By way of introduction, my father owned the Huntsman Caravan manufaturing company in Ballarat, VIC during the late 50's - early 60's.
He started the company from scratch with a background in building, carpentary and joinery with a side line interest in motorcycles and cars.
In Ballarat at the time you had Huntsman, Coronet and Franklin caravans all operating against each other for market share. Then the local funeral directors Evans Bros. started up the Vacation brand operating from their casket manufacturing plant behind the funeral home.
Huntsman built 462 vans during their operrating lifetime but finally were muscled out by Franklin, Millard and Coronet, the big players in the game and Huntsman just simply didnt have the funding to compete with the large production line facilities.
Huntsman built vans for many sales outlets including:
Lilack - Jack and Lila Kelly - Preston Roma - Don and Bill Chrisfield (Bill is still alive) Panorama Phoenix Bluebird Horizon
A little further info from Mum this morning. Dad finished up with a builder in Ballarat and went to work for Geoff Robertson as one of the start up employees at Franklin.
After a short time with Geoff, one of the other leading hands, Ian Farren decided to take leave and formed Coronet. Dad went with him and worked with Farren for a while before also deciding to make a split and formed Huntsman.
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 4, 2012 13:09:38 GMT 10
Thanks for the further info. What you've said helps to explain why Ballarat became such a hive of the caravan industry in the early 1960's with various workers setting up their own businesses over time after experience elsewhere.
Did your father market any caravans himself under the 'Huntsman' brand, or did he concentrate on producing vans to be sold under other names?
Dad sold a number of vans with his own branding on them, but the majority went off to be branded by others.
Many badged or branded vans were actually only named for the sales yards. Blokes would set themselves up to do caravan sales and need a brand to market under. Lilack and Phoenix are classic examples of this.
These 'sales' yards would have small companies or individuals build vans for them and then put their own names to them. The difficulty for us all now is that we think that our vans with little known branding came from small manufacturers were in fact they came from sales yards, not manufacturers at all.
Mum and Dad got together yesterday and created a listing of those people that they could remember making vans for. Might be a bit incomplete but some good info came out.
Lylack - Jack and Lyla Kelly - Preston VIC Roma - 2 vans built. Phoenix - Don Chrisfield Bluebird - Mike Collins - Melbourne. Mike went on to operate Vicount Caravans in Vic. Star - Albert June - Arrarat and Mildura Lonsdale - Ian Thompson - Melbourne Classic and Scenic - Barry Nichols - Melbourne Cedar - George Backan - Melbourne Bee Keepers - 14' tandems - Maryborough VIC Private sale to a lady in Melbourne of a 23' tandem under Huntsman banner
Geoff Robinson taught Dad to weld and one of his first jobs was building the chassis for the 37' Franklin for the circus.
Post by Don Ricardo on Feb 4, 2012 22:45:13 GMT 10
That's an intriguing list of caravan dealers and brands you've provided. Some we've heard of, some we haven't!
I am really looking forward to seeing some pics once you get them onto Photobucket.
As you you commented, we have discovered that a lot of caravan builders stopped building their own vans in the late 50's and early 60's and began to put their brand name on vans built by others. You mention Phoenix as one caravan builder who sold Huntsmans under their name. My impression is that in the 50's Phoenix built their own vans, and also sold parts and/or kits to home builders. I am wondering when your father set up shop with Huntsman Caravans and therefore when he started building vans for Phoenix?
Here's a pic of an early single axle van. Next time I go to visit I'll take the album and see if he can remember each image and make some notes before I post more. I'll also get the date of first production.
It's a shame that being just a little too much of a craftsman and not quite enough of a businessman probably cost Dad his company. Just couldn't compete with those who were more well heeled unfortunately.
Just wanted to let you know that I have a Panorama caravan in my hay shed with intention of putting it back on the road in the future, It is in OK condition but needs some cosmetic up lift. Good to know that they were made in Ballarat. I would like to identify that it really is acturally a Panorama even though it does have a Red Panorama sign on the front above the window. Looking forward to your reply frances
Post by Don Ricardo on May 15, 2012 21:50:36 GMT 10
The First Law of Vintage Caravan Randomness always amazes me. The Law goes as follows: When someone writes on the forum about a brand we've never heard of before, an example of the caravan brand in question will turn up in the next two months! We've seen it happen quite a few times before.
This time it's a Huntsman which is currently advertised on Ebay (May 2012). As Huntsman told us above, most Huntsmans were sold under other brandnames, but this is branded Huntsman:
The inside has been tarted up a bit, but I am posting the pics in the hope that it retains some Huntsman features:
Sadly, somewhat dilapidated but, hey, its the first actual one of its marque we've seen apart from Huntsman's pics.
Post by Little Edie on Aug 4, 2012 19:28:39 GMT 10
Hi There Huntsman
Can i first say that i am finally relieved to have found some info on our van!!! We recently acquired a Huntsman van from some friends of my parents in Taggerty, she had been sitting in a hay shed for nearly 20 years and is in need of some love and attention but the inside is in near original condition. We have just got her back from the mechanics today where she has had new brakes fitted along with all new lights and coupling fitted. We are now in the process of fixing up the exterior and sanding back an after dodgy paint job and restoring the aluminium roof as well. (This is proving to be a bigger task than we expected)
I was hoping that you might be able to help with some more information on the caravan with manufacture year and model details? So far it’s been a bit of an uneventful search party to find anything about this van at all. We are hoping to have her re registered with the original plates and on the road in about a months’ time, any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Luke
Post by Don Ricardo on Mar 9, 2014 22:48:46 GMT 10
Don257 recently displayed their newest caravan at a publicity event for the 2014 Melbourne Caravan Show. The van is currently branded as 'Gypsy' but was previously registered as a 'Lylack'. All Lylack vans were built by Huntsman, and the van clearly matches the design of some of the Huntsman vans on this thread, including having the characteristic Huntsman backward sloping wheel arches (which you can only partially see in this photo):
There are other photos of this van, including internal photos, here
Identifying this van as having been built by Huntsman, has also helped to identify a link with several other caravans on the forum. This van was seen at the 2008 Cora Lynn car show, and was identified by the owners as a Coronet. However, a comparison with Don257's van indicates that it was almost certainly built by Huntsman, not Coronet. However we do not know what brand it was sold under, given that Huntsman vans were supplied to a number of retailers and sold under different names:
Post by Don Ricardo on Jun 7, 2016 10:56:56 GMT 10
We know from the posts above that Huntsman also built caravans for Phoenix. In June 2016 Shesgotthelook met Jeff Chrisfield who was one of the Chrisfields who built Phoenix caravans and discussed the history of her Phoenix caravan shown below. The van has some broad similarities to the Huntsman vans, but also more differences:
About her conversation with Jeff Chrisfield, SGTL reported on 7 June 2016:
"...Huntsman built 4 or 5 vans for Phoenix. Jeff remembers taking kits to Ballarat & towing completed vans home. Huntsman also built for Franklin among others. But my Phoenix was definitely made by Phoenix although Jeff thinks the aluminium roof is a later addition..."
Since the photo above was taken, SGTL has restored her van. The story of the restoration can be found here.
1960s Franklin Panorama van posted on ebay Sept 2008:
Edited Description: Franklin 14ft long. Roof is made of aluminium, and the sides plywood. The model name on the front is "PANORAMA". The van is in outstanding original condition and has been kept under cover for most of its life and has had very little use. There are two single beds down the back. There is a two-burner stove with grill. Original varnished wood on the cupboards and drawers. The caravan doesn't have brakes. There is also an annexe that goes with the van that looks like it might be the original, but it is in good condition. The van has 13 inch Holden wheels.
[comment from Franklin1: this van looks very similar in outside body shape to other early Franklins we've seen. However, I'm not aware of any connection between Franklin and the Panorama nameplate as is shown on this van. Maybe Franklin supplied vans that were then branded by others as Panorama, or maybe Franklin made a budget model van and named it Panorama. We don't have enough information on the early Franklins yet to say what the real truth is. Update: I contacted the ebay seller and asked what information they had to connect this van with the name "Franklin"? His response was: "Good question. The only reason I assumed it was a Franklin is that it says Franklin on the rego papers, but it is true that the information on rego papers is not always infallible, and also I don't think the word Franklin is found anywhere on the van itself. Perhaps someone can throw some light on the matter."]
Looks like I can shed some light on this one. Panorama vans were build by Graham Hayden of Huntsman Caravans in Dana Street, Ballarat. The van pictured is certainly not a Franklin but a Panorama badged Huntsman. And later the same day Franklin1 responded:
...It's interesting to hear of the existence of the Huntsman brand, and particularly interesting to hear they operated in Ballarat. I guess it explains why there is a certain similarity between the early Franklin, Coronet, and Huntsman vans.
Your information helps to sort out something that was puzzling me about some of the early vans I thought were Franklins. After studying a number of Franklin photos, I became aware of the shelf above the sink as being a common feature, and more particularly that the shelf had a single triangular support bracket.
Then along came the photos of the Panorama van as shown above, and the shelf has two support brackets, not one. That threw me for a loop, because it was an oddity. Now you're saying that that particular van was made by Huntsman.
Just to show you how confusing it can be sometimes, here is a van that I'm saying is a Franklin, and which has the single support shelf that is typical of early Franklins...
...And here is a van that is very similar to that Franklin (and the Panorama above), but has a shelf with two support brackets (same as the Panorama)...
For more information about Panorama caravans clickhere.
Post by Don Ricardo on Dec 13, 2018 15:15:07 GMT 10
The purpose of this post is to join a few loose threads together...
In 2012 forum member Huntsman commenced this thread by telling us that his father owned the Huntsman Caravan building company, located in Ballarat. Some Huntsman vans were sold under the Huntsman name, but many others were sold by other companies under their own names. Forum member Huntsman listed a number of these brands (see higher up this thread), one of which was Lylack.
Back in July 2009, Dave posted photos of his Lylack caravan:
This van was built for Lylack by Huntsman (because we have been told that all Lylacks were), and carried the serial number 'HL5' on the A-frame. (More photos of Dave's van can be found here.)
Recently Wanderlust888 provided photos of his Hawthorn-badged caravan, which has the serial number 'HL14' on the A-frame:
The design of the van and the serial number seem to indicate that Wanderlust888's Hawthorn caravan was almost certainly also built by Huntsman. (More photos of Wanderlust888's van can be found here.)
It's possible that the Hawthorn van was sourced from Lylack, or from Huntsman via Lylack, but in any case it seems as if we can add Hawthorn to the list of caravan retailers who sold Huntsman-built vans.