The Furness family descendants are still alive and well in Adelaide, one of the family runs a Piano business in a nearby suburb. Furness St. still continues as a light industrial area with emphasis on motor body repair shops.
Post by Don Ricardo on Apr 23, 2008 16:22:01 GMT 10
Information provided by Lazza via email, 22 April 2008:
"...we moved Roadmaster to 15 Furness Ave when Dad bought the business because he already had a factory there that he built in 1956 as a shopfitting business. Furness Ltd were opposite us in Furness but by this time they were only making louvre doors, packing crates etc. They stopped building caravans in the 50's as far as I know. My father always said that they built an extremely good modern caravan for their time but never moved on with the times."
Have any of our members ever come across a Furness caravan
On the way back to Adelaide from Mt Gambier, I came across one sitting in a shed. I've seen adds for South Aus built "Furness" caravans in old caravanning mags, including a 1938 edition, so was very interested when I came accross this one. Unfortunately nobody was around, the caravan was locked and stored right up against shed walls, so I didn't get a very good gander and as I had a plane to catch, I didn't have time to hang around .
They're unique in sofar as having a sliding door, and sliding glass windows.
Here's some pics:
Note the sliding door runners .......rather unusual
Glass sliding windows, not persplex
External light looks to be original
Unfortunately, couldn't get a good gander down the RH side:
This van was listed in the Trading Post, May 2008, with the following description: "Furness Caravan, 15'11 x 6'10, 1970, 1000 kg, rear Single Bed & small Café Lounge that makes another single bed, front Café Lounge that also makes a bed, 2 way Fridge, Sink, Gas 2 burner Stove/Grill, large Robe, many Cupboards/Drawers."
I'm inclined to think this van is earlier than a 1970 model, based purely on the plain aluminium cladding, and the handpump on the kitchen sink...
Editorial note: More recent research has suggested that this caravan wasn't built by Furness. Our best understanding now (as at December 2016) is that Furness stopped building caravans in the late 50's or very early 60's, and always only built masonite/bondwood clad vans in the style seen elsewhere on this thread. As far as we know, Furness never built aluminium clad caravans.
Post by Don Ricardo on May 14, 2008 22:53:22 GMT 10
Interesting advert for a late 60's/early 70's aluminium Furness you've posted. Lazza said that he thought Furness stopped building vans in the 50's, and were only building furniture when Roadmaster moved into a neighbouring factory sometime around 1956 (see Reply #4 above).
Not sure how all this fits together. 313royal says the Furness family is still living and working Adelaide. Maybe somebody could have a chat with them? Don't suppose the 'Furness' in the advert refers to the name of the company that sold the van (as opposed to the manufacturer), or the the company's location on Furness Street? It would be interesting to know how the seller identified it.
Strangely enough the van reminds me a little of Gristy's Ambassador, but maybe it's just the aluminium and the tandem set up.
The external body shape of the big alloy furness is very similar to the old 15ft ply van that i retrieved from "wreckery" as a giveaway last year.
It had quality inclusions in it such as a front bathtub under the seat. chimney and flue over the stove, brass non return valves plumbed under the sink/cupboards to the fynspray galley pump. The build quality and fitout clearances where exceptional. This lead me to believe the van was either a "late model" Don or Furness.
Its remains are now living at Humpty2s place.
Its also interesting to note that the photos of the early furness vans have a strong similarity in body shape to Cobbers Old '36 van. ( apart from the sliding door and window shape)
Post by Don Ricardo on Nov 12, 2008 20:07:52 GMT 10
Looking through Don Loffler's book She's a Beauty on the history of the first Holden, I came across this great photo of a Furness caravan:
The caption reads: "A 48-215 sedan with a fourteen foot (4.27 metre) Furness caravan, designed by an Adelaide firm owned by Keith and Lorna Furness. The caravan proved to be too heavy for the car and a twelve foot (3.66 metre) version was developed specifically for the Holden. Photograph taken in Belair National Park." (Source: Don Loffler, She's a Beauty [extended and revised edition]. Wakefield Press, 2006. P 129)
Interesting to read how the introduction of the Holden car influenced caravan design. Note that the list of models in the 1956 Furness advert at the beginning of this thread includes the 'New "Special 12" for Holden cars".
Interesting to read how the introduction of the Holden car influenced caravan design ......
Too right it did Don R ........below is a publicity photograph for 12 foot and 10 foot Furness caravans, suitable for towing by FJ Holdens. Lorna Furness is in the centre of the photo. This photo was taken in 1954 at Christies beach. The FJ on the left was a demonstrator owned by State Motors SA, who had apparently tried to obtain the reg No 1954, but had to settle for 111-954.
No mention of this connection between the Holden and the Furness in the first ed. Of “She's a Beauty” ... so now that Don Loffler has an interest in caravans it should be a simple process to get him to do the long awaited book “The History of Caravanning in Australia”...... you know the man Mark, so put it to him, you could help him do it, you both live in W.A.
This could be one of my best ideas ............................... ever .
( Just don't tell Don L how hard it is to sell 150 vintage caravan calendars each year )
Post by Don Ricardo on Nov 13, 2008 20:48:15 GMT 10
Hi Cobber and Mark,
I briefly leafed through one of Loffler's other books - I think Still Holden Together - a couple of weeks ago and noted another picture of a Furness. If I remember correctly it said something about it being his family's Furness caravan, the towing of which led to the death of his father's Chev and the decision for his family to buy a Holden. If I've got the story right, I'm wondering if the pic of the Furness behind the Holden from She's a Beauty is actually his family's caravan and car? Maybe not if it wasn't in the first edition of the book.
If one of you has a copy of Still Holden Together you might like to have a look and tell me whether you think it's the same van. The pic was in the first few pages.
This would be the one you mention Don R.. in the Introduction to Don Loffler's book “Still Holden Together” published in 2000. More than likely the same 'van eh?
In one of his other books, “The FJ Holden” published in 2002, there is an entire chapter devoted to “Caravanning with FJ's” which includes mention of the 10 day tours undertaken by the 48 & FJ Holden Club in 1993/94. I think these tours have been mentioned somewhere on the forum previously, if you missed it you can see it at
Post by Don Ricardo on Nov 17, 2008 21:09:51 GMT 10
G'day Cobber and Mark,
Cobber - After inspecting the two Loffler Furness photos I think that, although they both appear to be 14 ft vans, they are probably not the same van. There are are couple of reasons why I think this, but the main one is that the 48-215 photo I posted is attributed to Anthony Furness (AF), while the Loffler family van photo you have posted is attributed to Don Loffler himself (DL).
Mark - Great post of the 1938 Furness advert. It is fascinating to see both the similarities and the differences between the '38 van and the late 40's/early 50's Furnesses. Cobber will be interested in the lantern roof, but one of the most obvious differences on the '38 van is the conventionally opening windows and door.
This advert together with the stuff from Jennison on his grandfather suggests that SA was as much a happening place for caravans in the 30's as Victoria. The dates keep getting pushed further back!!
Post by Don Ricardo on May 9, 2009 13:43:18 GMT 10
Hi Cobber, Mark and Beetles,
Some great Furness photos and info you've posted over the last few days between the three of you. The more I see and read about the Furness vans the more fascinating they become. I reckon there's a great story to be told, and we're gradually putting it together little bit by little bit.
Fantastic for you to be able to chat to Archie, Beetles even if his memories weren't very sharp. As people have said, most of that generation of van builders are no longer with us, so it's great to be able to talk to those who are still around.
Des and l are doing up a van and are trying to establish it's make, Beatles thought Vernon may have been a Furness and we seem to think he is right especially when you look at the roof. You seem to have a fair amount of knowledge of the Furness we are thinking of putting in a tap. Initially we had thought one of those groovy metal pump ones, now wer're thinking maybe Vernon doesn't have a tap because he had a tank and tap on the wall. Do you know if this might be right, or did they simlpy not have a tap, tank or anything. Our other question amongst many Vernon is alot rounder at the bottom do you know if some of the Furness' had this?, or where we may find other pictures of Furness'. Also Don do you know how many years the company were in production for?. We have put some pictures on the General Topics forum (Introdcing Vernon) which you have posted a coment already. We would love any help at all.
Post by Don Ricardo on May 18, 2009 22:15:26 GMT 10
1955 Furness advertised on Ebay, April 2009:
Edited description by seller:
"Well, this is an original 'Furness' 4-berth caravan dating from the middle-fifties. The interior is in above-average condition, could be used as-is (which is what I wanted to do with it). Being made of wood and clad with 'Masonite', this is an easy restauration for someone with even only a bit of manual skill. The top is painted canvas (well, it has been painted but most of that has cracked off!) I was going to take all the panels outside off and renew them, insulating with Styrofoam while I was at it...The sliding-windows are good, the runners I was also going to replace but could still be used...I have rewired it provisionally for moving it, including adding a separate number-plate light and new direction-indicators. The original wheels (extinct Ford-type) are there, but on it are some 6" x 16 Suzuki-numbers, since tyres for the originals were difficult to obtain at short-notice...
"I also have the original 'Furness Hitch' (sort of universal-joint rubber-block-fitting) which was patented at the time to give a soundless and graunch-free towing experience. This fitting can easily be put on any tow-bar in place of the normal ball (removeable = bolt-on).
"The outside looks very tatty, has been (un-lovingly) brush repainted and some of the masonite is rotten, as can clearly be seen in the pictures. It has an original ice-box, all the interior fixtures and (brass) fittings are original, even the original door-key is there, the front 'sofa' folds to become 2 bunks (each with their own lighting, both 12v and 240V!) the usal seating arrangement at the rear becomes a double-bed. The upholstery and floor coverings are very 'fifties' (ahem) in their coulouring and patterns, the woodwork is done in a very 'charming' 'Palmolive' green and what can only be described as a pastel-apricot colour. Very authentic and original!
"I even managed to track down an original brochure, which I will include in the sale if I receive a reasonable bid for the 'van! ...
"What you see is what you get. This is a private sale with no actual or implied warranty or guarantee of any kind. Pleas realise that this 'van is 60 years old and has been used, and is no longer in a new condition. You will also have to pick it up yourself and/or arrange transport to your preferred destination and no, I won't wrap it as a gift and sent it to anywhere in the world by express post!"
Great to see some inside pics of a close to original Furness. Nice to see a seller with a good sense of humour too! (Read the last paragraph of his description if you missed it.)
Post by beetlesbailey on May 19, 2009 12:14:24 GMT 10
My only guide is that the 48 that I owned had one cupboard door catch on each door while the 53 had 2 on each door. The reason? Ithink that with 1 the doors bowed at the outer ends where they were not held back so they fitted 2. My 2 vans made this the obvious to me. Also these vans had different plaques on the doors (outside slider). Just a newer version of the same statement. sorry i cant help more Dave. Beetles
As reported by Beetles, Furness Limited were taken over by an interstate company Corinthian Industries (in the mid 1970s) and operated as Corinthian Industries (SA) for some time. Corinthian were (are) a major door manufacturer.
As can be seen from adverts that pre-date the formation of this separate company, caravans were initially made by the main Furness Limited company.
I have asked someone whose association with Furness goes back further than mine. He says that Furness were piano and caravan manufacturers who became door manufacturers.
In the 1970s Furness Limited was a leading door manufacturer in South Australia. I believe that caravans was a diversification that utilised related skills. I was wrong - caravans came before doors.
When caravans changed from being made of wood to being made of aluminium or fibreglass, the Raison d'être ceased. Furness were wood working specialists and it seems switched to wooden doors to utilise those skills.
That is not necessarily inconsistent with the information reported by Beetles from Mr Scroop - except for the suggestion that they changed to making industrial doors and fruit cases in lieu of caravans. I suspect they made such products all along I was wrong.
In the mid 1970s Furness were making domestic doors ranging from inexpensive interior doors to the finest stained and lead-lighted entrance doors. Whilst the caravan company still existed at that time (refer dates above) caravans was referred to as something that they made in the past.
Don't jump to the conclusion that the deregistration of the Caravan subsidiary in 1992 suggests that caravans were made until that time. That is only the date when the presumably dormant company ceased to exist.