Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 5, 2016 15:38:21 GMT 10
Designed and possibly built by Edward (Ted) Palmer At the 'Last of the Chrome Bumpers' car show at Cora Lynn, Victoria, in October 2008, I took the following photo of a little Trail caravan:
The same caravan is currently listed (January 2016) on Gumtree as being available for display at marketing and promotional events, with the following photos:
Some time ago Firefighter showed me an old article he had about Trail caravans. I seem to recall that the van was designed to be towed by a Morris Mini, hence its diminutive size. The large front and rear windows were designed to give a Mini driver the ability to see through to the rear. However, I can't remember whether the Trail van was built from a set of plans for the home builder, or was commercially built.
Maybe Firefighter can find the article and post it for us? Or perhaps people who regularly attend the Cora Lynn show (now held each year at Lardner Park) may know the van and be able to tell us a bit more about it?
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 5, 2016 21:08:10 GMT 10
Hi Hughdeani and Firefighter,
That's great info about the Trail. Well done. Just goes to show how much valuable information we forum members hold between us collectively.
I'll look forward to reading the article in the book Firefighter. The Trail has always appealed to me as quite a pretty little van, and it's nice to know there is one out there being looked after quite carefully by the look of it. It looks as if it's well built too.
Post by firefighter on Feb 5, 2016 22:34:40 GMT 10
G day Scot
There is a page on what we call a teardrop they call it a caravanette......trailer for 2 on the same page as the 4 1/2 cwt Mini 8 trail........ the caravanette is also called the Vacation trailer I don't think it is made by trail
If I get time tomorrow I will put that page on the forum
Are you there Don Ricardo.....Trail caravans are made by 25 year veteran caravan builder Ted Palmer
forgot to put that in the first article
This book was printed in 1966 .....so Ted Palmer must have started building caravans in 1941
Don Ricardo what do you know about veteran caravan builder Ted Palmer ? ......what you know nuffin well we want to know
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 6, 2016 14:53:11 GMT 10
Hmmm...Ted Palmer? I've been on the Trail, so to speak, but can't find any references to him apart from those in the various Winser publications. It sounds as if he might have been quite well known in caravan building circles in his day, though.
However, what I did find during my search was a post by Mark T where he reported on a visit to Don257's place in December 2005. In the words of Don257:
"They say once you've got the bug you can't stop, how true! Sitting on my digger doing my job one day, I looked up and in the distance thinking "is that what I think it is?" So, off I go (the job had to wait!) through market gardens till I reached it, and to my surprise a 9' timber caravan. After very little bargaining it was off to my local garage again for their tilt tray truck (they have as much fun as we do picking up all these old vans).
"This little beauty was able to fit into my shed. Another major restoration job underway.
"While pulling off outside wall sheets, I noticed a stamp on the timber frame "Trail". We believe a veteran van builder by the name of Ted Palmer designed these vans in the early 60's for the popular Mini cars. This explains the the front & rear large aluminium windows for easy vision for the driver.
"Having just started this project, we have only a few photos but will keep you posted as the project progresses."
And this was followed by some photos of the 'little beauty' itself:
Now I'm willing to go out on a limb here. I'm willing to bet (figuratively!) that the van saved by Don257 in 2005 is the little Trail pictured higher up this thread. My reasons for this are that Don257 has done some amazing restorations on caravans that many of us would regard as "too far gone", and does a really high quality job on them. In addition, Don257 is very involved in organising the caravan display at the Cora Lynn/Lardner 'Last of the Chrome Bumper' car shows where I photographed the van in 2008. So my guess is that Don257 restored the van he found and then passed it on to its current owner (or another owner in between them).
Maybe Don257 can tell me if my guess is right?
Doesn't tell us any more about Ted Palmer, but at least we may know a bit more about the history of the little Trail van.
It's amazing what we have stored away on this forum if you go looking, eh?
Let me tell you what I know about our Trail Caravanette.
We believe it was built in 1947 - adds weight to your theory Geoff that Edward Palmer was building vans as early as the 40's.
Existing paint and finish all fit with the 40's even found the original curtains tucked away in a cupboard. A quick wash and iron and they are back on the leadlight windows.
The van remains on original registration having only 2 previous owners, we have registration labels dating back to 1971. When did they start to register vans/trailers? This may assist in confirming the build date.
The van was originally owned by Geoffrey Johns, he lived in Spotswood. He died in 1982. Does anyone know of Geoffrey? He worked at J. Knight & Co, Locksmith. Google Geoffrey and you find a lovely photo of him in the locksmith shop.
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 11, 2016 9:17:14 GMT 10
What a great little caravanette you have! Very nice indeed, and wonderful to know the early history of the van. I love the leadlight windows too - the first I've seen on a caravanette I think?
We'll pick up the Trail again when I receive the info from Firefighter. (The puns are just too obvious to ignore aren't they?)
One intriguing thing is the 'Trail' logo on your van which I presume is original to your van, and is the same as the one on the little van at Cora Lynn and on Gumtree, but wasn't on the van that Don257 found (assuming that that one is the Cora Lynn van, and not another one - in which case the trail may lead us up the garden path! ).
I'll be interested to hear what Don257 can tell us when he comes onto the forum.
The answer to your question about caravan registration in Victoria: Caravan/trailer registration became a requirement in 1967.
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 11, 2016 15:25:52 GMT 10
An interesting question you pose about the change from 'caravanette' to 'tear drop'. I don't know the answer that question. My parents in the 50's and 60's always referred to a caravanette as a 'caravanette', so I think that terminology was certainly around in general use at that point.
It would be interesting to know if there are publications around that refer to a caravanette as a tear drop, and if so what the date is on them. Maybe 'teardrop' is just an informal common name that has been adopted over time, a bit like we talk about 'toasters'? I have noted that some people - as in the general public and advertisers on Ebuy, not esteemed forum members - sometimes use the term 'tear drop' very loosely, and apply it to a full-size caravan that's rounded at the front with a ducktail at the rear, but on occasion not even the latter. Whereas my understanding is that 'tear drop' refers to a...well, a caravanette!
All that's just a bit of speculation. So, in summary: you're right - I don't know NUFFIN!
Maybe there's someone out there that knows SOMEFIN and can tell us?
PS I just checked the 1947/8 Winser and he was referring to 'caravanettes' back then, so I reckon 'tear drop' was adopted later - maybe even in the modern era? Maybe imported from the US of A? Don't know, but at least having checked Winser I do now know SOMEFIN after all...
Bad News?? I wouldn’t have expected that Trail would be still marketing a 1940’s van nearly 20 years on anyhow.
Perhaps that’s how Edward Palmer started out, building vans from the Keith Winser plans as Hughdeani has suggested , although our caravanette (I like that!!) is a bit different to the plans in the Keith Winser manual I have, although I don’t have one from the 40’s,mine is a bit later.
There is a further reference to Edward Palmer on the forum, in 2008 Melburgorbust posted information relating to a 1955 Motor Manual in which he refers to a review of a 9ft homebuilt by Edward Palmer. Interestingly ours is registered as 1900 home built. I wonder if Melburgorbust is able to find that review and post a copy, please.
This suggests that Edward Palmer was innovative, progressive and clearly had in his sites on the small car market. How else would you survive 25 years in the industry?
Hello, Trail caravans were built in Australia by Ted Palmer who, by 1960 had spent more than 25 years perfecting his own design specifically for use with smaller vehicles. Built from 3/16 inch plywood over a steel fabricated steel chassis, the diminutive size of these vans offered little wind resistance and were able to be towed comfortably at 60mph
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 13, 2016 10:37:39 GMT 10
Thanks for that info about Edward Palmer. Putting 2 and 2 together, I am thinking you are the owner of the Trail caravan that started off this conversation. Is that correct?
Are you able to tell us any more about Mr Palmer, for example where he was based? Do you know if he had any connection with Wangaratta? And was he basically a home builder who built caravans one by one in his backyard, or did he have a bigger operation?
My name is Joe Galea and have been into vintage caravans for some time, Im sure we have several mutual friends. I have owned the Trail caravan for over 7 years and it was restored by Doug and Vicky from Victoria whom i am still very good friends with today. I actually recently registered onto the forum to alert other enthusiasts that i was selling a Pilgrim caravan for a friend which has since sold.
The Trail and FC have been on display with RACV for some time so i thought rather than leaving it at home under cover why not make it available for others to appreciate. Since owning the trail i have collected several articles on Ted Palmer and of course the Trail caravan one of which is when Ted specially prepared the what he called "Pleasure van" into a 8 ft. "Glamour Van for the 1962 edition of Motor Manual book which includes plans. Ted went on to tour this van around North Queensland behind a EK Holden which is published in the same indicating this van was ideal for back country touring.
I have several original articles so happy to text/ email through if anyone is interested.
Good to have you back on the forum again, say g'day to Tony, I see he is still a member but doesn't have much to say
Any information you have gathered regarding Trail caravans and Ted Palmer would be welcome on this thread, just post away Or if you prefer, email to me by clicking on my forum name to get the address and I'll post it here.
Hi guys,yes as Joe has posted , the trail was ours and we sold it on to him .It was a huge resto job but it was well worth saving that little van as the pics show it was in a bad state.It was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying resto's that we have done over the years of restoring v/vans.Thanks for all the kind words guys,there are plenty of us out there with the same passion to save these old buggers. We are so happy that it went to a fantastic home . Don 257
Post by Don Ricardo on Oct 17, 2016 10:23:19 GMT 10
Quite some time ago, I promised Scot that I would post the material Firefighter and I had unearthed regarding caravan builder Ted Palmer's Trail caravans.
At this point we don't know quite when Ted Palmer started building caravans, although it seems possible that it could have been as early as the 1930's or or early 1940's - as Firefighter noted above the 3rd edition of Keith Winser's Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats(LCT&B) published in 1966 stated that Palmer had twenty-five years of building and experimenting with caravans behind him (page 33). We do know for certain from a post by Melburgorbust in 2008(referred to above) that one of Palmer's small caravans was reviewed in a 1955 Australian Motor Manual magazine.
Palmer had a particular interest in building very small, light caravans to be towed by small, light vehicles. According to an article in the 1966 LCT&B (page 33), Palmer had:
"...contended years ago that small cars would dominate the roads of the future and obviously his thoughts have been confirmed. The amazing performance of the baby car today is a revelation and Ted expects it will become more so in the future.
"There is a demand for caravans designed especially to meet the needs of such car owners; giving all the basic fittings, comfort and glamour associated with the larger van outfits - without causing undue stress."
One other thing we know about Palmer is that he seems to have had quite a close friendship or working relationship with Keith Winser, the publisher of various caravanning and car books and magazines from the 1940's through to the 1970's. Some at least of Ted Palmer's photographs were used for some of the Winser publications.
The 1966 and 1967 editions of Winser's LCT&B (which were an annual publication) contained a number of articles and sets of plans for a range of caravans designed by Ted Palmer. The photos below illustrate the various models.
Mini 8 (8 ft, 4 1/2 cwt, 2-berth)
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 3rd edition, 1966, pages 27, 30 & 29)
In describing the Mini 8, Palmer wrote:
"To keep it low and light it incorporates the "Flexitor" rubber suspension, weighs 4 1/2 cwt, with an overall height of 6' 11", and features large front and rear picture windows to give direct rear vision through the van...
"This van is frameless because a frame type van is by far harder to set up and build and excessive joins in it are a drawback. With the frame type the frame is set up first. Then the ply is attached to it with a genuine rush and many hands to get it on before the glue takes up. (Not for me.)
"The frameless type involves cutting a sheet of ply to the right curves and dimensions and applying it to the chassis and wheel box at the base with bare framework placed after." (LCT&B, 1966, page 27)
Modified Mini 8 (8 ft, 5 1/4 cwt, 2-berth)
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 3rd edition, 1966, page 34)
This van is described as being 6' 10" in overall height, and 5' 11" in internal height. There is no written explanation about what has been modified about the 'modified Mini 8', but some differences are apparent by comparing the photos: a different treatment for the front and rear windows involving extended side walls, a hatch in the door instead of a porthole window, a porthole window to the left side of the door, and a water tank inlet also to the left of the door.
It appears that the van also had a higher level of fittings because apparently it has had the 'glamour treatment: "It weighs with its glamour treatment, 5 1/4 cwt, but a basic unit with essentials only weighs 4 1/2 cwt...A bright lemon and grey lino completes the illusion of being in a far larger van. Ted says he has entertained six people in comfort, which speaks much of its planning and layout." (LCT&B, 1966, page 33)
Fitting six people into an 8 ft van sounds like a squeezy exercise. Not sure how much comfort they would really have enjoyed!
Mini Model 806 (8 ft 6 in, 2-berth)
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 4th edition, 1967, page 40 & 39)
It seems from the 1967 LCT&B that the 'modified Mini 8' described in the 1966 edition was renamed the 'Mini model 806'. The first photo shown for the Model 806 is identical to one of the photos used to illustrate the 'modified Mini 8' in the 1966 edition. Presumably the additional 6 inches in length arose from the extended walls.
By looking at the photos for the Model 806, it is evident that the Trail caravan now owned by 1960Trail and previously restored by Don257 (see above) is based on the 806.
806 Spacemaker (8 ft, 6 cwt, 2-berth)
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 4th edition, 1967, page 43)
The text accompanying the photo in the 1967 LCT&B explained:
"In Ted Palmer's constant search for something different, practical and functional for towing behind small cars, this new 8 ft lightweight (6 cwt), that incorporates a folding bed, was evolved. It is eye-catching and the answer to many problems.
"One of the biggest bugs in any caravan is setting up of its beds each night, and from the woman's point of view, somewhat of a trial.
"Both closed and open, the bed unit is an attractive feature.
"This idea is so simple in operation that in 30 seconds it opens from a full-length 6 ft daytime lounge-cum-single bed into a double bed, complete with its blankets and sheets. It actually increases the van's length to over 10 ft. It still retains in its design clear through van rear visions, which every van should have.
"Photos shows it open. An earlier model was built with the bed opening out from the side. The was was 7 ft long, 5 ft 6 in wide, 6 ft 11 in overall height and weighed 4 cwt. A little beauty for mini cars." (LCT&B, 1967, page 43)
Trail Ten (10 ft 6 in, 3-berth)
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 4th edition, 1967, page 43)
Other Palmer developments
The 1967 LCT&B reveals that Ted Palmer not only designed and built small caravans, but also modified panel vans to provide caravanning accommodation. The first shown was based on an ex-SEC (State Electricity Commission) Dodge panel van:
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 4th edition, 1967, page 29)
And the second was based on a second-hand Volkswagen utility and used for a '15,000-mile northern tour':
(Source: K Winser, Book of Lightweight Caravans Trailers and Boats, 4th edition, 1967, page 31)
Ted Palmer's photographs
Exploring Ted Palmer's caravan building activities for this post has enabled me to solve a puzzle which has had me thinking for a while. Photos in a number of Winser's annual Caravan Manuals have shown a small caravan being towed by a Farina-styled Austin A40. Who in Australia would have towed a caravan with an Austin A40 I have wondered? The answer was staring me in the face, but I hadn't figured out who Ted Palmer was, and of course the little caravan is a Trail!
This photo is from Winser's 1961 Caravan Manual...
(Source: K Winser, Australian Caravan and Touring Manual, 13th year book, 1961, page 71).
...and a further example from the 1967 Caravan Manual:
(Source: K Winser, Caravan Manual and Tourist Park Guide, 19th edition, 1967, page 27).
While many of the photos in the Caravan Manuals were taken by Keith Winser himself, it seems that Ted Palmer also supplied Winser with photos of his travels for use in Winser's publications.
As noted, the photos of Ted Palmer's caravan models were published in 1966 and 1967, and it will be interesting to see photos of earlier models. Reference was made in one of the quotations above to a 7 ft caravan with a fold-out bed on the side, for example. It would be great to see the 1955 review of one of Ted Palmer's caravans mentioned by Melburgorbust, if anybody has that.
I have the detailed plans and descriptions of some of the caravans designed by Palmer that I am happy to provide if anybody feels inspired to build a Trail caravan for themselves. Just PM me!
Thanks to Firefighter for helping me to assemble this information about Ted Palmer's Trail caravans, and apologies to Scot for taking so long to post it!
Post by Don Ricardo on Oct 19, 2016 12:12:20 GMT 10
In an earlier post on this thread I showed some photos of caravans designed by Ted Palmer, published in some of Keith Winser's later 60's caravan publications, and speculated about what Palmer's earlier designs may have looked like. Searching a bit further I have found information about a couple of caravans designed by Ted Palmer (referred to as 'E Palmer' or 'Edward Palmer') published in Winser's Plans for Australian Caravans in the early to mid-50's. The designs are for the Niner and the Voyager:
Niner (9 ft)
(Source: K Winser, Plans for Australian Caravans, undated (c 1954), pages 105, 109 & 106)
Note Palmer's thoughts about women's views on caravan layout!
Voyager (14 ft)
(Source: K Winser, Plans for Australian Caravans, undated (c 1954), pages 8, 149 & 146)
Plans for the Niner and Voyager were also included in the 4th edition of Plans for Australian Caravans, which is evidently a later edition than the one referred to above, but is also undated.
Both editions of this publication also carried two articles by Edward Palmer: 'Suggestions for Better Caravans' (pages 13 & 16 in the 4th edition), and 'Hints on Caravan Design and Layout' (pages 19, 21 & 23 in the 4th edition).
Post by Don Ricardo on Oct 19, 2016 12:21:15 GMT 10
Additional photos of Scot's Trail caravanette, seen at the 2016 Maldon vintage caravan event:
While we now have information on a variety of caravans designed and/or built by Ted Palmer, we are yet to discover any plans he may have developed himself for a caravanette, such as Scot's. It is possible that he simply used a generic set of plans, such as those included in a number of Keith Winser's publications in the 50's and 60's.
Post by Don Ricardo on Jul 26, 2020 16:18:08 GMT 10
In June 2019, I received an email from Adrian with a photo of a Commer motor home he had acquired and had established that it had been built and used by Ted Palmer, as reported in this article from an unknown source:
The motor home now looks as shown below with Adrian commenting that: "The hinge top was removed in the 80’s and replaced with some turret." It is unknown whether Palmer replaced the roof or not, but the Commer in its original form looks very similar in style to his VW Kombi camper van shown higher up this thread.
The Commer was probably built after the vintage era, but it is interesting to see that Ted Palmer's caravan building extended over a number of decades.