Hi All In a recent thread dealing with the GMH Caravans that perhaps never were, Don Ricardo suggested that finding one of these caravans might be the "holy grail" of caravans. The comment set me thinking - sorry about that - but is there a caravan that would qualify as the "holy grail" in our search for the ultimate vintage caravan? What would be the criteria for it being so qualified? Is the fact that one hasn't yet been found the criteria? Does it have to be factory made? Is it perhaps that caravan that has been found but seems to be the only one in existence? There are vintage caravans that live in various caravan museums around Australia that seem to be "one off" from a factory, or home made. Even our very own cobber has a "one-off".
I would like to nominate the Queensland built 13 ft two-door Trail-a-home caravan as a potential contender for the title. I found this van back in 2009 and these days it is in the possession of neilandcheryl who have promised to restore it. Found on a macadamia farm in Childers, complete with half a 44gal drum of rat-bitten nuts throughout the cupboards! It has to be the shortest two-door caravan ever built!!
Another unique feature is that this caravan had art deco style coloured leadlight glass windows, both externally and internally in the overhead cupboards.
I really hope that one day I will see this caravan restored to its original beauty!
The other caravan contender that would be my "holy grail" is probably the Flynn Cabincar.
Last Edit: Aug 3, 2020 7:47:10 GMT 10 by Roehm3108
A very interesting question Ray. Personal opinion, or perhaps musings may be more accurate is that one would have to apply several criteria.
Rarity Age Significance to the history of caravanning in Australia and Appearance, or beauty of form. And that would be highly subjective. I'd prefer not to see value enter into the equation such as happens with vintage cars but perhaps that is unavoidable and only of significance to a few.
Personally, I have always considered the Don to my own personal Holy Grail. It ticks all those boxes. Highly significant, groundbreaking in features offered, rarity, beauty etc. I first saw one in a movie, "The Big Steal" more years ago than I care to remember and it was the diamond pane leadlight windows that caught my eye. I was so disappointed years later to learn not all examples were equipped as such. Also, for many, many years I had a very old blue enamel basin that I used in my workshop to wash car parts in petrol. I eventually threw it out only to discover many more years later it was most likely from a Don. I'm very interested in hearing other's points of view of what they consider their holy grail. Jim
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 3, 2020 13:07:08 GMT 10
Hi Roehm and Grandad,
Hmmm, what is the holy grain of Australian vintage caravans indeed?
You'll note that I did say that a GMH caravan would be the holy grail 'for some of our Holden loving vintage caravanners', so I wouldn't think that would tick the boxes for everyone, particularly the Ford crew!
I agree with the criteria that Grandad has suggested, but I also think that the holy grail would have to be a van that we've heard about, sounds exotic - but importantly - has never yet been found. A bit like the 'actual' Holy Grail of folklore. So that means that once an example of the caravan holy grail has been found, it ceases to be the holy grail. The holy grail has to be something that is sought after, and the object of unrequited desire...
By that logic, Roehm, the Trail-A-Home you found could not be a contender because it is known to exist and has been actually seen! I don't think we've seen a Flynn Cabincar that is still in existence, so that can still be a contender. Mind you the actual Cabincar ended up looking a lot less exotic than the concept drawing:
My personal holy grail has been a Don Cadet 9, which was a 9 ft long Cadet model. I had seen it listed in Don advertisements, but had never seen even a photo of one. It was the only Don model that I hadn't seen at least photos of. Now you'll notice the previous few sentences were written in the past tense. That's because a couple of months ago a Don Cadet 9 was advertised on Gumtree - with photos! I did consider buying it for a little while, but we don't really have anywhere under cover to keep it, so I didn't bid. It's gone to a young couple in northern Victoria who tell me they are going to restore it and then take it around Australia. I've told them how rare it is.
In any case, now that a Don Cadet 9 has turned up, it can no longer be my caravan holy grail by my definition. So I'll have to come up with something else!
A couple of other observations about your respective posts:
Grandad - Never fear, all of the Dons from 1934 up to 1956 were fitted with the leadlight windows, except two very late ones that had double aluminium framed windows fitted as a special request. So your dream is almost intact.
Roehm - I don't think I've seen photos of that Trail-A-Home before? I am wondering why it needed the two doors on such a small van? His and Hers perhaps? Was there any clue in its layout as to why the two doors were fitted?
Also I noted your comment about the leadlight windows and cabinet doors. Apart from Don, leadlight fittings were exclusively a feature of pre-World War II caravans I am almost 100% certain. Trail-A-Home was building caravans pre-War, and I am therefore wondering whether this van could therefore be one of their pre-War vans? Some of the Art Deco decorations on the van might point to that too. I guess we have no absolute way of knowing unless the original owners had documents or photos, but it is interesting to think about that possibility.
Of course like DonR I'm very biased, but in the past for me the holy grail was always the 1934/35 Jennison pop top but.... we now have one safely In the hands of aussieute! However a couple of van models we have never found to date are the late 1930s flat fronted Nomad and the Nomad J model(precurser to the Pathfinder). I'd also throw in an early 1930s Jennison roadcruiser (like the one in the photo fully restored By the Dick Pym at the 1970 Sydney caravan show) not to mention the Masonite lantern roof Jenno caravan from the 30s as well. So...theres a bunch still yet to turn up on my lost and found bucket list! regards Jenno
Last Edit: Aug 3, 2020 15:05:21 GMT 10 by Jennison
I'll throw my hat into the discussion. Gypsy Caravans made several models over the years. 7'4" Caravanette is there one about? 9'6" Super Gem (know of one and have seen it) 10'6" Mine 12' ? 13' Possible on owned by Chippydave01 16' Sighted at Moruya NSW 2007 in a back yard. 19' ?
I agree that they may not meet the criteria as desirable. But there known of but never seen or been found. Now that we have opened this can of beans how do we settle which is the Holy Grail.
Hi All Some very interesting points coming up which make for good reading. I’m not really sure if you can define the Holy Grail (HG) of vintage caravans! Which shouldn’t really surprise us, as not even Monty Python or Indiana Jones could agree on what the real HG looked like! Think of the Highway Palace motorhome built in the late 40’s – the height of luxury of its time and still drooled over by those lucky enough to see the restored unit. Think of the corrugated iron vans used by the early droving pioneers, complete with their wood stove cubicle sticking out from the front or back. Think of the many popular mechanics plans that fathers meticulously used to build their own holiday or work camp. Age, historicity, and appearance features are all significant. But their importance depends on your own background and perception too. After restoring one mini Franklin, two Properts a Rowvan and a Hunter Minor, until two years ago, my HG was still that elusive Glen which I had been trying to get for the previous 8 years. The main reason why it was my HG was that it had a lantern roof! DonR, you’ve smashed my putting the Flynn Cabincar as a HG with the pic of how it actually looked when built. The Trail-a-home was definitely post-war, because it was bought almost new in the early fifties by the father of Tim Bunn, who gave this to me. Perhaps the builders thought that this style would still be popular in those times. The layout of the van never really grabbed me. Maybe, as you suggest DonR, it was a his and her doors – mum’s on the kitchen access right side, dad’s on the front single bed access side for his siesta until dinner was cooked. The centre section held the dinette table which folded down to a double bed at night. So either day or night time, you really couldn’t walk through this van!! Perhaps there can be no particular HG after all. That’s good though, because it means that we’re all still looking out for our own definition of HG! I’m sure the van below, found in outback WA in 2015 was once somebody’s HG!!
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 3, 2020 20:15:57 GMT 10
Now come on R3108,
“Perhaps there can be no particular HG after all.”
You can’t start a debate, then just when things are getting going with people lining up to speak, say ‘there isn’t any answer anyway’. That’s against the rules of debate!
But I dare say it is in the eye of the beholder - that is, what’s a holy grail and what isn’t depends on your interests and perspective. I would love to know what Cobber’s holy grail is. Maybe he’s already got it?
Regarding the Trail-A-Home, I was pleased to know you know a little bit of its history - although disappointed that it isn’t pre-War. That would have been a pretty cool discovery if it was. However, I’ve had a close look at the larger van in the Trail-A-Home info I posted in reply to Grandad’s post about the awnings, and I’m pretty sure I can see leadlight glass in one of the cupboard doors in the internal photo. So that confirms your comments.
I also belatedly noticed that the larger van in that info has two doors too. It’s larger than the van you showed us, so that suggests that the double doors were a regular feature on at least some Trail-A-Home caravans in the 50’s. I guess it makes it easier to pick a Trail-A-Home when we see it.
By the way would you like to post the photos from 2009 on the DHL Trail-A-Home thread, or I can copy them to there if you like?
Wait wait is not the answer 42......................Yes that's right but what is the Question I must ask.
Or maybe The Holy Grail is a treasure that serves as an important motif in literature. Different traditions describe it as a cup (A Don), dish (Gypsy) or stone (Jennison) with miraculous powers that provide happiness, eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance. Do not each of our treasured caravans provide those things?
So to answer Don R ‘there isn’t any answer anyway’. Yes there is an answer but we will have to have a debate.
...Personally, I have always considered the Don to my own personal Holy Grail. It ticks all those boxes. Highly significant, groundbreaking in features offered, rarity, beauty etc. I first saw one in a movie, "The Big Steal" more years ago than I care to remember and it was the diamond pane leadlight windows that caught my eye...
This one is especially for you Grandad (and of course anyone else who's interested).
It's 'Long Hard Road' sung by Phil Judd and Tim Finn, and videoed in and around the Don 140 used in the filming of The Big Steal, intercut with scenes from the movie. The Big Steal is one of my favourites too.
I've had discussions over the years as to whether the Don in the film is real, with some people thinking that it's a replica built for the film, partly because the actors were able to hang from the back towel rail and then climb up over the top. I have been convinced that the van is genuine, partly because of the leadlight windows as well as the water tap hanging below the floor level to the left of the door, which was an original fitting. It seemed to me that no-one was going to bother including that level of realism in a replica built for a film prop. Seeing this video clip makes it 100% clear that the film is a genuine Don because of the internal fittings.
Hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Moparman who provided me with the link to the YouTube video a while ago.
After a little bit of time has passed, I might post the clip on the DHL Don thread as well.
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 6, 2020 11:23:30 GMT 10
I reckon a Sportsman caravan is a perfectly respectable holy grail to chase after. And you can never say 'never' because it never ceases to amaze me what comes out of sheds and garages having been locked away in the dark for many decades.
It's an interesting point you make about lots of Sportsman caravanettes but no caravans. I wonder if it's to do with the fact that the caravans have been built using the same techniques as the caravanettes and as a result are a bit under engineered and therefore haven't lasted? I say that because what you say about Sportsman (should that be Sportsmen in the plural? ) seems to be true of Safetee Trailing Unit caravanettes and caravans as well. There are a few STU caravanettes around, but only one of their little caravans has turned up, and it looked to be in a pretty shaky state, mainly because of the way it seemed to have been built - extremely lightweight by the look of it. Or maybe when it comes down to it there just weren't many Sportsman and STU caravans built and sold?
I'm happy for you to transfer the Trail-a-home pics into the Trail-a-home section.
You raise in interesting point about the Flynn. Reading some of the Flynn info, they talk about making a Flynn 10 footer, but don't refer to it as the Cabincar (which I would have thought would be a catchy marketing name). Which begs the question, are they one and the same caravan as per the photo you put up, or is that pic the 10footer with the Cabincar undiscovered or not even built? That 10 footer also doesn't look like it would have a dropped floor, which would explain the higher profile. Perhaps the dropped floor had engineering problems? Hughdeany could you comment on that point?
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 7, 2020 11:44:18 GMT 10
If you look again at the Flynn info I posted, and the diagram of the interior on the left hand side, you'll see that the caption states '10ft Cabincar'. In addition, the same photo of the same 10ft caravan, and what I think is Winser's own Studebaker, elsewhere in the 1953 Winser Caravan Manual is labelled as the Flynn Cabincar, as is a similar photo in the 1955 Winser. So it appears that Flynn did use that name for their 10ft model at that period.
As I intimated in an earlier post, the difference between Flynn's early Cabincar concept drawing and the eventual product reminds me of the preliminary images often produced by car manufacturers to curry interest in an upcoming model. The eventual vehicle is often much more pedestrian and rather less interesting - and certainly less visually arresting!
What a pity that member flynn didn't respond to your last post to him back in 2014! He might have clarified the point under debate here. Meanwhile, I'm going to maintain my position - THE 10fT FLYNN CABIN CAR AND THE FLYNN 10ft LIGHTWEIGHT ARE TWO DIFFERENT CARAVANS! (yep, even doing a MrFJ on you!) It's quite possible that you are right that the caravan being towed by the Studebaker is a Cabin Car. Here is another pic of what looks like the same caravan and tow vehicle as your DHL post of Nov 7 2014, which I have in the 1951/2 Keith Winser's Book 4 Caravan and Touring mag.
WHY ARE THERE 2 DIFFERENT CARAVANS YOU ASK?
1. In December 2007 and June 2008, Franklin1 and cobber posted perspective drawing pics of the Cabincar from 1951 ads 2. In September 2008, cobber posted photos of what was described as a "Flynn Ten" from 1951 and 1954 magazines, being towed by a Holden. 3. In the description under the 1954 photo it tells us "THE CARAVANS WITH A FUTURE. 10ft Cabin Cars, 10ft Lightweights, 12ft., 13ft. 6 in. and 15ft.models......"
Note the distinction that's made between the Cabin Car and 10ft lightweight vans. As well, the van being towed by the Studebaker certainly look different to the van towed by the Holden. The Studebaker towed van seems to have some framing visible at the bottom rear, which I wonder is actually the dropped floor.
My personal feeling is that there may have only ever been one Cabin Car built, which was then displayed in the various caravan mags as shown, but no others were ever built or sold (ala the Propert in the Canberra museum). The pic of the size ranges of the Flynn caravans in my 1951/2 Caravan and Touring Book also only show a 10 ft Caravan (tenuous point in this debate I know!).
Besides all this, just to add to the interest, there are a couple of other anomalies on the DHL pics: 1. In cobber's post of Aug 27 2008, advertising Flynn Caravan Spares, there is a pic of what looks to be a 10ft caravan. Is this an update of the earlier 10ft Lightweight? 2. I'm surprised that you never commented on the pic flynn posted on Nov 5 2014 in the DHL thread. It shows the sales yard of the company. But if you look closely at the caravan closest to the building, it has a very distinctive "Don-esque" curve on it. Is that a badge I see on the curve? Now far be it for me to make that sort of assertion, but really DonR! How did you miss that one?
Last Edit: Aug 8, 2020 10:00:43 GMT 10 by Roehm3108
Post by Don Ricardo on Aug 9, 2020 13:50:10 GMT 10
I will concede that is a very pretty argument you have laid out which has many points to commend it.
I do not have much with which to respond, but in my defence I will present the following evidence consisting of a photo taken from Mr Winser's fine publication Australian Caravans and Touring Manual No 7, 1955, page 105, which shows a photo of the trailer caravan in questions clearly labelled 'Flynn Cabincar':
By the early 1950's Mr Winser had committed the great unpardonable transgression of changing his affections from Don caravans to Flynn caravans, and his Studebaker sedan is shown in many photos flirting with Flynn caravans. I deduce from that that Mr Winser's knowledge of Flynn caravans may have been unrivalled at the time. But I also allow that his publications have been known (and on many occasions) to have incorrect captionining. So in the style of MrFJ who you quoted, I REALLY DON'T KNOW! It would be good if forum member Flynn could come back on board and solve this puzzling mystery for us.
As for your charge that I have not been diligent in my duties of identifying every Don caravan that appears on these digital pages, I plead not guilty. I have examined the photograph to which you refer and have concluded that there is not enough evidence to identify the trailer caravan you pointed to as a Don. If it is the postern of the trailer caravan that we are espying then I contend that the curvature of the said rear does not match that of a matchless Don, and as regards the possible badge you have described. then I declare that it is too large and in the wrong location to be one of the delicate badges of a Don caravan. And if on the other hand it is the obverse of the trailer caravan that is in view, because it may be the frontal towing frame that we can detect in the photograph, then I state without a shadow of doubt that the curvature of the said forward section is not at all of the right angle or shape.
In regard to SGTL's veranda'd Viscount, I thought that it was a Viscount too. That Millard is quite magnificent too. I noticed that at a caravan and camping show I went to in Coffs Harbour about 6 years ago, verandas were making a comeback. The one on display had a fold down type over the drawbar.
Last Edit: Aug 10, 2020 8:40:52 GMT 10 by Roehm3108
Post by Don Ricardo on Sept 30, 2020 22:36:15 GMT 10
That’s a great find regarding the Flynn Cabincar and the ‘standard’ 10 ft van. That info is definitive and settles the question we have been discussing.
I am assuming that the photos labelled ‘Cabincar’ which are posted above are photos of actual Cabincars. If that is the case, then the styling of the actual caravan was a bit more toned down compared to the drawings. I’m also assuming that the standard 10 footer looked more like the larger Flynn vans of the time.
It’s interesting that the roof of the Cabincar is described as a ‘lantern roof’. I guess it is, but I tend to think of a lantern roof as having little windows or vents along the side, and no roof hatch. It’s also interesting to see that the same type of raised roof was later used on larger models by Flynn, such as the one that Keith Winser promoted in the mid 50’s.
Me doing a full 180 degrees here, could all this mean that if the photos of the 10 foot Flynn are actually the Cabinecar, then we don't really know what the "standard" 10 footer looks like and that your assumption is as good as any one else's? The caption in my last pic post was interesting from the point that they mentioned that the FIRST of these Cabincars would be on the road for Christmas (that would have been 1951). So were the photos in the other magazines of that particular van? Did Flynns ever produce more than the one?
You raise another interesting question about the "lantern" roof concept. I tend to agree with you that in general, a lantern roof would have some type of skylight in it. But it seems that there was a period in our caravan history (around the late forties - early fifties) where the "lantern style" without any skylight was fashionable. Flynns used it for their caravans, But you will note that the Trail-a-home also had it as well as the Glen (admittedly, the Glen has an air vent in theirs). There might even be others.
Last Edit: Oct 1, 2020 7:43:46 GMT 10 by Roehm3108
Post by Don Ricardo on Oct 1, 2020 11:41:06 GMT 10
Hi Roehm and Hughdeany,
I think we’re beginning to sort this out...
There is a photo of a standard Flynn 10 from around 1951 in Cobber’s post here, so the photos labelled Cabin Car higher up this thread do seem to be of the Cabin Car, because the van is quite different. The second advert in Cobber’s post from 1954 shows the same standard Flynn 10 and refers to it as the 10ft Lightweight, so it seems like they kept both models going for a time.
In addition, this further post from Cobber shows a 1951 15 ft Flynn van which has the same style lantern roof as the Cabin Car and as on Keith Winser’s later Flynn, so it appears that it was a feature that Flynn was introducing across a few of the models in their range in the very early 50’s.
I note that the Flynn lantern roofs still had a hatch, so it appears like they were partly for style and partly for additional head room, whereas the lantern roofs in the 30’s, etc, were for venilation through the little side windows or vents, as well as head room.
Hughdeany, I see that your lantern roof also has a hatch, so yours follows the same design as Flynn.
One other interesting thing I noted when reading the info about the 1951 Flynn 15 ft is that it came with chrome bumpers front and rear. That was an unusual touch that wan’t followed by too many others!