t’s summer, and all across the country, there are queues of traffic crawling out of our cities and towns as holidaymakers head off to their favourite camping destinations, vehicles and caravans packed to the gunwales. Along with mismatched plastic plates and cups and the upturned tinny on the roof, this all used to be as much a part of our holiday experience as a dripping Jelly Tip, black ironsand, and a smoky BBQ. Let’s face it — whether we care to acknowledge it or not, the humble caravan is just as deeply entrenched into the Kiwi holiday psyche as the humble bach, despite the fact that, for many, this way of life has been in rapid decline over the past few decades thanks to the growing trend towards motorhomes. Indeed, in recent times, the caravan versus motorhome discussion has become a hotly debated issue, partly fuelled by the recent revival and growing popularity of retro-style caravans — a trend that has seen a resurgence of beautifully restored caravans from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’ 70s appear all over the country.
One such is Paula and Craig Jamieson’s featured 1970 Oxford caravan ‘Memphis Belle’, which they tow behind their equally impressive 1955 Packard Four Hundred.
Love at first sight
Paula and Craig Jamieson never set out to own a retro caravan; what they really wanted was a hot rod, but they couldn’t find one that suited them, as each liked a different style of car. Then a few friends started getting into caravanning, so they began looking at them as well. The Jamiesons thought it would offer a way of being involved at events like Beach Hop while they figured out their artistic differences car-wise. Being sensible people, they started a list of the must-haves — toilet (definitely), shower (would be nice), space for the family (absolutely) — and so it went on, until they knew exactly what they were after.
Unimpressed with the styling of the more modern units available, they set their sights on something a bit older, which is when they saw one of Mike Wells’ creations on Trade Me. Craig had spotted it; wasted no time showing Paula; and, boom, it was love at first sight. Originally built for someone else to add to their collection of caravans, it was subsequently put up for sale and naturally attracted a lot of interest. Falling in love, Paula bought it sight unseen based on the photos online. They drove to pick her up the next day and were not disappointed. It had nothing that they had on their must-have list, and yet somehow ticked all the boxes anyway!
Now that they had the perfect caravan, it was time to make it their own. Mike had built it with his usual classy style, but, for Paula and Craig, it needed to be a practical working caravan, too. Caravanning is such a personal thing, and while the retro diner look was pretty cool, it needed a few changes to ensure it was something that could be lived with longer term. Being practical folk, they used it for a bit — OK, pretty much every weekend for the first year — while they decided what worked for them and what didn’t, and made little changes along the way.
In the end, there was nothing major that needed doing other than just a few cosmetic tweaks to suit their tastes. Some seating was removed, and a new double bed was fitted before the flooring came up, and the black-and-white checked lino went down. The wardrobe was converted into a pantry, and a better-sized fridge was installed, so that they could have extended holidays in their new home away from home. Mike had finished the exterior to his usual high standard, with all his trademark touches: flawless panel and paint; just the right amount of chrome and stainless; and, of course, 1959 Cadillac tail lights.
(Continued page 14.)