'm sure you will investigate this thoroughly and fix the problem, but please also give us whatever feedback you can for the fix.
Last Edit: Jan 3, 2021 9:00:46 GMT 10 by Roehm3108